One is wearing face paint; the other is rocking a bright-red lipstick and a big smile. One is surrounded by people in ball masks; the other is standing on the world's skinniest red carpet. Sydnee-Jane and DeAndre Wright, two of Houston's rising pop stars, premiered their first videos this week.
Sydnee-Jane, "Bad" Director: Young Samm Cameos: Rob Gullatte (p.k.a. Kritikal), N.O. Joe.
Held at the Contemporary Heights Gallery, Sydnee-Jane's "Bad" premiere was a lavish social gathering, replete with fancy artsy ornaments and good food. Paintings adorn the wall. Green and red balloons straddle the room. Patrons are eating sushi and hot wings, while sipping wine of various kinds. The one that catches our attention is something called Bitch.
There's also a half-naked man named Carl sprawled on a table, sushi rolls neatly displayed on his body. We pass on sushi.
Once the room is packed to the brim, Sydnee-Jane, nervous with excitement (it's her first video!) signals for the main event.
"Bad" doesn't disappoint. It's a low-budget, high-concept clip with an edgy vibe. Tidy. Fun. Cute. An unpretentious depiction of the "bad" guys that ruin good relationships. When she sings "You bad, you bad," she doesn't mean bad meaning good. There's more action in the action than in the words, more or less like a backyard motion picture. And you'll never look at blue eyeliner the same way ever again.
DeAndre Wright, "Love Thing" Director: Evesborough Films Cameos: Houston skyline
Lamik, the venue of DeAndre Wright's "Love Thing" screening, is all pink walls and red strawberries. Love is in the air. Music is also in the air, courtesy of Artist of the Week turntablist DJ Supastar. There's nearly two hours of preambling -- tunes, photo ops, trivias, a video before the video, a story about a pet mouse named Sparky. Sparky died in his water bowl. Tragic. All is forgiven once the lights dim and the clip rolls.
DeAndre Wright's "Love Thing" is remarkably well done. Directed by the Danny Ocean-helmed Evesborough Films (Niceguys, Thurogood), it's the stuff you expect from bigwigs not upstarts on a budget.
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It opens with Wright sitting alone. It ends the same way. It's what goes on in between that tells the tale. There are shots of Wright in an empty condo overlooking the Houston skyline, enveloped both by the emptiness of a love lost and the endless possibilities beyond her immediate space. At other times, she's strolling by the lake or locked in a stare-off with the video's only other human presence.
The temptation to sexualize everything in pop is heavy, but "Love Thing" resists. It's surprisingly as chaste as the Christian side hug. Letting the music do the talking isn't always as convenient as it sounds. "Love Thing" is loud and brolic and visually ardent in its dramatics. And like good cocktail, the last sip as just as good as the first.
Can a music video be too low-budget to be good? Not in an age when OK GO and Chairlift are racking up millions of YouTube views off lunch-money budget videos. For Sydnee-Jane and DeAndre Wright, it's not the number of views but the number of fans that matters. They're off to a strong start.