The xx’s 'Say Something Loving' is reminiscent of an 80s romance song and their new music video, directed by Alasdair McLellan, reflects this perfectly. The video features footage of arcades, clubs with neon strobe lights, and few trippy images to really emphasise what the 80s were for a lot of people. However, this video is well aware that it is being made in a post-modern era as it showcases same-sex relationships.
The video cuts between The xx, various locations in London, and intimate moments shared between two people. On the surface, the footage looks like it was spliced together to simply fit with the lyrics, but there is much more to it. Through its editing and constant cutting, there is a subtle story being told.
Let’s start at the beginning. We open with a close-up of a white male — an introduction to our main character. This is followed by a grainy shot of neon lights saying “AMUSEMENTS”, and below that, a Sega Rally arcade machine — this frame establishes where we are, presumably an arcade in Wandsworth seeing as The xx stated, “We wanted to celebrate our hometown”. The third frame shows us a screen with an 8-bit Donkey Kong saying “HOW HIGH CAN YOU GET?” — no doubt a comment on the prevalence and usage of psychedelic drugs in the 80s. This introduction really complements the song, adding to the nostalgic 80s feel and shows us what London was like during this time. From here on out we get the aforementioned cuts between the band and seemingly random images.
Scenes of our main character and his friends are sprinkled throughout the video, and if you pay close enough attention, you can piece together a short story. Let me start you off: at 1:32 we are shown where the main character and his partner meet (keep an eye on the guy with a face full of freckles). However, the video starts to fully co-operate with the lyrics at the 2:04 mark. Romy sings “I almost expect you to leave” and right on cue, we are presented with a girl skateboarding away.
In the next verse, McLellan contrasts the lyrics and video by using images of a temple and Buddha. Buddha is the symbol of zen — no lust, no desire. The lyrics, however, convey a strong sense of lust and desire saying “Am I too needy? Am I too eager?” After this, it should become more apparent that the video starts to conform to the lyrics more and more.
We reach the end of our story at the three-minute mark, with our main character running through a tunnel to meet the guy with a face full of freckles. They kiss, showing us full blown romance as they give in to their lust. They “don’t know what this is, but it doesn’t feel wrong.”
This music video is the perfect blend of cinematography and lyricism. It’s simple enough, so it doesn’t confuse the audience about what the core of the song is about but also complex enough that is able to tell a romance story. As usual, Romy and Oliver deliver an amazing performance with their strong vocals while Alasdair McLellan shows us why he is a renowned photographer and filmmaker.