Music Video Breakdown: ‘I Don’t Wanna Live Forever,’ by ZAYN and Taylor Swift

“I Don’t Wanna Live Forever,” a duet between country-turned-pop star Taylor Swift and boyband-defector Zayn Malik, is the highest profile release from the soundtrack of the latest installment of the “Fifty Shades” trilogy. Although this reporter has never laid eyes on E.L. James’ critically acclaimed sexy trash fiction, one can only assume “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” is a video SparkNotes of sorts. Think of Zayn and Taylor as a pair of fun TFs leading a review section. Only this is no ordinary review section: it’s a scandalous review section.

We open with a shot of an expensive-looking car pulling up in the rain. A perfectly coiffed yet sad Zayn emerges. Cameras flash. A horde of aggressive paparazzi silently screams aggressive questions at him, which probably range from “Why do you sound American when you sing, even though you’re British?” to “Can one ever make sense of a non-reductionist view of theoretical entities?” to “Is it weird that you’re collaborating with your ex-bandmate’s ex-girlfriend, or does that double negative cancel itself out? Like, are you therefore on the same side now? How does that work?”

But Zayn, like most famous people, knows he’s too important for these trivialities. He passes right through the hotel lobby. A paparazzi ambushes him. (What the hell? How did he get in here? No. Focus, Zayn!) Nonchalant, he enters an elevator, illuminated alternately by red and green lights, and starts singing, impressively enunciating while barely moving his mouth. Taylor Swift won’t call him back, and he’s sad about that.

Lucky for Zayn, Taylor is in the same hotel. Even better, she’s in the same elevator, which seems to be some sort of infinite rotating room. But Taylor is having problems too: existential problems. “Wondering if I dodged a bullet or just lost the love of my life, oh,” she sings uncertainly, as she stretches her neck, clearly suffering some kind of excruciatingly painful neck cramp. Unaware that dodging bullets and suffering romantic worries are not mutually exclusive, Taylor enters a hotel room.

Surprise: Zayn is also here. How did he get here from the elevator so quickly? (Answer/Certified Fun Zayn Fact: Zayn has a hidden talent for escaping both tight spaces and five-year boyband contracts.)

Zayn and Taylor start singing together about how much they detest immortality. This is the crux of the problem: they really, really don’t want to live forever. Sure, they may represent a collective net worth of $300 million, but their wants and needs transcend the crass materiality of luxury hotel rooms and the expensive champagne that Taylor Swift does not know when to stop pouring. They only want to keep calling each other’s names until they come back home.

But there are some obvious barriers to gratifying that goal, because both of them refuse to leave the hotel. This Catch-22 is so frustrating that they start taking it out on the hotel. Zayn violently destroys a place setting. Taylor tries to provoke a pillow fight with a wall. Zayn throws a bottle at what is hopefully a different wall. Taylor scratches a fabric headboard. Zayn overturns the table, because the place setting wasn’t enough. (Not pictured: Zayn pulling the concierge aside to explain that all the damages will go on Taylor’s tab, please. Not to be a jerk about this, but she does make up 83 percent of their collective net worth.)

In the climax (wink) of the sexy video, Zayn and Taylor finally lock eyes. There’s a brief flicker of recognition in their charged eye contact: maybe, just maybe, they actually won’t live forever.

This fleeting moment of hope at the sweet release of death is interrupted by the return of Taylor’s neck cramp. She turns around, ostensibly instructing Zayn to finally call her chiropractor. However, the pain is likely purely psychological: as Calvin Harris and Katy Perry might inform her, snakes don’t really have necks.

—Staff writer Caroline A. Tsai can be reached at caroline.tsai@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @carolinetsai3.

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