Something’s different about Ashanti’s new video for “The Way That I Love You,” and it’s not just her hair. An overwhelming amount of the R&B singer’s past videos show her singing submissive, vocally unimpressive choruses for subpar rappers. The archetypal image that comes to mind is Ja Rule rapping into the camera while Ashanti stares adoringly at him and provides some background noise. In “The Way That I Love You,” though, Ashanti is the video’s unquestionable star.
The video starts disconcertingly, with a 911 emergency call in which a breathy voice asks the operator, “Please, send someone.” But Ashanti’s gasping sounds more like seduction than desperation. After the intro, the camera cuts to a mix of shots featuring Ashanti in different rooms and outfits; home videos of her with her man, photos of said man being unfaithful, and a murder scene all flash before the viewer’s eyes. This theme is another deviation from the typical Ashanti video, in which relationships always work out and the man doesn’t want to be with any other chick but Ashanti. Also, in this video, there’s no elephant.
The basic plot is simple enough to follow. Girl loves boy. Boy cheats. Girl catches and kills boy. Or does she? After many “CSI”-style shots and a glimpse of Ashanti feeling up a kitchen knife, the singer has a moment of clarity in the bathtub. At this point, the video begins to resemble Kelly Clarkson’s “Never Again,” but with a gangster twist. While emo Clarkson considered drowning herself in the bathtub instead of leaving her adulterous husband, Ashanti considers cold-blooded, pre-meditated murder. In the end, each girl takes the more reasonable road and leaves her man instead of doing bodily harm to herself.
There’s something very magical about bathtubs that seem to make pop stars see things more clearly. I don’t know if it’s the bubbles or the body-clinging clothing, but whatever it is, thank God for its existence. It saved Britney Spears (in “Everytime”), Kelly Clarkson, and now Ashanti from horrible fates—and where would we be without them?
Ashanti’s video is an upgrade, but ultimately, it’s nothing new. It’s unoriginal not just because of its resemblance to other tub videos, but because Ashanti is unable to be remarkable or memorable unless she’s fawning over Ja Rule. Or riding an elephant.
—Rachel S. Park
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