Can you judge a book by its cover? Or, more importantly, can you judge a music video by the little still on its YouTube preview?
If so, The Weeknd’s recently released music video for single “False Alarm” may not be for the faint of heart. The video’s preview shows a woman covered in splattered blood and giving the camera a set of dead eyes. For the sake of the review, we proceeded.
The track “False Alarm” is one of the new singles off the R&B; singer’s latest album, “Starboy.” The uncharacteristically quick tempo of the music is echoed in the fast pace of the film. And here, it seems, the resemblance between the two ends. The video soon reveals itself to be a riff on a GTA-esque first-person shooter game. We start with a bloody bank robbery, which we seem to be expected to associate with alarms under the crime umbrella. But this is no false alarm. A couple poor souls meet their end by machine guns, and the rest of the room gets an unhealthy dose of (suspiciously aesthetic) purple gas. Yup, this is starting to look like some grade A Weeknd fun. The man who crashed cars in “The Hills” and burned alive in “Can’t Feel My Face” is alive and well and has apparently learned nothing about the grim realities of mortality.
Then the video gets to the meat of the story. A young, frail waif of a woman is captured by the bank robbers (which includes you, because of the first-person perspective) and thrown in a truck. “False Alarm” as a track seems to be a thematic break from The Weeknd’s other material. The premise of the song is that the woman in question is a “false alarm” because “She loves everybody / She gets off all the time.” For a singer whose songs are not exactly filled with female empowerment, this seems to be a blindingly bright display of femme fatality.
But The Weeknd is having none of this chick’s sexual independence, and he takes it out on her in this bloodbath of a music video. She gets handcuffed, tossed into trucks, tossed out of trucks, and splattered with blood. What happened to her false alarms? Or any sounds of any kind? The punky lighting schemes in this clip make her doe eyes look even more doe-like, but we never actually see her assert much of any power. Possibly at the end, when she uncuffs herself and walks away? That must have been her manipulative femme fatale persona coming through!
The end of the piece provides some hope for those panicky about The Weeknd’s next foray into dangerous conflict. When the camera finally leaves first person to turn us onto his face (before he cocks a gun to his mouth), his shaky hands grip the cross on his necklace. The Weeknd may be approaching religious epiphany, and the world may be a safer place for women yet.
—Staff writer Rebecca H. Dolan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.