Music Video Breakdown: 'All the Stars' by Kendrick Lamar and SZA

SZA in the "All the Stars" music video.
A sea of raised hands stretches as far as the eye can see, growing and swelling with the thunderclouds above them. Rising from this human wave like a modern Noah is none other than enigmatic rap superstar Kendrick Lamar. The music video for Lamar and R&B goddess SZA’s “All the Stars,” the pair’s single from the recent “Black Panther” soundtrack, is visually stunning and mysterious. One would expect nothing less from a creative team that includes Lamar, SZA, and director Dave Meyers. Meyers, whose previous work includes the music videos for Lamar’s “LOYALTY.” and SZA’s “Drew Barrymore,” weaves dance, color, and symbolic imagery to craft a video that is beautiful and open to interpretation.

While there isn’t a linear “plot” so to speak, the back and forth between the two artists ties the verses and choruses together. A shot of Lamar standing in the center of a group of children, all looking to him for guidance, fades into a glittering galaxy whose stars form the shape of the continent of Africa. The camera rushes forward, travelling light years through layers of stars to reveal none other than SZA, carefree and dancing amid the floating stars. The deep red, purple, and black hues of her jumpsuit stand out against the midnight blues of the galaxy she is inexplicably standing within. A black cape extends behind her, moving just enough to make you wonder if Saturn’s rings are really just a distant time-lapse of SZA in her glowing outfit dancing circles around the planet.

SZA exudes joy in all of her movements and vocals, while Lamar plays her more reserved counterpart. He sits silently in a red suit, his chair flanked by stoic men in formal wear standing out against the makeshift metal houses behind them. As Lamar’s verse plays, the camera pans over the women, children, and dancers around him as bombs explode in the background. Lamar doesn’t begin to lip-sync until the line, “I hate people that feel entitled,” on which he stands and begins to speak directly to the camera.

From here, imagery takes over completely as the view shifts to images rife with bright colors, designs, and symbols. In a direct reference to the film the song was created for, a leather clad Lamar leads a pack of black panthers through a forest of black, burnt trees, the only pop of color existing in the form of his lime-green, patterned headwrap. SZA dances once again in her galaxy, bathed in blood-red lighting, only to materialize seconds later in a shallow, pink pool. Amid patterns of red, black, green, and yellow, she floats, flanked on all sides by dancing women draped in pink feathers. These transitions from one elaborate scene to the next become more and more frequent, as we see SZA dancing in the midst of a decorated army dressed in blue, or Kendrick wandering between statuesque, powerful women draped in gold.

At the video’s conclusion, SZA sings off frame as Kendrick walks up to a row of goddesses three times his height and draped in gold and jewelry. He looks up at them, and begins to look back down. We are transported through the constellation of Africa for the final time, through SZA’s hair. It is glorious.


—Staff Writer Allison J. Scharmann can be reached at


Recommended Articles