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Music Video Breakdown: 'Clearly' by Grace VanderWaal

A Touch of Levity

Superstars don’t have time for geometry class. But that doesn’t keep singer-songwriter Grace VanderWaal from making the time in the music video for her song “Clearly.” The video begins with Grace staring introspectively into a mirror. She’s uneasy as she grapples with a serious dilemma. Her vocals ensue and the tense mood is crystallized by the anxiety in her voice. Grace is troubled, but she isn’t ready for her reveal yet.

Suddenly, she whips out her contour stick, and the source of her dissonance becomes clear. She digs the stick into her face, carving out arcs and curves with directed energy. She searches for a degree of permanence that she’s failed to actualize due to the transient nature of her pop-star lifestyle. It’s as if she believes inscribing these shapes into her body can override years of missed experience. Each stroke represents an attempt to transport herself into the life of a normal teenage girl, one who has time to attend regular high school class—geometry class! Grace loves shapes. She needs to sketch shapes. Where is her protractor?

Immediately following her contouring fit, Grace catches her reflected gaze in the mirror and her incisive self-awareness kicks in. She frantically scrapes the makeup off her face, but these aren’t mere ephemeral etchings. She dismisses the previous notion of unfulfillment, but regret tugs on the fringes of her newfound contentedness. She moves from mirror to mirror in the house, inspecting the canals that were previously filled with contour. She can’t rid herself of the feeling that a piece of her is missing. Clearly she enjoys her fame, but it isn’t clear that it’s worth everything she’s sacrificed. She knows geometry is important.

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As the tempo ramps up, Grace busts through the front door of the house. All of her regrets and fears vaporize upon interaction with the outdoors’ fresh embrace. She belts “I can see clearly now the rain is gone,” as a mass of individuals cheer in the background. Never attending a high school geometry class begins to feel like a less prominent consideration, now. Squares and circles—they’re nice. Ovals, even better! But fame and wealth are her present and more than likely her future. Shapes are defined by their inevitable closure, but her stardom knows no bounds.

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