thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Replay: Kimbra’s “Good Intent”

In music videos, Uncategorized on May 22, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Kimbra ripped into the American consciousness belting out a blistering rebuttal to Gotye’s woe-is-me soliloquies in “Someone That I Used to Know.” But there’s much, much more to this New Zealand songstress than one smashing guest appearance. Her U.S. debut album Vows, now streaming at NPR, reveals an artist that’s part edgy Betty Boop, part pop star, part soul singer, and 100% addictive.

This week, Girls Like Giants follows Kimbra back in time to a retro era of fedoras, smooth dancing moves, and triple-vision. Behold the glory of “Good Intent.”

Sarah T:

The first time I watched this video, I was like, “Why do I feel a particularly strong affection for red-dress Kimbra? Is it just that the dress goes well with her coloring? Is she a winter?” I knew that technically the same person was dressed in black, white, and red, but somehow I loved her the best in scarlet. Watching it again, I realized that Kimbra is playing slightly different characters depending on the color of her dress. Kimbra in black is cold and sexy and elegant, like Angelina Jolie in Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Kimbra in white is a swooning ingenue. And Kimbra in red is a bold, insouciant siren: no WONDER I was mysteriously convinced that she was the coolest.

Bathed in red light, siren-Kimbra also takes the same power position she adopts in “Someone That I Used to Know”: standing in profile, singing loudly into the ear of a man who’s facing forward. In both cases, the man looks uncomfortable with the confrontation and the intrusion into his personal space. In “Good Intent,” their mutual body language shows that Kimbra is the one in control. Her hand drifts up the man’s chest while he stands still; she grabs his square chin and turns his face to the side as she accuses him, “It’s not enough to say it’s not in your heart; you’ve tainted every moment till death do we part.” But to be fair, Kimbra did warn him that she was dangerous. She even told him what color to watch out for: earlier in the song, Kimbra sings, “The red light in the doorway says she’s armed, / But boy go try your luck and you might get past.”

The idea of Kimbra as a dangerous but unpredictable force is underscored by the video’s “The Lady, or the Tiger?” motif. Both Kimbra and the man in the fedora contain multiple personalities, and therefore their relationship has multiple possible outcomes–a fact that’s underscored as the camera flashes to an image of three identical doors in a row. All three men burst through the doors, and all three Kimbras descend the steps to meet them.

But once the man walks through the door, he seems to condense into just one version of himself. Kimbra, on the other hand, appears both in triple-vision and dancing separately with the same man in each of her dresses and personas. Depending on her mood and the color of her dress, the fellow might get lucky, or he might get torn to pieces by a liger. That’s Kimbra’s attraction in the song, and the risk her lovers have to take.

Also, I love the dancing in this video.

What’s your take, Phoebes?

Phoebe B.:

So, there are a few things I LOVE about this video: the gangster or noir element (with the spinning ring and the man in the dark alley that begins the video) and the color! It almost feels like Guys and Dolls to me or something awesome along those lines. And like Sarah, I love the three different dresses and presumably Kimbra’s three different personas and particularly the way they appear near the end dancing with the same man. At this point it seems to me that we see that there are not three different Kimbras but one who has many different facets. Also, the final shot with all the women dipped is amazing!

My favorite parts are mostly likely the dancing, since I am almost always enamored of dance and musical-style dance numbers, which this definitely is. I love the way the men move with the song and the way one of them is dressed in white and how we don’t really see their faces either. Maybe they too are all the same person, but different facets of his personality?

Lastly, but back to the beginning, I think the way the video starts is super interesting. It feels more cinema-esque than a music video with the shot of the spinning ring, which gives us the context, and then the title of the song and then the shot of Kimbra sitting at her mirror. This gives the video, for me at least, a very film noir sense which is super cool, and the rest of the text (at least visually) follows that with Kimbra as this performer having an affair with this gangster/criminal type.

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  1. I first saw this video at some point last year via a blog I can no longer recall. I had a similar reaction – sexy, fun, spontaneous-dance-party-worthy. A rad throwback to the retro musicals of yore, and it is aces.
    ANYWAYS, now that I live in lovely New Zealand, home of Kimbra (and boy are they proud!), I have a bit more info, which could color (or colour, as they seem to think it should be spelled) my viewing. Kimbra herself is from this town in the North Island that everyone makes fun of in the same sort of ways that US’ians make fun of ghetto hickville towns -it is sort of a trailer park on the edge of a glamorous city, all of the show and none of the class? Does that make sense? So everyone here jokes about how she is the best thing to ever come out of this place. And I’ve just rewatched the video with this context, and it makes me giggle because boy, this video ooooozes class. Slightly the wrong side of the tracks class, but still class.
    I don’t know about you girls, but I just want to alternate this video with old Aguilera videos and 40s musicals. Party, anyone?

    • Austin that is so interesting! Way to show ’em, Kimbra. And yes, definitely let’s have a Kimbraleramusical marathon. While wearing long necklaces and feather boas, ideally?

  2. LOVE this song and this video! Thanks for featuring it!

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