A man in torn jeans stares down at bloody hands with an unmistakable look of horror on his face. A feverishly dispatched piano penetrates the silence as he runs off to s riverside, desperate to wash the red stains from his fingers. Jenna Cunningham gazes on from a parking garage, a junkyard and wooded brush, all the while belting out words in her signature croon as if to spill all of the emotions bottled up in her soul onto the ground for us to examine. The man who greeted us at the start of her new music video for “Blood in the Water” is now running as fast as he can, away from the river and through the wilderness. He starts to slow as the Cunningham’s rich melodies ebb and flow with the rhythm; he’s arrived at a cemetery, but we’ve yet to discover why.
Cunningham’s swagger is echoed in the vibrantly strung harmony she’s generating with the piano as we follow our protagonist into the graveyard. He comes upon a grave with a rustic, battered old cross that seems to draw him closer with every second that he allows it to captivate his vision. His hands fold in prayer as Cunningham melodically screams “Another sinner” with a gilded sway that is heartbreaking and yet stunningly beautiful. The sadness in his eyes reverberates into the chorus and shakes us to the very core as we watch Cunningham continue to comfortably dispense her words from the safety of the grungy parking garage.
The mix on this track is as magnetizing as the ominous prose and we’re never left to wonder where an element of the melody is going off to. The tight relationship between the vocals and the piano is emphasized by the grandiosity of the EQ, which scoops out any unnecessary bass and leaves behind only Cunningham and her divine command over the harmonies. It’s quite easy to become hypnotized by this song when not watching the film that was crafted to accompany its lyrical and sonic themes, but when it’s the soundtrack to the imagery that we witness in this video it takes on an entirely different personality that begs for us to explore the depth of the singer’s emotions even more than we already would have.
As the man with the bloodied hands retreats from the gravesite, possibly having made peace with his demons but perhaps having resigned himself to the reality of his circumstances, the chorus assaults us over and over until we’re crushed beneath the weight of its robust stylization. He raises his hands in the glare of police lights as if to admit his guilt and acknowledge his fate, and this climax is synchronized with an explosion of color in Cunningham’s voice that ultimately concludes the song. Very rarely does a music video manage to capture not only the personality of the lyrics but also their mood and energy as a complete work of art, but that’s exactly the case with “Blood in the Water.” Fans of smart, evocative pop and dark but decadent indie rock would be wise to check out this video and the amazing composition it features the next time they’re in the market for exciting new music.