In the late 1960’s Motown lost its monopoly on Black America because Berry Gordy refused to let his artists sing about the times, while soul stirrers like Curtis Mayfield and others were telling it like it was, then Marvin Gaye asked “What’s Going On?” and the rest is history. Then during the 80’s into the mid 90’s when hip-hop was reporting live from the streets, young Black America took a seat at the table and forced their way to becoming part of the national conversation much like the Black Power movement two decades prior. But somewhere between then and first-week sales the importance of being a voice for those without has been lost.
Enter Marsha Ambrosius and her new video “Far Away”, a bold step at a time when many artists are tiptoeing around criticism or being provocative in a manner that doesn’t illicit thought or positive conversation. It seems the thing to do now is show your artistic growth with all of that post-modern abstract impressionist stuff that no one understands (see Kanye West’s “Monster”), but Marsha and her manager-turned director Julius Erving III (yes, that Julius Erving) have crafted the perfect marriage of music and video, combining the artistry of her lyrics, Just Blaze’s production, her melodic voice and a video that tells a true story that’s reflective of our cultural climate. At its heart that’s what soul music is supposed to be, an honest depiction of life set to music and by extension the music video should do the same, but the two are often divergent.
“Far Away” takes on the homophobic culture that leads to violence or bullying and far too many times results in the victim seeing no other alternative but to commit suicide. It’s real, it’s life, it’s happening all around us, but it’s not suitable for Happy Hour, so we can’t address it at all. Good thing Marsha, JEIII and her record label didn’t fall into that mode of thinking and have taken a few steps towards making this a conversation piece in communities that tends to castigate homosexuals and treat them as outcasts in their own neighborhoods.
On the heel of last fall’s suicide by Rutgers University student Tyler Clemente and other deaths that followed in the subsequent weeks, it’s about time that an artist decided to do more than a PSA and give a visual to go along with the tragedy. “Far Away” humanizes (that just isn’t right) what we read in the paper or see on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, because the players involved look like you and me. The video sets out with Marsha and a male friend hanging out, walking in the park, acknowledging people in their path, but throws a curve at us when they are joined for dinner by a male friend that greets Marsha with a hug and the male friend with a kiss. Yeah, a kiss, between men, told you it was bold.
The next scenes show the young couple walking through that same park hand-in-hand, but the responses from the very same people are totally different this time around. There’s disgust, shame, anger, scorn and violence, the same reactions you’ll find when two men are holding hands walking down any Martin Luther! Even a mother destroys the innocence of her children as she passes judgment on the couple.
As the song reaches it’s climax, our antagonist reaches his low and we find him strewn about on a couch, followed by a note, a spilled bottle of pills and an overturned glass of wine, apparently dead from a suicide.
In a personal message from the singer, she notes that over one million people committed suicide per year and on a more personal note, a friend of hers did as well. In my opinion, that’s a little more provocative than the gyrating wanna-be diva that everyone was talking about last month, but who am I to decide what folks talk about? I just want to know if BET and MTV are bold enough to show this video?