July 25, 2024

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How Halsey’s Feature-Length Music Video Embodies a New Genre of Film

How Halsey’s Feature-Length Music Video Embodies a New Genre of Film

Music and movies have always been intertwined. In the first days of silent films, the score of the movie was imperative to keep the audience engaged in the story. Despite how advanced we have become in cinematography, good scores can still make or break a movie in terms of setting the right atmosphere, following an emotional arc and drawing the audience deeper into the world of the story. The classic example would be watching a horror film with no sound and realizing it’s not half as scary. The sounds and music are specifically designed to bring the audience on an emotional journey.


Those who are fans of stories told through music videos may be excited at the prospect of a new genre: Feature-length music video films, an entire album of songs set to a compelling story with a central protagonist and quality cinematography leading to an extended multi-song extended music video. These would differ from musical movies as the characters don’t have to be actually singing the songs in the scene.

MOVIEWEB VIDEO OF THE DAY

This is exactly what Halsey’s If I Can’t Have Love I Want Power achieves with magnificence. This article breaks down what’s great about the singer-songwriter’s music video film, and other content that blurs the line between music video and movie.


The Overview

Halsey-If-I-Can't-Have-Love-I-Want-Power
Capitol Records

If I Can’t Have Love I Want Power is described on Amazon Prime Video as “an hour-long film experience set to the music of Halsey’s upcoming album” and was released in 2021 right before her album release of the same name. The dark fantasy story revolves around Queen Lila (Halsey), who lives a life of decadence in a gothic medieval castle, but is trapped in an abusive relationship and reviled by the court. Lila starts to discover what love and power can actually feel like through creating a life herself. The movie parallels the overarching message of Halsey’s album that explores her experience with pregnancy—the singer was actually 5 months pregnant during the filming of this movie, meaning production had to design costume and camera angles to make her character look more or less pregnant at different moments of the story.

Related: The Best Film Musical Scores of All Time, Ranked

The Music

Halsey If I Can't Have Love I Want Power
Capitol Records

Halsey herself is a prominent musician especially known for her Number 1 Billboard hit Without Me, but her album If I Can’t Have Love I Want Power moves distinctively away vocally and genre-wise from her previous work. The cinematic feel to her songs in If I Can’t Have Love I Want Power was likely due to the partnership with prolific film composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of Nine-Inch Nails as producers on the album. The EDM songs are the perfect score for a dark fantasy movie that ranges from an electronic rock beat backing intense moments down to soft bass-led songs for more intimate scenes.

The Production Team

Halsey If I Can't Have Love I Want Power Tapestry

One of the most spell-binding components of this film is the costume design. Halsey does her own make-up but costume designer Law Roach steals the show with designs by Vivienne Westwood, Dolce & Gabbana, Jean Paul Gautier and more. Each costume fits the song and character’s inner feelings at that moment in the story while being unlike anything possible to imagine in one’s head. Costume design in fantasy films is always such a central part of world-building, and in If I Can’t Have Love I Want Power the costumes immerse the audience in Halsey’s dark fantasy gothic world.

Director Colin Tilley is well-known for directing many celebrity musicians’ music videos, including Post Malone’s Goodbyes, and award-winning music videos Anaconda for Nicki Minaj and Alright for Kendrick Lamar. The cinematography of If I Can’t Have Love I Want Power ranges from large-scale fantasy crowd scenes to close-up moments that capture buried emotions. The film is shot viscerally while also seamlessly transitioning between songs and scenes.

The Story and Cast

Halsey If I Can't Have Love I Want Power IMDb
Capitol Records

Without giving away any spoilers, the dark fantasy chaos revolves around a Queen navigating motherhood and sexuality under trying and possibly paranormal circumstances. The narrative is cleverly arranged in a certain timeline and leaves the audience with room for interpretation, which seems to work well with the idea that this is inspired by an album. Songs are often about the artists personal thoughts as well as what each individual interprets from them. If I Can’t Have Love I Want Power incorporates this premise by nailing the protagonist’s intimate journey while also building up a full-blown fantasy world that leaves behind a lot of questions.

Halsey stars as Queen Lilith and another key character in the story while proving her acting range in high stakes situations. Sasha Lane also plays a supporting role as a mysterious healer who helps the Queen through her pregnancy. The idea of being able to see your favorite artist act in their music videos is one thing, but to see them carry an entire film narrative creates a new avenue to experience their artistry.

On the Same Note

All Too Well 10 Minute Film Sadie Sink Dylan O'Brien
Taylor Swift Productions

Other musicians are also blurring the line of music video and film, bringing together talent from film and television into shorts and extended music videos. Firstly, there is Taylor Swift’s All Too Well: The Short Film starring Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien released on YouTube in November 2021. To date, this short film has over 83 million views and was praised for the actors’ intimate performances during the music video scenes and the dialogue scene at the center of the video. Swift took the director’s chair as well as a small acting role in this music video short film that feels like a complete narrative.

Another example of a music video short film is A Seat at the Table set to Hozier’s song Dinner and Diatribes. While not containing any dialogue scenes, this especially sinister short stars Anya Taylor Joy and is directed by Peaky Blinders’ director Anthony Byrne. Hozier himself also stars in the video delivering a bone-chilling performance that echoes a similar dark fantasy feel to Halsey’s If I Can’t Have Love I Want Power.

I Am Easy To Find – A Film by Mike Mills is a 26-minute-long short set to music by The National that mixes aspects of music video, dialogue and silent film era black-and-white visuals plus captions to convey a story about a woman’s entire life journey in fragments. Alicia Vikander stars in this poignant film that demonstrates how music video movies can play with format and unconventional story-telling techniques to produce a compelling narrative. MGK’s Downfalls High on YouTube starring Sydney Sweeney and Huddy is another music video movie that leans towards the feature length format while keeping dialogue and music much more separate. The format of Downfalls High is more scenes intercut with music videos rather than a coherent narrative that fully incorporates the songs into the film storyline.

What is really exciting about this new genre of music video movies is not only seeing artist’s bringing their music into extended storylines, the potential to expand their artistry into acting, but also the limitless possibilities of format. Whether a more conventional feature length film with dialogue scenes that combines a whole album like If I Can’t Have Love I Want Power, or just one song that carries an entire story with one scene to compliment like All To Well: The Short Film, a whole new gateway of content for music video fans has opened—who knows what combinations of music and movies will be created next?