Social media is a beast-feeding omnivore.
The potentiality of life looks better on Instagram. Slap on a filter, a slick caption, some hashtags, and bam! You're home free. But you can't escape the reality looking you in the eye from behind that shimmering curtain. In truth, we're all just some hackneyed "wizard" putting up a front. Or so Calan Mai says. The folk-pop singer-songwriter's latest single "XO," brightly-polished and as starry as the real stars over our unconcerned heads, recruits our incredibly-dangerous habit of envy. Fixed with guitar and flyaway vocals, the song taps into aspiration of the highest order.
The video, premiering today, hooks the viewer up to a life of grandeur through the eyes of a Cal's car wash man just trying to get by. "After all, what could be more aspirational than sneaking into another person's home and living their life as you imagine it?" mastermind and struggling Manchester artist Jordan Lawrence tells Popdust. "We kind of already do that. We stalk people on social media, browse their friends lists and pore over the tiny details of their day."
The cycle is vicious and relentless, if you really begin to think about it. "Then, we post images that make us look like those same Wall Street ballers we admire, and the whole thing feeds itself — just people pretending to be people pretending. But most of us, including those we idolize, are unfulfilled, lonely, and starved of affection."
Among many of the visual's most memorable snapshots, Cal's self-proclaimed employee of the month is joined by his friend, tearing away the detachment social media breeds for honest to goodness human connection. It's companionship, really, that we all need and deserve the most. "A nice suit and a martini will never top a grilled cheese sandwich and the company of a friend. One just looks a little better on Instagram," says Lawrence.
Storyline in place, the biggest task came to scouting a location, one of sparkling allure and a cinematic feel. Understandably so, that was easier said than done. "When I came up with the concept for the music video, I thought, 'This will be easy, all we need is a nice house to shoot in.' Well, I was wrong. Homes often have people in them and people need to live their lives," he explains. "Dolly tracks, lighting rigs, and busy cast and crew members tend to get in the way of that. But we were very fortunate to meet a woman named Mandy who let us film in her home for three days while she worked in her office. When I asked her why she was being so generous, she said, 'I just want to support creative people.' In my time as an artist, I've met many like Mandy. I really don't know where I'd be without this sort of goodwill. We couldn't have made the clip without her."
With his lifelong friend and tirelessly ambitious actor Mackenzie Fearnley by his side, starring as the residence's esteemed owner, Lawrence allows the sequence to play with plenty of breathing room. "I asked Mackenzie to star in the music video for two reasons. One, he's a fantastic actor. Two, he's struggling like I am. He's trying to make a living from acting, while I'm trying to do the same in music."
He continues, "I knew he would understand the point of 'XO' and what it feels like to compare yourself to people who are succeeding in the way you want to succeed. When I met with him to discuss the clip, we hadn't seen one another for eight years."
Their connection is electric onscreen. Even given eight-years of separation, the give and take in the video's third act is dynamic and delightfully child-like ⎯⎯ wait for the Teddy fist bump at the very end. "It was very special getting to work with Mackenzie after growing up together. I really hope he and I can do something again. Perhaps a sitcom about struggling artists!"
Lawrence, whose stage name is the Welsh name for a holiday nearing summer solstice, has reached a turning point in life and his career. "XO" plays a small role in his explorations of self, meaning, and destiny.
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