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Olivia Castriota Gets Political with "What Do You Stand For"

The R&B-soul diva has been a contender in the past, but her latest video reveals she has political edge.

Azur Mele McHugh

In the political climate we find ourselves in at the end of 2019, it feels like we spend every day being asked the same question: What do you stand for?

With various media reporting every day about all the new excruciating facets of the various humanitarian crises both at our doorsteps and further afield, we either other ourselves from atrocity or retreat into a virtual world where we can ignore it. Olivia Castriota brings this to light in her latest music video, taking her usual output of pop music almost to a place of performance art, directly and loudly asking us: "What Do You Stand For"?

The song, an anthemic piece that at first appears to be about self-empowerment, takes on a satirical bite when contrasted with the visuals of the video. Collaborating with AZURxVIBES Productions, Castriota and her team headed south and shot some remarkable footage along the US-Mexico border in Arizona. The music video shows guerilla-documentary style visuals of illegal circle-fights, the border wall, and actual undocumented immigrants crossing into the US spliced with more commercial angles of Castriota performing and appearing in glamorous locales, producing a distressing juxtaposition. Recontextualized, her lyrics now alternate between self-reflective criticism and downright self-parody; the chorus' call-and-response becomes a conflict rather than an affirmation. The joyously anarchic result: "What do you stand for? / I stand up for me":

"Our goal as directors was to bring out an emotion of uncomfortable self-reflection from the viewer. We wanted the viewer to feel the dry parched desert from the comfort of their sofa, while watching children in cages on their smartphone. Not guilt... but a slap" - AZURxVIBES

An unconventional video project needs an unconventional debut. To that end, Castriota premiered the video by projecting it onto a giant empty wall on New York's Houston street, adding to the video's punk-rock street cred. Passers-by were charged with the task of looking up and taking notice of what was going on around them. Both literally and figuratively.

Olivia Castriota has already shown herself to be a talented singer and songwriter, producing pieces like " Weekend Lover" and "Kills Me," but "What Do You Stand For" takes things to another level. Her willingness to position herself in the video as a fatuous figure, taking selfies whilst surrounded by humanitarian neglect shows an uncommon degree of self-awareness. In the face of the sheer human agony of the border crisis, answering "What do you stand for?" with "I stand up for me" is blatant satire on the petty, selfish short-sightedness of Instagram-based empowerment. Castriota once again stands out from her contemporaries by challenging the status quo, telling us loud and proud what she stands for.



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