Analyses always reveal information not easily tangible at first glance. Like any film, music videos also hold a wealth of information. Within the fusion of visuals and sounds – characters are created, narratives developed, themes expressed, and so much more.
Personally, I view music videos as films – very short ones at that. Similar to film, “good” music videos exist and by this principle, “bad” ones too. The “good” ones are usually what become classics and in the fast paced industry of pop music, a video is often deemed classic within two to three years after its release.
In my mind, Freedom by Nicki Minaj is one of these classics. Released in November of 2012, the video is a mere 16-months-old. The imagery and mood of the video defy expectations. Usually Nicki’s videos are brightly coloured and undoubtedly “poppy”. However, Freedom has an air of mystery and dark romance, and includes visuals with great symbolic value.
Directed by Colin Tilley, a man who has written and directed videos for artists such as Chris Brown, Justin Bieber and Kelly Rowland – Freedom portrays Nicki Minaj’s rise to the upper echelons of the music industry and suggests the creative and – dare I say – financial freedom granted by this ascent.
Thematically, Freedom has the concept of – you guessed it – freedom as its focus. However, the video also deals with themes of progression, power and self-reflexivity. The lyrics and imagery of the video serve as the primary communicators of these themes, with cinematography and editing merely strengthening the already established ideas.
The video is shot in black and white and only transitions to colour in the second half. This very noticeable transformation signals change and progression. As “real-world” references are found throughout the video’s lyrics, the progression is symbolic of Nicki’s rise and overnight success. The video opens and closes with shots of a flight of stairs, this blatantly expresses upward movement and therefore, Nicki’s success.
The video places great emphasis on religious imagery – more specifically, on imagery relating to Christianity. Early in the video’s progression, Nicki stands in front of an unfinished representation of Noah’s Ark, while wearing a headpiece which bears a striking resemblance to a crown of thorns, we are also shown a cross with a set of keys around it. These religious symbols liken Nicki to a god, implying that she is powerful. The lyrics preceding the shot of the cross and keys – “They’ll never thank me for opening doors/ But they ain’t even thank Jesus when he died on the cross” – clearly likens Nicki to Jesus. She has opened doors for other artists (represented by the keys) with her radical style of Hip-Hop. Through her actions, others benefit – just as sinners reaped the rewards when Jesus was crucified.
Early in the video as the first chorus begins, a majestic eagle takes flight. Exemplifying what freedom is. The price of this freedom is also suggested within the video. Large gears are given prominence, by zooming in on them. These gears symbolise the effort Nicki had to put in to achieve what she has. The theme of power is also significant in Freedom, conspicuously suggested by shots of Nicki wearing a regal crown and of her sitting on a throne. Her power is also conveyed in more subtle manners, such as by using shots of nature in action, like powerful crashing waves. The theme of self-reflexivity is mainly present within the lyrics when Nicki asks, “Mirror, mirror … What you hiding from?”
An analysis of Freedom reveals the power and liberty that Nicki Minaj possesses as one of the most prominent artists in contemporary music. Through its lyrics, palpable symbolism and subtle messages Freedom successfully conveys emancipation and supremacy.