Rudy Mancuso, first popularized as a YouTube and Vine star, released his first single “Black & White” in collaboration with Poo Bear, a Grammy Award-winning songwriter and producer. The accompanying music video adds additional layers, structure, and meaning to the new pop song.
The music video begins with the jaunty yet fluid piano instrumental that sounds classical and Latin at the same time. Mancuso’s fingers fly across the black and white keys of an ebony piano for a few moments until suddenly figures covered in black jump out from a white background to surround and threaten the musician. They attack Mancuso and drag him away. The camera pans to show Poo Bear striding toward Mancuso with more black-clad figures at his back. Mancuso switches to an ivory piano to continue playing the tune while he is surrounded by more threatening figures, this time clothed in white suits.
As “Black & White” progresses, Mancuso finds splotches of black and white paint appearing on his arms, face and neck. Mancuso continues to be hounded by these mysterious figures, and it seems that each time he escapes them, the paint begins to cover more and more of his body, obscuring his skin and identity. Mancuso loses a sense of himself, a being who is not simply black or white as his figure is coated with paint. The non-chromatic personifications of piano keys and limited worldview begin to work in tandem with the indistinct Mancuso, dancing around him as he plays white and black pianos back to back.
“Black & White” employs a progression of imagery to signify the progression of deliberation to choice in the lyrics of the song. When the video begins, Mancuso is himself, free from concealing paint. In the same way, the lyrics of the song question the value of viewing the world in black and white, instead of somewhere in between. The lyrics begin to lean toward a view of one or the other, with nothing in between, forgetting the past and focusing solely on the present. In the video, his wrists and hands show traces of veiling paint, obscuring Mancuso’s, and to a greater extent humanity’s, figurative past. By the end of the music video, Mancuso is masked by the paint—he has lost himself—while the lyrics have settled firmly on seeing the world in two ways: black or white. The message Mancuso imparts with the video is that, by trying to squeeze existence into a binary, you lose everything that makes you distinct.
Featured Image by Shots Studios