Guns crash to the floor and shatter in the first few seconds of the music video for “Youth,” setting the tone for the social justice focused video montage that cuts from action shots of talented youths and artistic pans of Shawn Mendes and Khalid singing against urban backgrounds.
Mendes and Khalid continue their commentary on gun violence with clips from the Washington D.C. March For Our Lives projected on box television screens stacked atop one another. Eerily timed, the video comes just two days before the Nov. 7 college night bar shooting at The Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, Calif. that took the lives of 11 bar-goers and one police officer.
“If you listen real close, you can hear the people in power shaking,” said David Hogg, an activist who survived the Stoneman Douglas school shooting in Parkland, Fla., before the video cuts to an artistic shot of a painter in an orange haze.
The video enlists a cast of young performers who showcase their different talents as the upbeat chorus repeats “You can’t take my youth away.” The performers are united by dramatic black clothing and bright lighting illuminating dark spaces.
After nearly five minutes of dance sequences, painting, and gymnast routines, the song stops playing to give way to the stylings of pianists. The remaining two minutes and 38 seconds are spent highlighting the talents of the young performers on their own terms. One segment gives 13-year-old drummer Kojo Odu Roney a New York City rooftop solo, which he fills with a jazzy, fast-paced beat as a hearing-impaired dancer winds her way around his drum kit. Mendes and Khalid did not just recruit artists for the video—young policy debaters, activists, and scientists also make appearances throughout, each with an item that indicates their passion.
While the video is empowering for young people and Mendes and Khalid use their platforms to spotlight important causes, much is left to be desired from the video. Its intentions are admirable and ambitious, but the shattered narrative limits the connection viewers are able to make with any one story. Short clips of various performers fail to develop a meaningful narrative about any one performer, and many stories are left feeling incomplete or underdeveloped. The video aims to piece together a collective story of perseverance, but seems to exploit the individual strength of each performer in the process.
Featured Image by Universal Island Records