Leon Bridges is an old soul residing in the body of a jubilant 26-year-old, who manages to capture the essence of that spirit in his music so perfectly, it immediately conjures to mind some of the greats in the genre. One of the most defining and beautiful songs of his Grammy award-nominated album Coming Home, River, has lifted the melancholic beauty of his style and given it a new kind of life on the screen in the new music video.
The video is an homage to the recent turmoil in Baltimore and the lives lost along with it. Written and directed by Miles Jay, the clip pays tribute to the power of endurance in the face of great difficulty, which the people of Baltimore know far too much about.
The clip starts out with a man driving on a freeway, in the dusk or dawn – it’s hard to tell. Shipping cranes dot the horizon, evoking the imagery of the outskirts of a city. The driver and a passenger hum serenely to an unidentifiable tune, before the vintage car pulls up into a brightly lit motel lot.
The view shifts to a woman walking down the corridor and entering a room, where Bridges sits strumming a guitar, looking up as she enters the room. As he begins to strum the track, scenes of Baltimore flicker on the television behind them. Bridges serenades the woman in a beautifully stripped back, raw version of the song as the camera circles round before segueing into a shot of a woman and her child in an untidy house.
A man covered in blood walks down the street, entering his house and stripping off his soiled clothing. A group of people gather in the street to hold a vigil, releasing black balloons into the sky, the grief evident on their faces as they mourn those who are lost.
The video pauses at a point when the rain begins to pour heavily, and Bridges’ female companion begins to sing softly as images of families, children and mourners intertwine in an emotional and moving montage.
The video manages to convey this intense grief and devastation felt by the communities of Baltimore, but also shines a light onto the hope through the symbolic presence of a baby. Bridges’ beautiful and heady vocals are filled with the bittersweet melancholy of someone beyond his years.
“The river has historically been used in gospel music as symbolism for change and redemption. My goal was to write a song about my personal spiritual experience,” Bridges said in a statement about River.
“It was written during a time of real depression in my life and I recall sitting in my garage trying to write a song which reflected this struggle … I want this video to be a message of light. I believe it has the power to change and heal those that are hurting.”
The video is incredibly poignant, and although 2016 has just begun, perhaps this could be one of the year’s best yet. Released on the first day of Black History Month, the video is a metaphor for purifying and cleansing ability of water coming from the River.