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Music video of the week: the fault in our pop stars

Music video of the week: the fault in our pop stars


Introducing One Video, a new weekly series about one music video

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Every Friday morning, a slew of new music videos hits the web. Watching them at your desk is not time theft because you deserve it; think of it as a nice reward for surviving another work week. But what if you don’t have time to watch every video — maybe you have a deadline, a hungry pet, or other grown-up concerns. In consideration of your schedule, Lizzie and Kaitlyn are kicking off a new series called One Video. Each week we’ll tell you “one video” you need to watch, why, and for how long.

Kaitlyn Tiffany: Good morning, Lizzie! If you had to watch only one music video today, which would it be? Keep in mind that there are literally dozens of options.

This week’s video:

Lizzie Plaugic: So glad you asked! I would watch “Thief,” a new music video by a young man named Ansel Elgort. It’s not, as you might assume, a song about a bank robber, but rather about a boy who steals (get it?) someone’s heart. The theme, however, never makes itself obvious in the video, which really just seems like an excuse for Elgort to try on different jackets. But before we can get inside Elgort’s creative mind, first we’ve gotta answer the question, Who is he?

Kaitlyn: Ansel Elgort is the young star of such films as The Fault in Our Stars and Divergent. He’s also a gentleman who says incredible things. Here’s one thing he said: "If you can find a girl who you can go to an EDM concert with, have a conversation with, who will sit on the couch and watch you play GTA for three hours—and then you go to bed and have amazing sex? That should be your girlfriend." Recently he’s been dabbling in DJing and in acoustic covers of folk-lite songs. This is his first music video as a solo artist. Knowing some background on Ansel Elgort is not crucial to appreciating this music video, though I do think context always makes any experience more rewarding. Lizzie, why is this the music video of the week, according to us?

What’s special about “Thief” by Ansel Elgort:

Lizzie: I think this video says a lot about Elgort as an artist. Here are the things I’ve learned about Ansel Elgort based solely on 1.5 viewings of this video:

  • He is dramatic. Key giveaways are his constantly furrowed brow and his inclinations for wearing leather dusters in dim lighting. Drama is perhaps the most essential quality for any wannabe pop star.
  • He is fit and he wants you to know it. Less than 30 seconds into the video, Elgort is doing pushups while wearing only boxer briefs, which, if you ask me, shows a real commitment to both his body and showing you his body.

Kaitlyn: Incredible takeaways! My favorite part of this video is when Ansel Elgort is putting on a turtleneck, because thanks to the way it is bunched up in his hands you can’t immediately tell that’s it a whole shirt and for a moment it looks like it’s just an old-timey dicky. My second favorite part is when he kisses his (real-life!) girlfriend upside-down like he’s Spider-Man. I’m assuming this is a diss on everyone who didn’t give him the part of Spider-Man.

As all music videos, “Thief” by Ansel Elgort has some artistic antecedents. Should we run through them now Lizzie?

Lizzie: Let’s do. Aesthetically, the “Thief” video reminds me of The Weeknd’s video for “Often” (hotel room in various shades of beige), Justin Bieber’s “Confident” (Las Vegas bowling alley lighting), and the HBO series The Night Of (haunted murder house, darkness, in general).

Kaitlyn: In my opinion this video borrows a lot from Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean?” and Zayn Malik’s “Pillowtalk,” in that it agrees with their internal logic: the quickest way to prove you are a young babe is to bathe yourself in fuchsia lighting and contort your face to align with an aesthetic called “hot, subcategory: tortured.” This is also the inspiration behind The Verge’s new staff portraits.

Did it work?
Did it work?

Another thing I am sure inspired this music video: the “Sheets of Egyptian Cotton” video from the 2003 Brittany Murphy film Uptown Girls.

Lizzie: I actually think Ansel Elgort’s next single is called “Sheets of Egyptian Cotton,” but it’s about a toga party he went to one time in college.

Kaitlyn: I can’t wait.

How long everyone should watch “Thief” by Ansel Elgort: