Ram-horned guards, floating nymphs, knife-wielding attackers, water flowing upward — huh?!?
If you can't make heads or tails out of the groundbreaking "video montage" Kanye West and artist Marco Brambilla produced for West's "Power," relax. You're not alone.
After the clip's Thursday premiere on MTV, Kanye tweeted: "It's not a video ... It's a moving painting!" During his recent talks with MTV News, Brambilla described the 90-second piece, which is made of 24 layers of video, as a "visual ballet." Others have called it a "living portrait."
A visual ballet painting? Yeah, that wasn't good enough for us either. So we consulted people who have devoted their lives to studying, analyzing and producing art, and they're confused too.
"What stood out to me was his ridiculous big chain. I don't know what that was all about," photographer Gianna Leofalcon said about the six-figure, gold medallion that depicts one of the oldest Egyptian deities, Horus.
"If that [chain] was real, he wouldn't be standing up," joked painter and illustrator Misha T.
"It symbolizes power," said graphic artist and rapper Wordspit. "Back in the day, [Egyptians] used to wear nothing but gold jewelry, and that was a sense of power with them. I feel like it symbolizes that."
Fellow graphic artist Suede Jury agreed: "The chain is larger than life. Everything about the video is larger than life."
"Yo, this dude, Marco. He's bananas, son," said painter Ibrahim Baaith. "And what's cool is that he's shooting all this and incorporating it into, like, a painting. He's not just taking classical images and just smashing it together. He's completely original, and I like where he and Kanye took it. He's definitely pushing the envelope."
The problem comes when you ask which direction the envelope is being pushed. Some say it permanently raised the bar for hip-hop videos, but Leofalcon said when it comes to male/female relations, "Power" goes the same old route. "What are all the women doing below him?" she asked. "What message is that sending? We're already dealing with inequality between men and women, particularly in hip-hop. I'm sick and tired of having a bunch of girls surrounding a man in videos in general.
"I would challenge Kanye to have a woman by his side to give the message that there is equality between him and a beautiful woman," she added.
"He's showing his position of power. He indulges in the women," Wordspit countered. "I could understand that you want him to have a woman by his side. It probably would have looked cool. ... But at the same time, Kanye is a loner. Kanye feels like he's alone. And I think that was one of the purposes of this video — to just show that even though I'm in a position of power. I'm still mortal."
Misha T broke down the video like this: "The song is called 'Power.' When you're on top, everybody's trying to bring you down to claim that spot. He's trying to show you this picture-perfect world where, yeah, you have goddesses surrounding you. But at the same time, you have guys trying to stab you in the back."
And that sword over his head? It's the Sword of Damocles. Don't even get us started on that ...
What did you take from Kanye's "Power" video? Share your thoughts in the comments!