In cased you missed it, Ed Sheeran’s new music video Happier, directed by Emil Nava, came out this week, and it is a thing of beauty. The general populace (or at least the global Generation Z) seem to agree: in week one it has comfortably blown past the 30 million view mark. Icing on the cake for Sheeran, whose 2017 release, “Perfect,” exceeded the billion-view mark. Those two vids, together with “Shape,” vaulted Sheeran into the four-member club of musicians whose music videos have exceeded three billion views on YouTube.
Ed Sheeran, known for the kind of appeal and likability that makes you not want to quite date him but rather refer him to your sister, is by most standards a fantastic musician. We were hard-pressed to call Sheeran “adorable” until earlier this year when he unabashedly expressed awe and wonder at his collaborator, Andrea Bocelli in Perfect Symphony. In this beautiful video, we watched Bocelli become a mentor to Sheeran and his young heart explode with gratitude for it.
Happier makes Sheeran even more likable: the editors can’t figure out which is more endearing, the look and vibe of his puppet or the fact that Sheeran apparently agreed to reprise his portrayal via puppet. Incidentally, this puppet first appeared in 2014’s “Sing” music video, also directed by Emil Nava (did he hang onto the puppet this whole time?) with results significantly less lovely.
The tone of the video carries with it a surprising sense of encouragement, even with the (somewhat comedic) smoke-filled alley shot, with the Sheeran puppet in stark silhouette.
The video employs a truly fresh take on what is “mixed media,” specifically in the characters and the editorial style. Two things really stand out: the shots are strung together by filmed-film stuff, in which the filmmakers either shot film on an actual editing table, like a Moviola or a Steenbeck, or they used a well-conceived digital editing filter that looks exactly like they did, saturated colors and all.
The second outstanding thing about the original media approach is that the puppets correspond, but they are not uniform. Two of the main characters are puppets that are either Jim Henson Studio made or brilliant homages to Henson creations. Meanwhile, the third main character is a balloon puppet, something that could easily turn into a creepy reference to uncomfortable birthday parties. Because of the cinematography, palette of tones and hues, context and choreography (yes: choreography!) of the other puppets, however, it works.
Unhappily, what cannot be ignored is the attack of feminist power implicit in the piece’s end…not only is the woman filled with air, physically lighter and visibly less solid than the more robust male puppets, who are conspicuously heavier and denser, but she also becomes detached at the end as a result of the next generation allowing her to be “untied,” i.e. “undone,” figuratively and literally, (an implicit indictment of working mothers). And, at last, no longer being anchored by the hand-holding of the more powerful male puppet, she floats beyond view and thus beyond relevance. Just kidding, feminists… relax, all people. It’s a beautiful music video, with unique characterizations and a fresh take on a new definition of truly mixed media. Watch and enjoy! You’ll be Happier.