A pop star crooning in a well-tailored suit before a troupe of stone-faced, red-lipped ingenues isn't a terribly original treatment for a music video. But when said troupe is comprised of similarly adorned men and women, that's a statement.
Ingrid Michaelson, whose tender-hearted indie anthems you put on mix CDs in high school, has definitely joined the gender-bending coterie with her video for "Girls Chase Boys," the first single from her forthcoming album Lights Out. We've seen others draw attention to gender stereotypes by exaggerating them, a'la Lily Allen's "Hard Out Here", or inverting them, like in our favorite "Blurred Lines" parody. Michaelson does both of these things, but instead of reifying a gender divide, she blurs it, presenting both men and women as overtly sexualized beings. And it turns out that everyone looks equally silly gyrating in tight pink clothing. In fact, the result is downright fun.
The track itself is both a breakup anthem and an indictment of typical courtship patterns. Men are often allowed a monopoly on heart-breaking privileges, but Michaelson reminds us that "It's all the same thing": Girls chase boys, boys chase boys, and girls chase girls. The sartorial equivalent to equal opportunity heartbreak? Men in bandage dresses, of course.
The video is a throwback to Robert Palmer's late '80s hit "Simply Irresistible," in which a well-coiffed Palmer lip syncs while dozens of painted female faces look bored behind him. Michaelson's version matches the original nearly frame for frame -- with a conga line of shimmying princes punctuated by close shots of models whose lips appear glued shut by red gloss. Michaelson is, of course, decked out in a killer suit with leopard print cuffs.
But the real achievement of Michaelson's video is the fact that she (and the camera) treat all of her backup dancers equally. The women in tight clothes and heavy makeup aren't any less jarring (or any more sexual) than the men in drag.
Michaelson discussed the background of the project on her Facebook page:
Girls Chase Boys started out as a breakup song but took on a deeper meaning as I continued writing. More than just being about my experience, its focus shifted to include the idea that, no matter who or how we love, we are all the same.
The video takes that idea one step further, and attempts to turn stereotypical gender roles on their head. Girls don't exclusively chase boys. We all know this! We all chase each other and in the end we are all chasing after the same thing: love.
The message is earnest, fun, and important: We all try really hard to impress each other, and sometimes we don't, but we'll get over it. "Let's not make it harder than it has to be," Michaelson sings. You have our pledge, girl.