Keaton Henson – Sweetheart, What Have You Done to Us?

This is an interesting one.  The video, I mean, and the pitch, not so much the song, which is pretty straightforward.  Really good, I must say, but undeniably direct and to the point.

The video, on the other hand, has me feeling a little conflicted. The sales email introduced it thus:

“‘Sweetheart, What Have You Done To Us’ captures a real “moment” for Keaton, and is not only the first video in which he appears – it’s the first clip we can think of in which a male performer breaks down (Sinead O’Connor and Duffy aside…)”

That’s inoffensive enough, of course, and if you watch the video itself it appears to be literally true. I remember someone criticising the Josh T. Pearson record on the basis that if he is confessing to genuinely being as mean as his songs would imply, then he shouldn’t really be congratulated for it.  I still love the album, but I take the point nevertheless.

In this case, I see two options: the emotion is contrived, in which case it’s pretty crass, or the emotion is genuine in which case I am a little bit uncomfortable with this being left uncut from a video which is now doing the rounds of the internet at some pace.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s contrived or false.  Henson has always had a reputation for being emotionally brittle, the song itself is not a happy one, and watching the actual video it really doesn’t seem like he’s having us on in the slightest.

This leaves the second option, that the emotional distress is real, and that it somehow stayed in the video. I don’t like this, honestly, and I don’t like the phrasing of the press release.  It seems somehow triumphant, as if the only impact Henson’s tears made was a gleeful air-punch at having captured a moment of potential internet viral gold. I am not saying that is clearly true, but it certainly seems like a not wholly unreasonable interpretation.

I don’t know, of course. I assume Henson himself had to give the thumbs up for this to go live, and if he’s fine with it, then it’s not really my business one way or another.  But music itself can be naked and uncomfortable enough as it is, and seeing how much it seems to mean to this fella makes me squirm a little.  Hiding behind a pseudonym or an album cover gives just enough distance for me to accept some of the squeamish truths which are told in songs from time to time, but this feels uncomfortably close to voyeurism, and the presentation of it seems uncomfortably close to taking the piss.

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