Florence Welch, AKA “Lungs,” after the title of her first album, has returned, and the music world should rejoice. Florence posted video clip teasers leading up to the Thursday, February 12th release of “What Kind of Man,” the first single and music video from her highly-anticipated third album How Big How Blue How Beautiful, which is set for release on June 2nd.
The “What Kind of Man” music video, directed by Vincent Haycock, builds with the momentum of the song. It is a chaotic, loud, and intense production, depicting Florence and her love interest’s tumultuous relationship. The video and song begin quietly. Florence and her love interest are driving down the road, discussing Florence talking in her sleep, and her lover admits she seemed sad.
She asks, “Why didn’t you wake me up?” He says, “I didn’t want to intervene. It just seemed like you were suffering somewhere else.” They also discuss turmoil and Florence ponders aloud if couples who suffer together feel closer after horrific events like a storm. This becomes a theme throughout the video.
Then we are shown a montage of moments from the couple’s relationship. We see images of water (one of Flo’s classic subjects in the past) when Florence is sitting in a car while it’s raining, and then when she emerges from the bathtub, gasping for air is if she had been drowning. In another image, Florence is sitting in a chair, and numerous hands appear, covering her face and torso. This could symbolize anything from blatant sexual abuse or others forcefully fighting to gain control (sexually or otherwise).
Included in this montage is silent scenes from Florence and her lover’s highly sexual, volatile relationship.Florence bares her breasts in the video, and while some may argue that this is shocking or controversial, the nudity is done artfully, symbolically displaying the destruction of this couple’s relationship.
The theme of catastrophic storms is displayed throughout the video. During the montage, just as the music quietly creeps into the video, a television in the couple’s bedroom shows breaking news of a hurricane while the couple sits on the bed and Florence dresses. The couple sit far apart on the bed, facing away from one another. Her lover’s eyes are glued to the screen as she looks away.
The couple both sit in the back seats of a car driving through what appears to be Los Angeles as Florence discusses a dream she had about a storm:
“And we’re in the middle of it, sort of calm, but we can feel it. Like it’s everywhere.”
For the first time, almost two minutes into the video, we hear the first lyrics of the song as Florence slowly croons, “I was on a heavy tip, trying to cross a canyon with a broken limb.” With these lyrics, we see Florence’s lover emerge from the bathroom in a towel, and then cuts to Florence being rescued from drowning.
Florence runs stumbling through the rain in another shot, and naked while watching the news of a storm in the next.
The only shots showing Florence and her lover happy are when we travel forward in time to them driving down the road like the start of the video. Florence smiles, laughs, and sunlight streams in from the car’s window, juxtaposed with a following shot of her sitting in the dark, visibly distraught as she sings the lyrics, “What kind of man loves like this?”
Suddenly, while Florence is in the passenger’s seat (in a clearly different time period than the start of the video), their car is T-boned from the passenger side. The booming crash coincides with the sudden, thunderous drumming of the song. As the music’s pace quickens, so does the action of the video. Florence is surrounded by men in a dance sequence that appears to be displaying sexual dominance or control. She is physically held down and she attempts to fight back. Her face is angry and desperate as she sings with the chorus, “What kind of man loves like this?”
In other shots, Florence is carried to what could be described as a dungeon with a bare mattress. In some shots, she is on the mattress, and men surround the room. She screams at the men, flailing her body in frustration. At other times, she and her lover are naked together in the same dungeon. Her lover appears in the dance sequences, and the other men fight to keep the two apart as they frantically reach out their arms towards one another.
The last shots of the video take us back to Florence being rescued from drowning in an ocean. She is lifted out of the water by several women who console her, stroking her face in worry.
“What Kind of Man,” both the song and music video, is powerful, complicated, and loud. With classic Florence fashion, she starts slow, and allows the momentum to build before the booming drums send a shock wave to our ears. Her voice coincidences with this momentum, beginning as a slow, low croon, building up to loud, higher octaves.
Florence and the Machine is back, better than ever, and if the rest of her album is like its first single, then How Big How Blue How Beautiful will be more proof that Florence is a powerhouse voice, and arguably one of the best in the current music scene.