The elevator pitch for Kelela‘s “Frontline” video was probably something like, “Insecure by way of The Sims,” and the result is visually stunning, if a little viscerally unnerving.
A Malcom intro-esque CGI Kelela cruises up to her soon-to-be ex-boyfriend’s house in her crisply-rendered Mercedes Benz SL65, dumps him, and promptly takes off to pick up her homegirls for a night of girls-only fun on the town. The unnerving part comes from the eerily-rendered, digital joint smoke-inspired reverie featuring a closeup of the the cartoon Kelela that gets a little too detailed. The resulting, skin-crawling effect is commonly called the “uncanny valley” among digital animators — the moment where the fantasy gets a little too close to reality and the human brain stops being able to process it as either.
It’s a creatively conceived and slickly executed piece of art, which is only to be expected from Kelela, whose Take Me Apart debut was one of the revelations of 2017. Her unique, pro-Black inspired approach to futuristic R&B stood out, even in a year that included the meteoric rise of soul music supernova SZA and the continued social revolution that was Solange. It’s well worth revisiting, and “Frontline” is a perfect reminder to do that as soon as possible.