A tale of two videos: Clinton/Blige and El Cajon

Here's what Mary J. Blige sang to Hillary Clinton on Apple Music... and why.

"Mary J. Blige’s commercial with Hillary Clinton has everyone talking… And not in a good way," said one critic. "The most awkward 30 seconds of my life," said another. "Beyond cringeworthy," added a third.

My experience of the YouTube promo was different. As it happened, I had just watched the video below from El Cajon, Calif., in which a black man with one hand in his pocket is cornered by police and shot dead when he pulls something out. It's a vape, not a gun.

The song makes a lot more sense in that context. In the context of the full 30-minute interview, posted yesterday as an Apple Music exclusive, it makes even more.

The lyrics are from Bruce Springsteen's American Skin:

If an officer stops you, always be polite
And never ever run away
Promise Mama you'll keep your hands in sight

Is it a gun, is it a knife
Is it a wallet, this is your life
It ain't no secret
It ain't no secret
No secret my friend
You can get killed just for living in
your American skin

The El Cajon video:

The 60-second promo:

The 30-minute interview.


  1. Jonathan Mackenzie said:
    There are two things here: message and execution

    The song was released in 2001. It is unconscionable that this should be so topical 15 years later. Tragic shooting deaths are obviously covered way more heavily than the disproportional amount of times that police shootings are justified. The police as a whole save many more innocent lives than they take. But it is possible to be supportive of the police and understand the incredibly stressful nature of their jobs and still be alarmed by these ongoing cases of police overreacting when dealing with black people. It’s nothing but racism if you are more scared of one person than another because of the color of their skin. The message here is that we have a problem. If it’s more training that’s needed than why are these events continuing to occur?

    So the message is legit enough.

    But then there’s the execution:
    I couldn’t get through that video. Hillary Clinton is not a person who seems comfortable in her own skin. She’s awkward. She’s hard to watch. That is most of what hurts her politically. We like politicians and celebrities to make us more comfortable not less comfortable. I think she is an incredibly guarded person. She probably has genuinely deep feelings about a myriad of things. But her political style is very impersonal. It makes it hard to watch a video that features her emotional relationship to the topic at hand. If it was supposed to make her seem more human and relatable, I think it achieves the opposite. The video simply reminds us how hard it is to watch her having a hard time showing emotion.

    October 2, 2016
  2. Richard Wanderman said:
    As John Oliver has said, this is the most awkward and weird video around. Ugh. About as awkward as the last Apple Music ad. Who’s writing this stuff? It’s terrible.

    October 3, 2016

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