Cierra Ramirez and Trevor Jackson display the raw honesty and pain of heartbreak in their music video for “Broke Us.” 

Scattered playing cards, records splayed across the floor, tape from cassettes strewn about haphazardly: the explosion that follows an expected break up. “Broke Us” tells the story of a pair’s poor decisions that ultimately lead to their demise. Actress and singer Cierra Ramirez appears on the screen, playing with perspective and orientation as she ‘sits’ in a chair that is actually laying on the floor in a room where the floor and its walls blend together through a single color palette and picture frames hang on both. Ramirez alters her position in the chair without moving the scene around her, further skewing our understanding of space. The intentions behind these plays on perspective are clear. The video, with its constant camera rotations and scene changes, encapsulates the feeling of being mentally disoriented as one tries to rework their life sans their ex.

While the song itself is instrumentally and lyrically, catchy, exciting, emotionally provocative, the video does too much for what the song requires. The video is heavily front-loaded with multiple set changes seemingly without any connection. Jumping between close-ups of Ramirez and Jackson in a cooly lit cement room as they alternate between singing directly to each other and to the camera that revolves around them. Accompanying these frequent set changes are just as many outfit changes for Ramirez, despite Jackson’s singular ‘fit composed of a white tank top and black jeans. The styling options create an imbalance between the two that, even though Jackson is just a feature on the song, diminishes his role so much in the duo that it suggests breakups are one-sided.

The video, though, has its moments. The two stars each have musical experience prior to this release but have spent the majority of their time acting on their respective TV shows, Good Trouble and Grown-ish. Their multiple talents are apparent throughout the video, using body language to portray the undercurrents that run deep in the lyrics. “I think I broke us,” Ramirez sings as she pleads to the camera, generating a moment of intense intimacy and familiarity with the audience beyond the lens.  Combining visual and audible storytelling, the pair crafts the heart-wrenching story of two people who made one too many mistakes in what could have been a full and loving relationship. “Are you over me/over it/over us,” Ramirez asks into the void as she waits for Jackson to respond to her call. He does, as the camera cuts back to Jackson surrounded by cement walls, “Girl, I’m not over you, over me, over us.” The song is intentionally structured as a duet, a dance between lovers, and the video gracefully mimics this quality including ample shots of the pair together while also giving each their individualized spotlight.

The most captivating image in the two minutes, forty-second film is a vertical pan of Ramirez’s face with a hazy pink and cotton candy blue background. Her face is streaked with tears made from white glitter as she begs to the camera, “Tell me, did I make you wait too long?” The shot is breathtaking and captivating without being overwhelming. As the video closes, this shot is expanded and Ramirez stands in the dismantled kitchen from the opening scene. This expansive view is well-timed. The directorial move concludes the scene with a reflection on the broadened perspective that comes to an individual as space and time after a break-up increases.

So much of the video is segmented, rarely showing an entire camera’s width of imagery, disconnecting body parts from the rest of the body, separating the two artists as they sing to each other. The focus on minuscule aspects of the individual, and by extension the hyper-focus on only snippets of a relationship, prevent one’s ability to be fully aware of themselves and their partnership. The partial views and small glimpses create much of the confusing nature of the video just as, in a relationship, these same tendencies would create a narrow focus on small problems and not larger trends, preventing clarity and mutual understanding.

“Broke Us” is relatable, raw, and an excellent summer jam; it breaks the redundancy that often plagues the kind of pop music that rides on the edge of R&B. The video, with its highs and lows, cannot be discredited for its extensive intentionality. Watch it below and find yourself lost in the inevitable twists and turns as you follow this tumultuous relationship.

Photo Courtesy of Freeform.

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