Red Hot Chili Peppers – ‘Brendan’s Death Song’ – Analysis

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Red Hot Chili Peppers are an alternative rock band possibly most notable for their song ‘Californication’. The band consists of: Anthony Kiedis (Vocals), Chad Smith (Drums), Josh Klinghoffer (Guitar) and Flea (Bass). In an interview with FM, Anthony said that this song originates from a friend of the band’s who passed away, named Brendan (who’s surprised?) when they started with their new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer.

The video itself, directed by Marc Clasfeld, is filmed in a Jazz Funeral style with an old camera style edit, making the video look as though it’s older than it is (being filmed in 2012) In the video there appears to be an entire village (shot in New Orleans) ravished with culture at the funeral, with the band leading the crowd, with some village members (all of which were played by fans)playing instruments (not heard).

Throughout the majority of the video, there is reference to symbolism. For example up until 2:27 Anthony is holding a can with a crow on it, a bird that has throughout time been linked to death. The flaming ‘Death Song’ could be linked to a cremation, and at 0:42 there is a mid shot of a child wearing clown makeup, in which the clown appears to be crying, representing the sadness of the village through the narrative and in actuality the sadness of the band.

At 1:58, the video breaks from its traditional funeral style and goes into the alt rock RHCP we love, in which the band members become manic in their movements (along with some of the ‘village members’).

1 At 2:27 the viewer can clearly see a burning ‘Death Song’ which portrays even greater that this song is in fact an homage to their friend.2.pngAnd then at 2:29 Anthony and Flea go shirtless, a common convention of their videos and style. 3The video then ends with a shot of the ‘village members’ sat with the band, suggesting a community strive with celebration of a friend. 

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The camera work in this video uses a large amount of close ups of either sad or emotionless ‘villagers’ ranging from the clown girl to an old man etc. At 0:50 the viewer sees a low angle shot of an old drummer along with a masked woman with a fan, which would have been common in the time it’s set. The low angle shot itself shows the contrast of the black of the funeral to the brightness of the sun, sad versus happy. At 1:05 there is a high angle shot of the coffin with graffiti on it, along with some villagers, this high angle shot can show that despite the graffiti Brendan was held highly in the community, this is suggested through the entire community walking next to/with the coffin.

In terms of editing, the video is rather plain, just regular cuts whenever they need to. However, at 1:08 there is a fade in to a close up of a woman with an umbrella which is a variation of most of the other cuts. This fade in could be seen as a sense of clarity, how mourning Brendan’s death won’t solve anything, leading to the manic session later in the video. However, at 2:29, the editing becomes quicker cutting between zooms of the members of the band being their ‘manic’ selves.

In terms of correlation between the music and the video, it’s about death and they’re at a funeral. So there’s that. When Anthony sings; ‘When the drummer drums he’s gonna play my song to carry me along’, when he sings ‘carry’ he says it cuts to a shot of the band riding a truck, presumably the one with the coffin on. Also when the lyrics say ‘Let me live, so when it’s time to die even the reaper cries’ there is an old man dancing, living life to the fullest.

The video for this song is primarily performance based, the members playing throughout, following a narrative. The narrative being someone in a community died and their funeral is taking place.

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