Is there any hope for this video?
We were not able to watch Conrad Dean’s performance for more than ten seconds when we first tried to. Is this a stand-up comedian in a basement in Peterborough? Or maybe a student trying to impress a girl?
Taking a second look, he reminds us of Wolf Bierman performing a protest song in the German Democratic Republic, Bob Dylan playing at the Newport Folk Festival, and Neil Young being Neil Young at the BBC. Is this a poet and chords?
No, at minute 2:15 he suddenly turns into a Spanish guitarist playing a level 100 boss flamenco. We are baffled.
Let us analyse what is really happening here. At the beginning the audience watches and listens in eager anticipation. Then it becomes clear that there is no hope at all for this performance. But the musician does not give up and intensifies his efforts, until – against all odds – he does win over the audience.
The song itself is about the devil taking the poor soul of Conrad Dean. It refers to the medieval concept of the “devil”. If you live a godly life, you will go to heaven, if you don’t, you will go to hell. The devil’s basic approach is temptation. As “Faust” tragically shows, you can make a deal with the devil, and eventually the devil will get your soul.
The topic has been continuously tempting for artists. Works like Dante’s “Inferno”, The Beatles’ “Devil In Her Heart”, the novel and the film ”The Last Temptation of Christ”, and AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell” come to mind.
Conrad Dean takes the topic a radical step further. The Christian idea portrays the devil as the ultimate evil which never sleeps but can be defeated by everybody who does not commit mortal sins. But Conrad meets the devil, and the devil instantly pronounces Conrad damned. No escape, no chance, no choice. No hope.
This is the ultimate opposite of all Good News (the Gospel). We have never seen a more devastating description of hopelessness in lyrics.
Now, what does the music video do with this challenging material?
We are underground. It is dark and red. The audience are a bunch of sinners damned to listen to this. Conrad Dean is damned to perform the song and to impress the audience. There is a cable for electric shocks. After a while we understand, that the video shows just a single performance of the song, while in reality, Conrad must play the song again and again. The devil is recording everything and whenever Conrad is not forced to perform his song, he is forced to watch the video of his own performance. The small LED candle on the table represents the soul of Conrad Dean, forever lost.
While the lyrics tell the story of how this all started, the video compresses the plot into 3:39 minutes, sticking to unity of time, location and action, presenting the final equilibrium.
In the video we can see a stage, an audience, speakers, amplifiers, a round table in the foreground, the mentioned candle, a singer with a guitar who has his foot on a stool, microphones, a guitar case, and graffiti, all bathed in red, green and blue lights. The singer is wearing brown trousers and a shirt, two buttons unbuttoned, sleeves rolled up.
The camera moves slightly closer over the course of the video. There are no cuts. The sound was captured by the camera. The entire video gives us the individual experience of a specific member of the audience at a specific table.
How did Conrad Dean end up here? He started with “Blonde Lady” three months earlier in a tiny, bright room with a little bit of wallpaper, a white door and a piano for no reason. After this, “I’m In Love With A Stripper” added a mirror to the same scenery and used an odder, low-angle perspective. The video after that showed Conrad Dean in the same pub with the same candle and the same table but shot vertically.
Now, this latest video “Hope Is Gone” is not only shot horizontally, but it also introduces a correlation between the topic of the song and the video. Conrad Dean’s videos have made the journey out of a room onto a stage into a story.
For Conrad Dean the artist as well as Conrad Dean the director this is his most evolved video so far.
Looking at 1964 TOTP we see that musical performances where filmed by professionals from the early times on, the reason being high cost of equipment at the time.
In the 1970s people began using instant cameras and taking selfies. Later, with the introduction of VHS in 1976, making home movies became popular. The first Vlogs gained traction in the 1980s, and in 2005, with the rise of YouTube, self-portrayal by video became increasingly popular.
Conrad Dean’s project started as a contemporary example in this tradition: a man at home with a guitar and a smartphone.
“Hope Is Gone” is a typical example of the next step in a musician’s development, a succeeding level, a challenge for every newcomer, i.e. more equipment, a bigger crew, a wider screen and a first glimpse of a visualization of the lyrics (even if by accident).
How can we interpret this video?
Conrad is tortured. The live audience is tortured. The YouTube audience is tortured. Conrad tortures his guitar and his voice. The only shimmer of light is the LED candle which will never go out. This is hell.
The song and the video refer to the long tradition of music being associated with evil. Jazz was considered the devil’s music, John Lennon sold his soul, and the Rolling Stones had “Sympathy For The Devil” while Jimi Hendrix tortured the USA’s national anthem.
Our verdict: The music video adds something to the lyrics. It is an interesting example of a modern musician developing into first success. He started alone in his room as one man against no audience. Now he is being filmed performing live in front of some fans. The possible hell of being a musician, the sadness, the hopelessness and the torture cannot be presented more accurately. This music video is a masterpiece.
Do you live in hell? Send us your soul.