Nalini combines her love of meaning, analysis, and critical thinking with movies, media, and discussion to bring a different perspective.
(This Song) + (This Video)
I previously wrote an article about the meaning in Kimbra's "Settle Down" music video, where I indicated that I thought that the song + the music video = gold. This song + this music video also equal gold but for different reasons.
Where Kimbra's "Settle Down" music video excelled in the number of messages and the critical messages that it sent out through the medium and in the way that it did this, this song and video excel in the way it portrays and conveys a relationship nuance artistically and through symbolism.
Lyric Analysis: "Good Intent"
Throughout the song, we hear the importance of "good intent." The way these words are sung and repeated serves various purposes throughout the song.
"I know you didn't mean it, boy you meant so well."
This part sung in the song echo the words the husband has told the wife, and the way these words are sung reflects how she feels about it.
"You know you shouldn't be there but it's way past bed" and "The pennies are cascading down your wishing well, I know you didn't mean it when you counted to ten"
These parts in the song reflect a childlike accountability. The husband has done wrong and is making explanations and excuses for it, which reflects a lack of follow-through, a lack of thinking of the consequences of his actions, and ultimately a lack of accountability.
"It's not enough to say it's not what's in your heart, You've tainted every moment 'till death do us part"
These lyrics further emphasize what the husband said and did and the wife's perspective regarding this.
"You've got your reputation and your good intent. Such a good intent."
This once again relates to words the husband has told the wife, but also the parts that she is contemplating the most. The husband (presumably) has a good reputation and a good intent, but these are worthless, seeing as he still went and did what he knew was wrong anyway.
These parts in the lyrics and song are the most poignant because they simultaneously convey the husband's words and argument, the wife's inner conflict and thoughts, the wife's ambiguous and shifting feelings regarding what the husband has presented, and an abstract idea (do we deserve another chance if we did wrong but didn't mean it and had good intentions?). Extended further, this relates to the idea of "the road to hell being paved with good intentions."
"The red light in the doorway says she's armed...step into the dwelling of the liger's mouth" and "Out to feed that habit when you've sowed that seed"
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These lines reflect the husband's tendency towards temptation and address what that temptation is and also the riskiness and danger involved in that temptation.
"The liger's on the prowl now you've pulled at its strings, one false move and soon your playing dice for a--"
Here the imagery indicates that his temptation has been set loose on him now that he has given into it once (related ideas: tasted the forbidden fruit, opening a can of worms), and if he makes a false move, he is (further) jeopardizing and gambling with his marriage (given the context of the song and music video, the beginning of the music video where the penny turns into a ring, combined with the fact that this song is followed by another one called "Plain Gold Ring" on Kimbra's album it is safe to say that the husband is jeopardizing and gambling his marriage with his actions).
The video opens with a penny spinning and then turning into a ring.
This does two things:
- It establishes the relationship portrayed in the video and song. The relationship being sung/portrayed is one of a marriage.
- It equates the marriage with the penny, which means that the relationship is worthless or that it has become so.
Symbolism: The Mirror and the Necklace
Kimbra's character, who from here on I shall call "the wife," spends a lot of time looking at two things in the video at the beginning: the mirror and the necklace.
This is important because it sets up the premise for the rest of the video.
The necklace is important because it signifies a statement and a question. The necklace states: "I'm sorry." The necklace asks: "Do you forgive me?" As such, the necklace has been given to her by her husband (who we see later in the video) who has given the necklace to his wife, non-verbally stating and asking the above through a gesture.
The wife is looking at her reflection because in the mirror she sees three parts of herself.
Next up, we see a man walking down a dark alleyway. Innocently enough, he walks along minding his own business, but he too has three parts of himself represented in the video.
He quite literally has two paths that he can take, paralleled by the two parts of himself that are pulling at him.
The version of the husband dressed in black and in the red alleyway represents the part of the husband that has committed wrong and has a tendency towards temptation. The red in the alley and the fact that there are women hanging on the red version of the husband further clarify and emphasize what the temptation is (other women, women in a brothel, prostitutes, etc.).
At various points in the video, we see the husband leaning towards this part of himself and having to actively fight against this part of himself and this part of himself has to be repeatedly reminded of the right thing to do, of where he is supposed to be, and against his tendencies by the other part of himself (the part of himself dressed in white).
The version of the husband dressed in white and in the alleyway with the white light is the part of the husband that does not want to cheat on his wife and that wants to do the right thing. This part of himself has to repeatedly put up a fight against the other part that is pulling at the husband (the one dressed in black). This is shown through the dancing, the facial expressions, and the reminders of the time (where he is supposed to be/who he is supposed to be with).
The version of the husband in grey reflects the "real" version of the husband. Through his facial expressions, body language, and draw to both the white and black versions of himself, the husband's struggle between fidelity and temptation is actively conveyed throughout the video.
The wife in this video, as I previously stated, is portrayed by Kimbra. She has three versions of herself presented in this video, only one of which is the "real" her.
The version of the wife in the white dress is a reflection in the mirror. She is wearing white and lighter makeup reflecting innocence, purity, a weaker part of herself, a wanting to believe in the husband's "good intent."
Her makeup is lighter, her movements throughout the video are softer, more vulnerable, and depict "a giving in." Her expressions parallel her movements to reflect that she is hurt, and she is wearing the necklace, indicating that this is the part of herself that wants to forgive her husband for what he did.
The version of the wife in the red dress is also a reflection in the mirror. She is wearing red, reflecting anger, assertiveness, a stronger, bolder part of herself. Her body language reflects distance and defensiveness and conveys that she is closed off and unreceptive.
Her makeup is darker and bolder, reflecting this, and her body movements throughout the video are stronger, assertive, sassier, and forceful. This version of herself is not wearing the necklace and indicates that this is the part of herself that does not want to forgive her husband for what he did.
The version of the wife in black is the "real" version of her and is the one who is debating whether or not to accept the necklace. She is not wearing the necklace but is holding the necklace in her hand, as she looks from the necklace to her reflection. This version of the wife is the hardest to recognize because she doesn't stand out as much as the other two versions of herself.
Her makeup is dark but not stand-out dark like the red version of herself which suggests a subdued darkness. The real version of the wife is ambiguous in both her dress and movements because her decision is surrounded in ambiguity.
Symbolism: The Pull
To further support the idea of the overall ambiguity of the decision the wife has to make regarding her husband's infidelity and question, we see the white and red reflections of the wife literally pulling (making a pulling gesture) towards the real-life wife. This further iterates that the wife has two parts of herself pulling at her (the part that wants to forgive her husband and the part that does not want to forgive him).
She turns away from the mirror and pauses, reflecting her inability to decide, and further highlights her conflict regarding her husband's actions and "good intent."
Symbolism: The Pocket Watch
The pocket watch represents several things. It is first seen from the "real" version of the husband. He is reminding himself of the time, how much time he has to get where he needs to be, and also reminds himself of where he is supposed to be.
This is a tool later used in the video to show the struggle of the husband. The version of himself in white concernedly and forcibly gestures the watch to the husband when he is going to give in to temptation in order to remind himself of where he is supposed to be/who he is supposed to be with and what time it is, while the version of the husband dressed in black defiantly and shamelessly puts up his wrist that lacks a watch showing his open disregard for where he is supposed to be and conveys that he has nowhere to be, no one he is obligated to, etc.
Symbolism: The Gloves
The white and red versions of the wife have no gloves showing that they literally are "showing their hands." To show one's hands in a game of cards is to show everything that the person has to play. The "real" wife dressed in black has gloves on, indicating that she is not showing her hands (not showing her decision or the cards she has to play).
The Husband's Walk Toward His Wife
When the husband is walking toward his wife, we see him nervously holding his hat after taking it off, his facial expressions showing both his lust for his wife and the fact that he is unsure about how he will be received by her or what answer she will give him.
In the dance sequence at the end of the video, we see the wife dancing with her husband, alternating between the three versions of herself, reflecting the push and pull of her conflict as she is dancing with him. The video ends where the wife ends, which is in ambiguity and indecision. The dance is over, but she has not decided whether or not she will forgive him for what he did.
This could be further interpreted as that the time for her to make her decision is over, but she still has not come to a decision.
Overall, through the video, we see the story of a wife torn between whether or not to forgive her husband's infidelity and a husband torn between his desire to redeem himself and remain faithful to his wife and his desire to give in to temptation and lust outside of his marriage.
Views presented here about the meaning in Kimbra's "Good Intent" music video are not reflective of or affiliated with Kimbra or Kimbra's music team.
If you haven't yet seen the video or heard the song, watch and hear it above.
© 2013 Nalini Marquez