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Meaning in Kimbra's "Settle Down" Music Video

Updated on July 24, 2017
Nalini Marquez profile image

Nalini combines her love of meaning, analysis, and critical thinking with movies, media, and discussion to bring a different perspective.

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Disclaimer

All analysis and interpretation is from Nalini Márquez.Views presented here about the meaning in Kimbra's "Settle Down" 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 here.

(This Song) + (This Video)

So let me start off by saying that (this song) + (this music video) = gold. It is so loaded with meaning and is also catchy, lyrical, visual, poetic, and symbolic. Yes. Nice job Kimbra and Guy Franklin (the video director).

Young Girls' Idealization of Marriage, Children, Adulthood, and Woman’s Role/The Idea of “Settling Down”

  • Shows plans for the future and what kinds of plans the little girl is making for the future.
  • Plans for a child that has elements/traits of his/her parents; “We’ll call her Nebraska, Nebraska Jones. She’ll have your nose. Just so you know.” This part in the lyrics reflects a simplified perspective of what “settling down” is and does not recognize the more complicated aspects. The addition of “just so you know” added after her statement of what the child is going to be named, reflects a disconnect with the idea of how someone else might find settling down to be, and in so reflects solely the little girl’s idea of what settling down is going to be and/or what it’s supposed to be.
  • The simplified perspective of "settling down" and the sole reflection of this being the girl's idea of what settling down is going to be is further supported in the video where the girl is opposite the mannequin at the dinner table, mouthing the lyrics "We can settle at a table. A table for two. Won't you wine and dine with me? Settle down." When she poses these lyrics to the mannequin, the mannequin is unresponsive and his face is angled away from hers showing a disconnect from the girl's request and an unspoken refusal or lack of interest.
  • The idea of “settling down” is engrained in young girls and women but is not emphasized for young boys and men. The mannequin is completely unaffected by the idea of settling down. Even once married and with a child (seen from when his wife is at a distance in the park with a stroller), he’s still out and about being anything but settled.

Author's Note:

The analysis presented in this article is based on the lyrics and on the music video, but a commenter mentioned that the movie "A Place in the Sun" provides background to better understand what this song is about.

I have not seen the movie and am not yet able to do so, but please be advised that the story of the film lends another meaning or layer of meaning to "Angela Vickers," the motives for "settling down," and the wrong reasons and lengths to go to in order to attain it.

"Run From Angela Vickers"

  • The threat of other partners and love interests.
  • Infidelity.
  • The idea that women are the ones to blame in extramarital relationships or in relationships outside of relationships. “Run from Angela Vickers” automatically makes Angela (the woman; the other woman) the villain, the one to run from, and the “bad guy.” The man is the one who needs warning from the bad, while the woman is the bad; reflects society’s view of who is to blame and who is free of blame. Can be related to ideas of home-wrecker, “the other woman,” who is stigmatized (the woman) and who is let off “Scot-free” (the man).

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"Angela Vickers"/The Other Woman

Angela Vickers/the other woman is as equally attractive as her counterpart in the video but is more relaxed and possibly less reserved or conservative than her married counterpart. The angled close up of her features emphasizes these qualities and suggests a sense of seduction. She is wearing pearls, has her hair down, is wearing a dress that shows more skin than her married counterpart, doesn't seem to have a care in the world or obligations, and has a suaveness and confidence in her demeanor. All this put together makes her an alternative to the woman the mannequin married, and reflect what he is looking for in a woman and also in his extramarital affair.

The Married Woman

The married woman completed what was expected of her (cooking, cleaning, having a baby, waiting on her partner, loving her partner, etc.), and in turn, this should have resulted in her getting what was expected in her partner and in her life circumstance, but this is not the case.

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“Stars so light, stars so bright. Keep him by my side.”

This chorus first goes over with the married woman cleaning vigorously while the lyrics say “Star so light, stars so bright. Keep him by my side.” This is a poignant part in the video which represents such a perfect combination of adulthood, childhood, and reality. As a woman/adult the wife is doing everything that she can to keep him, and as a child, she is doing everything that she can to keep him (wishing on a star). This part in the video also shows how the insecurities and fears of a child are not that different from one of an adult, and also how being an adult and being a child are not always mutually exclusive (as there is overlap).

The Pearls

This for me is one of the saddest and most poignant parts of the whole video. In the video we see the married woman looking at her reflection and putting on a pearl necklace (like the one worn by “Angela Vickers”) while mouthing the lyrics “keep him by my side.” The mirror, a point of self-reflection and self-evaluation, reveals a point in this woman’s identity, self-realization, and vulnerability. She is changing to be what he wants.

We later see her at the dinner table wearing the pearl necklace facing her husband’s dinner plate and an empty chair, but her change is only so complete.

Her hair is still pulled up, and she is still wearing relatively conservative clothing. So as much as she tries, she cannot be what he wants, partly because she is another person, and partly because changing to be what he wants still won’t keep him by her side. So she finds herself at the dinner table in multiple Limbos. She does not have the life she envisioned she’d have. She does not have her partner. And since she tried to change herself to be what he wanted, she does not have herself. Very sad.

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The Use of Two Attractive and Similar-in-Appearance Females

  • They are hard to tell apart; and in so, despite their different relationships to the mannequin, they are more similar than they are different.
  • They are both affected by the same ideals, society, consequences, and gender expectations and messages.
  • The fact that they are both attractive and similar in appearance makes for an “all else being equal” evaluation of the two of them which extends in several ways. All else being equal between the two women, their fates are relatively similar. The married woman did what was expected of her and what she understood to be her role to reach her the idea/ideal of “settling down” and found the reality to be quite different. So it is with the same understanding that the other woman (“Angela Vickers”) may do what is expected of her (be exciting, seductive, engaging, etc.) to reach the idea/ideal and may also find the reality to be quite different. The two different women represent two different messages given to women when it comes to the roles they must fulfill/the things they must do to attain the ideal, “settling down,” or a satisfactory ever after.

The first is represented by the married girl: she cooks, cleans, and keeps house. She is conservative and modest, faithful, stays in the house or within the confines of the sphere expected of her, and bears her husband’s child.

The second is represented by the other woman (“Angela Vickers”). She’s relaxed, seductive, wears and touches her jewelry, and glances with appealing eyes to the mannequin. She’s outside while doing this which contrasts with the wife who’s inside, suggesting that she is willing to explore, be exciting/engaging, and push some boundaries. This is further supported by the lyrics “she’s got a fancy car. She wants to take you far. From the city lights and sounds deep into the dark.”

These are two different messages given at an early age as to how women should behave to attain the idea/ideal of “settling down” and how to be “what he wants” and the reality is that neither of these has guaranteed results/are a recipe for happiness.

The Use of the Male Mannequin

  • He serves multiple purposes (while at the same time, literally serving none as a mannequin).
  • Represents the “placeholder” of a male companion who is supposed to be a marriage partner.
  • The man in that marriage and in his extramarital relationship is pretty much as good as a mannequin and mannequins are not really good for anything except display, maintaining an illusion, convincing you to buy something or buy into something, and/or being pleasing on the surface but devoid of real/true quality below. With this lens, the mannequin can be seen as a man who is only good for display and for maintaining an illusion, as the illusion itself (the idea of “settling down”), and/or as representative of the societal messages that are engrained in girls to convince them to buy into the ideas, but are only good for display and deception as they do not come to fruition in reality.

The Burning of the Dolls and the Dancing Girls (the Wife and “Angela Vickers”)

Towards the end of the video, we see the burning of the dolls as the two girls who played the wife and “Angela Vickers” dance behind Kimbra. The dancing of the little girls is free, childlike, unreserved, and unburdened. The girls are dressed in white, and they have returned to being little girls. The fact that the girls are wearing white are dancing in this way, and are dancing together, represents a return to innocence. The dolls can be said to represent the messages that we give too little girls regarding their roles, life expectations and ideals, and how to attain these (as dolls are given to girls early in life in the same way these messages are). And as such, the burning of the dolls behind them while they dance suggests that in order to return to innocence and allow girls to be little girls, and in order to change the messages that girls internalize and live, we have to change the messages and values we give to them early in life (shown by burning the dolls/messages). The girls are dancing together, and in so they are no longer rivals or threats to each other vying for the same man’s affections and are simply little girls.

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The Burning of the Dolls and Kimbra Dancing in Black

Kimbra is dancing in front of the dancing girls who are no longer rivals or threats to each other vying for the same man’s affections but have returned to the innocence of being little girls (demonstrated by their dancing together and wearing white dresses). Kimbra, however, is not a little girl, and she is not wearing white; she is a grown woman and cannot return to the innocence of being a little girl and of growing up without the ideals and values that have been imposed on her by society. In contrast to the little girls in white, she is wearing black, but she is also dancing; suggesting that she although she is no longer a little girl and although she has been influenced by and has grown up with the ideals and messages of society, she is still able to cast off and release some of the strings involved with some of these messages (indicated by her dance movements and her looking up while the dolls burn behind her in the background). The burning of the dolls is behind both Kimbra and the little girls. The dolls burn behind the little girls and the way the little girls dance in white shows a return to innocence and a “clean slate” of sorts that the girls can grow up in; the dolls burn behind Kimbra and the way Kimbra dances in black shows a grown woman who has been marked and molded by these ideals and messages releasing what she can and finding some liberation from them; showing in some ways a bit of catharsis in the process.

The Use of Little Girls as Women

  • The sexualization of little girls.
  • How girls are given adult messages (about what their roles are, how to attain these goals, and what their ideals/expectations should be—i.e. “settling down”).
  • Children/little girls wanting to grow up too fast.

Other Themes/Ideas

  • The idea that a woman should make herself to be what a man wants (seen by both the wife and “Angela Vickers”).
  • The idea that a woman has to fend for her romantic/relational interests (seen by both the wife and “Angela Vickers,” as well as by the mannequin’s lack of true involvement with both his wife and “Angela Vickers.” His lack of true involvement is of course, partly due to the fact that he is literally a mannequin. It is also due to the fact that the mannequin is representative of the "placeholder" of the man as a marriage partner, and as a partner he is not actively involved in protecting either of these relationships.)
  • The idea of using colors to represent possible links. The wife is primarily in blues and "Angela Vickers" is in white. "Angela Vickers" is wearing white representative of her appeal, allure, innocence, and novelty. While the blue that the wife wears is a more subdued and less contrasting color, representative of the fact that she has lost her appeal, innocence, and novelty. Blue is more of a "fade into the background" color, which would also relate to how the wife may have been viewed as her husband (the mannequin) set his sights elsewhere. When in the park, the mannequin is wearing both white and blue representing his connection to both women.

Food for Thought

  • How does this make you view/think about the messages we give to little girls?
  • The messages regarding the “type of woman” that a woman has to be to get a man (represented by “Angela Vickers”) are far more subtle than the messages of being a wife, and can easily be overlooked in this video. Why?

Food for Thought--Your Thoughts!

How does this make you view/think about the messages we give to little girls?

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Comments

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  • Nalini Marquez profile image
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    Nalini Marquez 3 weeks ago

    Hi P I Staker,

    The analysis as written is supported by the song lyrics and visual media from the music video but I understand that additional information can influence or add to the understanding of or interpreting of material. I did a quick search on the movie and the song and it appears to show a tie to the character of "Angela Vickers" and a darker context for the song. I put a note in the article regarding this and I will keep your suggestion in mind for when I am able to watch it. Thank you for your comment and for dropping by.

    Have a great day,

    Nalini

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    P I Staker 4 weeks ago

    Watch the 1951 movie "A place in the sun" and you will understand this song and video better as it is what the song is about.

  • Nalini Marquez profile image
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    Nalini Marquez 16 months ago

    Kimbra's songs are catchy and there is a certain lyricism, poeticism, and meaningfulness to her music. Her style in both music and videos is unique and I think that's one of the things that drew me to her and to analyzing her music and music videos. I will check out the song and music video for "Come Into My Head" and will try to do a hub if I can. I presently am not on HubPages as much and have not been able to write anything recently but I try to stay on top of responding to comments. I don't know if you've already checked it out but I wrote another Kimbra music video hub called "Meaning in Kimbra's 'Good Intent' Music Video" (http://hubpages.com/entertainment/Meaning-in-Kimbr... that you might be interested in.

    It's interesting what you present on the books you've read of "I love you well my lord" and its potential parallels to Kimbra's song/lyrics. What you shared about it sounds horrifying, especially what the female narrator says along the lines of it being his right to use her as he would. Even if it's not the worst of his behavior, her saying it and acceptance of it is her believing that message and reflects her dehumanizaton in relation to her fiance; it is wrong on several levels, including whatever the worst of his behavior is.

    Thank you for your comment and hub suggestion! I appreciate your thoughts and enjoyed discussing this. When I am able to devote more time to HubPages again I will try to make a hub for "Come Into My Head" if I can. I wish you a wonderful day!

  • Claire Muncaster profile image

    Claire Muncaster 16 months ago

    kimbra's songs keep going through your head, you end up liking them (whether you admit it is another matter) & all you can think of is the video to accompany it

    others in the videos look similar;

    in pale colours

    nxt to pale background,

    little/no make-up,

    little/no movement

    nothing to distinguish one from another

    :. kimbra stands out.

    “i love you well”. sounds quite old-fashioned, as in

    “i do love you well, my lord”.

    it could be “i love you...well...”.as in hmm. i'm not sure i do actually”

    i read a ton of books full of “i love you well my lord”, the female narrator turns a blind eye to all sorts of behaviour from her fiance, he even shuts her finger in a door, & she says something along the lines of it being his right to use her as he would. that horrified me, i've no idea why, it's not even the worst of his behaviour

    but

    i've always been drawn to the sort of man that would expect me to keep house (though i couldn't)

    i'd love a hub on 'come into my head', here's said song

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5edqdyiqhbev

  • Nalini Marquez profile image
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    Nalini Marquez 16 months ago

    Hi Claire Muncaster,

    Thank you for your comment and for sharing your perspective and insights! Your analysis and connections are great and I liked your take on the song and video. I like that you pointed out the star song being chant-like and almost like a spell. I think it does have that kind of quality in the way it's sung and the role it plays in the song/video. The arguments you make regarding the repeating of lines, her trying to convince herself that it's what she wants, the man made to look like a plastic shop dummy and what he would do were he real, and the doll-burning in connection to the opening phrase are interesting and I think that these perspectives are supported by the song/video.

    I've never seen 'Stepford Wives' or 'Mad Men' either but I'm interested in checking them out too! And I will look into Kimbra's 'Come Into My Head.' Thank you for taking the time to read the hub and to share your insights! I enjoyed reading them :-). Have a wonderful day! Nalini

  • Claire Muncaster profile image

    Claire Muncaster 16 months ago

    I love this song but my god the video is terrifying. All those dolls!! Her best song is definitely 'Come Into My Head'

    Repeating lines is interesting, you repeat things you want/need to remember. It's as if she's trying to convince herself settling down is what she wants, as all girls/women want that, don't they?? She looks like a porcelain doll/robot herself. (my disability means I look like this every time I move)

    The man made up to look like a plastic shop dummy looks bland, boring; he never contributes anything, helps, eats his wife's cooking, talks to her re how her day was etc. He's a shop dummy, he can't do any of this anyway, but it suggests that – were he real – he wouldn't bother.

    Star song: chant, almost spell. She's that unhappy, bored, desperate, she's doing & trying everything she can to keep him by her side, but she still can't.

    “is the sweet♥ you married the husband you expected him to be??” Clearly not. The doll-burning says girls don't have to live like that anymore.

    I've never seen 'Stepford Wives' or 'Mad Men' but I now want to see both.

  • Nalini Marquez profile image
    Author

    Nalini Marquez 18 months ago

    Hi kenming,

    You present an interesting question regarding the ending and Kimbra’s perspective/emotional state at the end of the video. I touched base a little bit on it when I wrote about “The Burning of the Dolls and the Dancing Girls (the wife and 'Angela Vickers')” but there is more that can be elaborated on further in relation to your question. I thought your question inspired some more analysis so I added the longer version of the analysis to the hub under the title “The Burning of the Dolls and Kimbra Dancing in Black” located after “The Burning of the Dolls and the Dancing Girls” section so please refer there for what I didn’t include here in the comment/response. As I started making the analysis of the question you presented, I realized that I had not really looked at that part so much, and the more I looked at it, the more I realized that it could have potentially been either interpretation; with one interpretation being slightly more feasible. I lean more towards the first interpretation (being happy or having some catharsis of being free of the illusion of the ideal life) but can see why the second (being sad at being trapped in a doll-life prison and still trying to maintain he illusion) could be argued or perceived.

    I also thought it interesting that you perceived her dress to have been burnt [to become] black as opposed to just having been black. I wonder if that’s one of the effects or interpretations that they wanted for the dress. Thanks for the great and thought-provoking question!

    Nalini

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    kenming 18 months ago

    I'm confused at the end. With Kimbra smiling in her black burnt dress, is she happy that she's free of the illusion of the ideal life, or is she sad at being trapped in a doll-life prison and still trying to maintain the illusion?

  • Nalini Marquez profile image
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    Nalini Marquez 2 years ago

    Hi Cardia,

    Thank you for your comment and feedback. I am glad that you enjoyed the analysis! I agree with you that Kimbra's look and style are neat and different, which is one of the things I like about her. Many of her songs give something to think about which is also a definite plus. The part with the pearls in the video is really subtle which makes it easy to overlook and I watched the video several times before taking note of the pearls--but the timing, ties, and symbolism were perfect.

    Thanks again and have a wonderful day,

    Nalini

  • Cardia profile image

    Cardia 2 years ago from Barbados.

    Really enjoyed reading your analysis! I loved this song when it first came out, and I found Kimbra's look and style was so neat and different. Reading this made me think back on some of the parts in the music video (I didn't realize the part with the pearl necklace and 'Keep him by my side'!)

    Voted up and interesting :)

  • Nalini Marquez profile image
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    Nalini Marquez 3 years ago

    Hi yenee kim, thank you for your comment and for reading my hub! I am glad you found the analysis interesting and you pointed out something that I had not noticed. It IS a real man made to look like a mannequin! I agree with you that having a real man made to look like a mannequin adds more layers to the video. Taking this new piece of information into account I would argue that the man/husband portrayed in this video can and should be more active and involved in his two relationships and in deciding what he is going to do with respect to his relationships with his wife and/or with "Angela Vickers" but instead he takes the road that requires no responsibility, accountability, or action on his part (he becomes a mannequin in this regard) and leaves the decision of what will happen in these relationships to the women in his life and/or who will fight for him. In some ways it leaves it as an open argument since the lyrics repeat "keep him by my side" and the end of the video returns the "wife" and "Angela Vickers" to two little girls who are no longer fighting for the same man's affections. Nice catch! If you come back to this page, what did you think the use of a real man made to look like mannequin adds to the video?

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    yenee kim 3 years ago

    that was interesting! I love kimbra and her mvs, also the meanings in them. what's even more interesting is that the mannequin isn't a real mannequin,when you watch him closely. it's a real man made to look like a mannequin! I think this adds even more layers to the video. what do you think?

  • Nalini Marquez profile image
    Author

    Nalini Marquez 3 years ago

    Hi Mike, thanks for the clue! Haha.

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    Mike Vize 3 years ago

    The clue is triangular.

  • Nalini Marquez profile image
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    Nalini Marquez 4 years ago

    Hi Swinter12,

    Thank you for taking the time to read the hub and comment! When I came across "Settle Down" and "Good Intent" I really liked what her music (and music videos) brought to the table. I agree that her style is fresh. I haven't been able to see her live but I've seen clips on YouTube and agree that she is unique in her manner and expression.

    When I first saw her video and lyrics for "Settle Down" I was hooked and watched it several times. It was so rich in meaning and musical quality that I had to replay.

    As much as things have changed, many things have not. And the closer we look, the more we can see that some things have just taken a different form. Men are definitely not as prone to the hot seat as women when it comes to extramarital affairs or to matters in general, and it is maddening. I don’t know how there can still be such a double standard, with women getting the sharp edge of the sword.

    I hope Kimbra goes far too. I really like how she brings together substance and musical quality which is why I was so impressed with this video and song.

    Thank you for the vote up and interesting, as well as for taking the time to reflect on what I wrote and to give your input. I appreciate being able to discuss with other people and it’s nice to see that someone else thought it was worth reading and thinking about. Thank you for allowing me to hear your perspective and thoughts.

    Nalini

  • Swinter12 profile image

    Swinter12 4 years ago from Earth

    I stumbled upon her music video "Settle Down" a couple of weeks ago and from the moment I clicked on it I've been hooked.

    Her style is so fresh.

    Her live performances are amazing; she is truly unique in the manner in which she sings and expresses herself.

    I never took the time to decipher the whole music video and lyrics. Your analysis is right on and it's revolting to what extent society pressures young girls to fit into certain molds. The situation has improved when we compare this to previous generations, but we're nowhere near where we should be.

    It also maddens me how men are not as prone to the hot seat as women when it comes to extramarital affairs.

    "It takes two for crying out loud."

    I hope Kimbra goes far; her musical style is not only refreshing but the substance in each and every verse of her new album mirrors diverse human realities.

    Voted Up and Interesting!