“Are you lonely too?” asks Missouri-born songwriter Angel Olsen, “High five! So am I!” The first single from her wonderful second album Burn Your Fire For No Witness, Hi-Five plays out in a new video that bristles with sardonic wit and songwriting guile.
The album’s cryptic moods are thrown into light relief here as Olsen and director Zia Anger play up to the often-ridiculous versions of femininity depicted by singers on television in the 1960s and ’70s (not like now, obviously). In which female performers act out some TV director’s idea of “serious artist” with such doe-eyed intensity that what aims for “poise” or “allure” comes off looking either faintly ridiculous or else just a bit tragic. Witness Gale Garnett looking demurely awkward singing We’ll Sing In The Sunshine on US TV in 1964, or Jackie DeShannon emoting amongst the flowers in 1969.
Olsen, looking like a cross between Ann Margret and Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra, smoulders magnificently as the song's sense of loneliness is transposed to an empty studio set. Beginning with a chaste, seated interpretive dance, her fingers flick towards a symbolically empty chair, before gliding into the excellent, cheek-sucking, toe-tapping finale.
In ’60s style, it’s a brilliantly literal interpretation of the song, which could just as easily be about feeling isolated within a relationship – not necessarily eyeing an empty space on the sofa every night. For more overly-literal pop thrills, see Nancy Sinatra surrounded by boots on Hullabaloo in 1966.
But first, watch Angel Olsen in smoking form here: