Music Video Relapse: "All The Things She Said" by t.A.T.u. (2003)

Posted by Adam Fairholm on February 7, 2014 in Music Video Relapse

Staff Post


Yesterday word got out that one of the performers who would be appearing at the Sochi Olympics opening ceremony pre show is t.A.T.u. In fact, the Russian athletes just walked into the opening ceremony to the music of the Russian duo. When you think about it, the choice makes sense - Russia is not exactly known as an exporter of pop music, and I think many around the world would be hard pressed to come up with a worldwide household Russian performer's name.

t.A.T.u. are a recognizable name for many here in the US, but it's the reason they are recognizable that raised eyebrows - their 2003 music video for "All The Things She Said", in which the two members of t.A.T.u. straight up make out with each other in school girl uniforms. Not really the type of thing that Russia is known for promoting.

So today on Music Video Relapse, we're taking a look at the video that put t.A.T.u. on the world map - "All The Things She Said" (2003), directed by Ivan Shapovalov.

The first thing to note about this video is that its director, Ivan Shapovalov, wasn't just a dude hired to direct this video. He's a Russian producer who basically created and managed t.A.T.u. from their formation until they split with him in 2004. He basically had a hand in everything to do with t.A.T.u., including, of course, this video.

This explain a lot, especially why this video seems so cynically calculated to produce a reaction. It has a ridiculously simple premise - the two members of t.A.T.u. (Lena Katina and Yulia Volkova) are dressed in school girl uniforms and are on the other side of a fence where a crowd of people are watching them. They seem to have no where to go and its raining on them, and then they start making out. That's pretty much it.

Where did the premise for this video (and t.A.T.u. itself) come from? Are you ready to hear by far the creepiest quote from a director about where their ideas come from? Okay, here's Ivan Shapovalov talking about why he created t.A.T.u.:

I saw that most people look up pornography on the Internet and of those, most are looking for underage sex. I saw their needs weren’t fulfilled. Later, it turned out, I was right. This is the same as my own desires. I prefer underage girls.

So, there's that. Dig a little deeper and there are all sorts of weird things going on with this group - far too many to list here. Whatever ideas Shapovalov wanted to export around the world, the way he did that was through a music video.

One thing that struck me about this video is how dated it looks even though it was only released 11 years ago. It sports the "tint everything green" look that makes it look more like late 1990s than early 2000s, and it is littered with zooms and different little tricks to stretch a pretty thin premise over three minutes and forty eight seconds. It's a video that could easily pass for 1997, six years before its release.

And then there's the school girl uniforms, which point to a larger criticism of this video of being sort of cynically and joylessly titillating. The entire video sort of feels like a GoDaddy commercial on a really high horse about people "judging" these ladies for ... something. It's not really clear - is it because they are school girls or look sort of counter culture? Either way, taking into account the "market research" that is behind the sexualization of t.A.T.u. and the premise of this video, its hard not to watch this and see anything but a cash grab - not some artistic statement.

However, music aside, t.A.T.u. is pretty good as far as Russian pop acts go, and its on those merits that I assume they were invited to perform at the games (sans school girl uniforms).

Adam Fairholm is the co-founder and lead developer of IMVDb. You can find him on twitter at @adamfairholm.

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