Grammy-nominated singer Khalid has a new album coming out and the first single, “New Normal”, is as soft and airy as a summer afternoon, which is weird because the video that accompanies the track is pretty much a venture capitalist dream right.
The video depicts a futuristic utopia full of skyscraper gardens, autonomous vehicles, drone deliveries and smart homes. Khalid’s video fills with genuine corporate products, not generic versions – a sign that the singer may have had some input from Silicon Valley to draft his love letter to our watchdog capitalist nightmare of a future.
You know things have an interesting start when Khalid, rocking some sickly bluish purple hair, rolls up to his apartment in a robotic taxi from the autonomous vehicle startup Zoox. The company, which is owned by Amazon, just unveiled the toaster-shaped driverless shuttle last December. It’s not even available to the public yet, but in Khalid’s imagined future, the road abounds with Zoox shuttles – and only Zoox shuttles. (I was tipped off for the video by a PR representative from Zoox, but have not yet received a response on whether the company paid for the product placement.)
While Khalid dances through the interior of LA’s Bradbury Building (famous for Blade Runner, a more realistic version of the future), other people insert packages into drones buzzing around the building’s large atrium. Why are the drones inside the building? Won’t they just smash into the skylight? Is there some sort of roof portal for the drones that managed to be installed despite the Bradbury building being designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1977? These and other questions go unanswered as Khalid continues to laze shimmy through the song.
Then the singer goes into what I can only describe as a disinfected version of Korben Dallas’ apartment in The fifth element (another more accurate depiction of our chaotic and punitive future compared to this). The space is hardly larger than a closet, but the walls are lined with hydroponic plants, which I guess is supposed to make us feel better living in what is basically an illuminated coffin. Khalid uses a spray bottle to water its plants. We still have spray bottles in the future!
But maybe I spoke too early because the next shot shows us an automatic irrigation system activated by Khalid’s PS5. Again, this raises many questions: how far into the future could this be if he still has a PS5? Maybe he’s in retro consoles? And why should the PS5 control his water filtration system? Is it now a smart home hub? I’m so confused.
Outside, swords of knee-high robots, who jockey, swarm for space on the sidewalk. The marketing team at Starship Technologies must kick themselves out for not getting their brand name in this video. Khalid sings into a sort of smart home panel on his wall, and his vocals are apparently transmitted through the delivery robots. Not sure how I feel about sidewalk robots singing while we step on our toes, but let’s move on.
In what appears to be a particularly shameless moment of product placement, the singer remotely pays for something on his smart home panel (for what? It’s unclear) using Chime, a startup said to be worth $ 14.5 mia. Does anyone actually use Chime? That makes Khalid certain. Who needs the Cash app? Only the finest fintech for our guy.
As the video winds down, we end up with the image of Khalid opening his blinds to see a giant billboard outside his window advertising rocket travel. It’s a little unclear what the ad is selling. A 90-minute rocket ride to the moon would be really, really fast. Probably too fast for any of the quasi-realistic technologies in this video. Is the point-to-point commercial rocket journey between LA and New York in line with Elon Musk’s interrupted idea from a few years ago? If that were the case, 90 minutes would be too long. Does Khalid’s record company, RCA, sponsor these rocket trips? Color me skeptical.
Khalid’s unabashed love for Silicon Valley culture should come as no surprise. After all, the singer debuted his single “New Normal” during a live performance at Virgin Galactic’s space launch, which sent Virgin CEO Richard Branson all the way into space. He clearly has a soft spot for large, multinational corporations seeking to change the structure of our reality.
But while the video may be uninhibited in its romantic feelings for Big Tech’s quest to dominate our lives, the lyrics are actually a little more nuanced, even a kind of defeat. “Even though I can not promise you much / you will be fine, you will be fine,” complains Khalid. I really hope it turns out to be true.