Garden (Say It Like Dat), the 8th track on Solana Rowe’s sophomore album Ctrl, is in my opinion the best song on the Grammy Award nominated masterpiece that was released June 2017. So naturally fear crept in when she announced she was going to be dropping a visual, as I haven’t been entirely fond of some of her recent releases.
However, all worries were put to rest when I saw who would be directing it: Karena Evans, a 22-year-old Canadian music video director recently accredited for Drake's Nice For What and God’s Plan. She started off as an intern at ‘Director X’s’ company and worked her way up, gaining his interest by “grinding on low budget jobs giving big budget results,” according to the man himself. The main element that makes her visuals so special is that they suggest she listened to the song when storyboarding, unlike a lot of videos I find myself watching these days. They don’t seem randomly thrown together based on what she thought people want to see, but what she saw. This is palpable during the four minute picture. Her other work, Nice For What was so creatively sound, with each woman having their individual tone without losing that persistently deep, yet glittery colour scheme throughout. I was stunned. Not to forget, God’s Plan that achieved exactly what I believe Drake wanted it to without a hint of corniness. She seems like a force to be reckoned with.
The first thing I became aware of was the breeze that runs right through the colder shots in video. The cave, the sea and Glover staring at Rowe so adoringly, immediately takes you to the Garden of Eden. The warmer shots were given an airy effect by reflections of light off the camera lens coupled with that beautiful haze filter that sits over the entire visual. I was instantly enamoured, to put it lightly.
The next thing I noted was the incredible chemistry between Rowe & Donald Glover, that I must admit, was completely unanticipated. Gambino's cameo didn't come as a surprise, seeing that SZA also featured in his critically acclaimed This is America music video (for whatever reason).
Despite that, they looked effortlessly breathtaking as the ‘Adam & Eve’ themed characters. They managed to capture the female perspective on the story that preceded ‘The Temptation and Fall of Man’, where presumably ‘Adam and Eve’ were living in a beautiful garden of hood love. Rowe’s mother, Audrey, being the ‘God’ themed character further solidifies the notion that women are indeed the beginning of life. And not just any woman; a black woman. Glover having a number of close up shots with a few wider ones of him watching Rowe, so softly depicts the ease at which Adam must have fallen in love with Eve. At this point, I’m almost certain Evans had listened to the song as many times as I did.
The Island of Maui was simply the perfect location for the theme. It allowed the cinematographer, Bérénice Eveno, room to work with both the sun and the sea in equal proportion. Solana and her mother in front of her throne quickly became one of my favourite stills of the entire visual, as the look of gratitude on Rowe’s face as she leaned into her mother was so incredibly profound. That single shot made it imminently clear that even though she loved Glover’s character, the relationship between mother and daughter is the real purpose and source of the peace emanating from the pores of the film. And I felt every ray of it.