Two pop music icons in their own right, Calvin Harris and Sam Smith have come to the table for a chart-topping, end-of-summer hit. The track, “Promises,” was released last week to much commercial fan fare. But the official music video release now reveals the song is more of a nod to house music’s beginnings in New York City’s LGBT ball culture.
Within this framework, the new “Promises” video represents a reclamation of US electronic dance music — which emerged from the cracks and crevasses of the queer nightlife scene in the nineties, lest we forget — putting the power right back into the hands of the gay male underground. Directed by Emil Nava, the video features model Winnie Harlow, acting as more of a gritty mini-documentary on queer nightlife than a sensationalized commercial music video.
The video begins with testimonials from different New York dancers, several of which have worked alongside the likes of Prince, Madonna and Rihanna, as they speak to the energy, empowerment, and inclusion of their community. Smith’s sultry vocals begin to speak for the community as he and Harris endeavor into the dark and glamorous world of a vintage underground ballroom party re-creation, which is juxtaposed by homemade footage of ball-clad clips. What results is an infectious pop aesthetic with a dash of visual political protest.