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WPGM Commentary: Zhanel Fights For Freedom And Authenticity On ‘WAR’

Hi, my name is Zhanel, I am 19 years old. I am a singer, songwriter and vocal arranger. I also dabble in music production. I’m from the US originally from Florida, but now residing in Atlanta Ga.

“War” was actually written when I was 16 and my brother was 18. I was sitting back in my room and wanted an upbeat song. I went to my brother/producer Lawrence ’50 kiks’ and was like I want a track that’s pushing with a popping snare.

We went back and forth a few times with the arrangement of the track. Once it was 90% done, we bounced the wav. file and I just listened until I got a melody going.

At the time, I was working with other producers outside of my brother and they kept trying to take me in a different direction than I wanted to go in. I didn’t want to sound like everyone else. “clone me own me not anymore, you think I’m stable like the rest but we’re all full force”.

Ultimately, I’m talking about pulling away from the machine that was pushing and pulling me into a direction, instead of just letting me have the creative freedom and space to grow autonomously in my creativity.

The funny thing is when we went back to the studio with the demo done, everyone loved it and said “that’s the sound we’re going for”. SMH – it was NOT close to what they were trying to do lol.

Once reflecting on my own inner fight for freedom in my creativity, and even boundaries as a teen; it made me think of other beings that are controlled, but have the capacity to operate beyond the restrictions and parameters that are there.

Everyone is talking about A.I. now and how far it’s advanced. There is an underlying fear in some of the worst-case scenarios. People are worried about losing their income and entire labor jobs becoming nonexistent, A.I. having their own language that we can’t decipher possible military takeover, etc.

I wanted the video for “War” to be like a mini-movie showing the convenience and drama of the A.I. if you took my lyrics literally. Originally, I wanted to be in the music video, but the ideas kept getting bigger and bigger. We sat down and went over the budget and it was a no go.

One of the hardest parts about being independent is getting the most out of the budget. But I still wanted dope visuals for this song. So we started bouncing around concept visuals and the cost of creating a storyline that fit the song.

I reached out to a videographer and sent video clips that I thought would make for a great concept video along with the song “War”. We went back and forth for a couple of days because I was having a hard time articulating my vision.

He finally wrote back and said, “give me a couple of hours and I will send a 30-second clip to see if we are both on the same page“. The first 30 seconds of the video is exactly what he sent and it had me wanting to know what happens next. He didn’t use any of the video clips I sent him (lol).

Just from our conversation, he conveyed what I wanted to deliver. I wanted the video to draw people in and kind of visualize the fear but clearly make it fictional. Of course, it’s dramatic, but also it’s a conversation piece, I hope.

Ultimately don’t be followers, you don’t have to do the latest trend. Be the autonomous, figure out who you are, unplug and live in the moment. Make authenticity a norm.

Watch the video for “WAR” below!

Words by Zhanel // Follow her on Twitter + Instagram

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