The act of crying is typically associated with sadness, but there are other reasons someone can cry out of—frustration, exhaustion, even laughter. That said, typically, none of these emotions promise tears; crying sometimes just ends up being an unpredictable thing. In their newest video for the Mike Crossey-produced track “Cry Baby,” Fickle Friends explore the inherent strangeness of crying, albeit in an unsettling way.
The band is noted for their ’80s-influenced music, and both the video and the track are no exceptions. The song itself is an upbeat synth-drenched pop jam but refrains from being particularly happy. Lyrics like “Love me like you complain” encapsulate this duality particularly well, setting the stage for a struggle between conflicting emotions. This same struggle is what inspired both the track and video, as the song was written after the band’s frontwoman, Natti Shiner, saw the John Waters movie Cry Baby at a particularly vulnerable moment in her life and found herself inspired “aesthetically and musically.”
This is clear in the video as well, about which she says: “It’s pretty cynical, and I wanted to create a video that reflected that and the dark, twisted, and almost uncomfortable elements seen in the film.” And the video is dark and twisted—it features people, together and separate, causing harm to themselves and each other in order to discern what will make them break into tears. The more twisted elements of the Waters film, and maybe even of the 1980s as a whole, are clear throughout the entire three-minute visual.
Shiner is depicted wearing the modern equivalent of a quintessential ’80s outfit: gold pants and a black bomber jacket, fittingly embroidered with the phrase “cry baby” on the back. The lighting and set design are distinctive, making clear that the visual is all staged; there’s nothing natural about it. The video makes its point very clearly. Everything is manufactured—sets, stories, emotions.
“Cry Baby” manages to create its own bizarre world and then shatter its distance from ours, with the last shot consisting of the video’s characters approaching the band as they perform the song, with tears finally streaming down their faces. Watch it in its entirety, below.