Although the song La La La performed by Sam Smith does not pretend to be deep (as even its unpretentious name suggests), the video for the composition turned out to be unusual and even shocking in places (a box with human hearts is still a spectacle, right?). It seems to many that they understood the meaning of the La La La video, and this is just a kind of arrangement of The Wizard of Oz, but in reality everything is a little more complicated. The director of the video claims that it is connected with a Bolivian legend, and I even found parallels with Ken Kesey’s novel Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. But first things first.
Heroes lead a boy to fight an evil spirit
The myth of El Tio and the meaning of the Naughty Boy feat. Sam Smith
I think a lot will become clear if we turn to the plot of the Bolivian legend about the evil spirit El Tio, which was taken as a basis by the director of the video clip. Once upon a time there was a little boy who was born deaf. His relatives offended him, so he ran away from home and settled on the street. The boy discovered that he could save people from troubles and illnesses with the help of a miraculous cry – and he screamed as loudly as if a tornado or an earthquake hit the city. One of the boy’s “patients” was an old man, who was unfairly accused and beaten by the townspeople – the boy saved the poor fellow from angry residents and cured his sick heart. Then the old man and the boy met another unfortunate, who told that he suffered from the wrath of the evil spirit El Tio. Everyone who heard the voice of El Tio immediately fell under the spell of an evil spirit, and there was no escape from this. Then the boy went to the cave where El Tio lived, and directed the power of his mighty voice against the evil spirit. El Tio could not resist the boy, because he was deaf, and El Tio’s main weapon was his voice. So the boy saved people from the evil spirit.
In the final, the boy will have to defeat El Tio
The meaning of the video La La La after the presentation of this legend, I think, does not raise any more questions. It is quite logical that the video was filmed in Bolivia, and the figure of the evil spirit in the final scene really repeats the features of the appearance of El Tio, living in the popular mind. Despite the fact that the action of the legend has moved to the present, the scenery has changed a bit, in general, the clip follows the plot of the Bolivian myth quite accurately.
Video link Naughty Boy feat. Sam Smith – La La La with The Wizard of Oz
The “similarity” of the characters in the La La La clip to the heroes of the famous children’s book is the most obvious parallel, but, as you have already seen, not the only one. Indeed, The Wizard of the Emerald City had a strong influence on the way the characters were portrayed. The old man to whom the boy buys a heart is, of course, the Tin Woodman (if you remember, in the fairy tale, the Tin Woodman dreamed of getting a new heart), and the absurdly dressed guard dancing against the backdrop of a busy road is the Scarecrow, who lacked brains in the book. And the golden dog of the Chow Chow breed, which the boy leads on a leash, symbolizes the Cowardly Lion. Yes, yes, it was Leo, and not Totoshka, because “chow-chow” in Chinese means “shaggy lion”. And the dog looks exactly like a little lion cub. Finally, the boy himself is Ellie, and the spirit of El Tio turns out to be a colleague of the wizard Goodwin.
Strange clothes, as if on a street scarecrow – a parallel with the image of the Scarecrow
What happens at the end of the video? The ending is left open, the companions leave the boy, and he is left alone in the cave. If at the end of the book, as we remember, “Ellie will return home with Totoshka”, then in the La La La video, apparently, the boy is not going to return home. The scene of parting with the companions seems rather sad, and it is quite possible that the boy will not get out of the cave alive. But, as we know, the spirit of the cave is not a good wizard at all, and by sacrificing himself, the boy does a good deed – saves other people.
Parallels between Naughty Boy feat. Sam Smith – La La La & Ken Kesey’s “Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”
Perhaps the creators of the video La La La did not put any additional meanings related to the story “Above the Cuckoo’s Nest” into their video at all. However, the meaning of a work of art is not only “what the author wanted to say”, but also what the viewer saw. And I saw quite clear hints about the content of the famous story by Ken Kesey. First, of course, is the main character. The protagonist of the book “Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is the Indian Chief Bromden, who lives in a mental hospital and pretends to be deaf and dumb in order to have as little contact with the outside world as possible. By this, he resembles the deaf boy from the legend, as well as the hero of the video – a little Indian who shuts himself off from others by plugging his ears and singing simple lines that gave the name to the song La La La.
By plugging his ears, the boy shuts himself off from the outside world, just like Chief Bromden does when he pretends to be deaf.
We see a hint at the very title of the work – “Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” – at the very beginning of the video, when an angry father throws an egg after his son from a nest located on the windowsill. Finally, one more parallel can be traced between the plot of the video La La La and the children’s rhyme, which served as an epigraph to the book “Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and gave it its name. Three geese in a flock, / One flew east, one flew west, / And one flew over the cuckoo’s nest nest”) – this is how the counting rhyme sounds. This metaphor unfolds in the clip: at first, all the companions stick together, but then the two leave the boy “above the cuckoo’s nest”, where he will have to subdue El Tio, similar to how Chief Bromden took it upon himself to kill McMurphy.
As you can see, the meaning of the Naughty Boy feat. Sam Smith – La La La is not at all as unambiguous as it might seem at first. The semantic layering has always been for me one of the measures of the quality of a work, and in this case we have a really interesting video, directed and filmed by real professionals.