University of Nottingham alumni and TikTok sensations Blondes have released their long-awaited video to accompany viral single Coming of Age. With a hazy VHS grain, ET-esque static bikes, and retro ski-wear galore, it brings the wistful track to life in fine style and earned high plaudits from The Mic’s Daisy Carter.
For the vast majority of us, our lives at the moment look very different from the way they did in March 2020; that in itself is nothing remarkable. For Nottingham-based Blondes, however, the past twelve months have brought seismic changes far beyond the obvious – changes which, refreshingly, have been overwhelmingly positive.
Prior to the first national lockdown, the band – currently consisting of Will Potter (vocals), Alex Davison (guitar), Tom Herbert (bass), and Dan Stroud (drummer and guitarist) – were regulars on the local circuit, playing shows at Nottingham’s Jam Café, Rough Trade, and Bodega, to name a few. Indeed, the last night out many of us here at The Mic had before the world turned upside down was at our Mic x Amnesty International charity gig, at which Blondes performed.
‘As the viewer, we’re encouraged to see the staged nature of it all, which gives the video a tongue-in-cheek self-awareness.’
Unlike many artists during the following period of enforced lockdown, the Blondes boys found themselves significantly (and suddenly) far busier than expected when their third single, Coming of Age, began to gain traction on TikTok. The track’s infectious opening riff was being used to soundtrack users’ parodic interpretations of classic 2000s coming of age films, and before long the #comingofage trend had gone viral after TikTok users worldwide – including pop sensation Lizzo and footballer Alphonso Davis – sampled the track. Fast forward to the present, and Blondes now boast over 250,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, while Coming of Age itself has been streamed approaching 2.8 million times.
Therefore, it was only in the wake of the single’s huge success that it seemed feasible to produce an accompanying video, as Davison explains: “We had very different plans for Coming of Age. It was originally recorded before the first lockdown and then released in the midst of that lockdown, so we had to be very flexible with how we put out and promoted the song. But definitely, since it took off on TikTok, it became much more of a realistic goal to film a music video.” Said goal was eventually realized with the help of director James Slater (Jamie T, Blossoms, Sam Fender), who worked with Blondes to craft a video paying tribute to the films and TikTok’s with which the track is now inextricably linked.
Playing into the song’s nostalgic feel, the video begins with Potter lying back in bed listening to a tape before getting up to join his bandmates, who are busy thrashing out the recognizable opening riff wearing decidedly 80s-looking fleeces. “Yeah, Stranger Things was one of the biggest inspirations [for the video], and you can see that in the colour palette and some of the outfits – we went for these colourful, retro ski-wear type things,” Davison laughs.
Alongside the band’s sartorial choices, the video effectively evokes the sense of John Hughes films and the Duffer Brothers Netflix show using props often found in these coming of age stories, such as school desks, lockers, and bikes. Reproduced here, Slater’s treatment of these culturally salient tropes manages to stay on the right side of cliché by not taking them too seriously; the bikes are stationary, the bed part of the set, and the winding road backgrounding the band’s performance is clearly a screen projection. As the viewer, we’re encouraged to see the staged nature of it all, which gives the video a tongue-in-cheek self-awareness – it’s parodying the TikTok’s which sent the track viral, which in turn were themselves parodies of the actual coming of age genre.
‘Coming of Age is the sound of pre-lockdown life – an ode to youthful optimism and teenage crushes.’
“It’s quite playful, but it captures the aesthetic really nicely,” Davison affirms. “One of the producers we worked with also pointed out that it’s very Sex Education, which I thought was quite funny.” Adding to the sense that Coming of Age is the soundtrack to a high school movie, the band throughout are backlit in the vein of a floodlit football pitch – a setting which invariably seems to feature in these films – and filmed playing their respective instruments in an unmistakably cinematic montage style. Regarding the filming, Davison comments that “we did it all in a day! It was quite a long day, and pretty tiring, but it was very exciting so didn’t really feel too long for us. And overall, it was really good fun to shoot, especially working with James – he was fantastic. The whole thing was his kind of vision and it was great to help bring that to life, especially as we were fortunate to be filming at all.”
There might be something in the idea that the huge success of Coming of Age across TikTok is somewhat related to the pandemic. Not only have these periods of isolation left us with plenty of hours to while away on social media, but they’ve also had us collectively longing for the moments this track evokes memories of; moments spent sitting in a park in the sun drinking slightly warm beer with mates, or locking eyes and exchanging smiles with someone across a packed bar. Coming of Age is the sound of pre-lockdown life – an ode to youthful optimism and teenage crushes, perfectly encapsulated in the lyric “when we’re older, and it’s over, will this be a highlight?”
Ultimately, it seems fitting that Blondes’ breakthrough single and sonic calling card features the refrain “here something really could happen”; if this video and the year they’ve had is anything to go by, that line is not just a throwaway lyric, but a hopeful challenge.
Written by: Daisy Carter
Edited by: Olivia Stock