Earlier today, Leon Bridges released the official video for his latest single, the stirring gospel anthem River.
It’s the closing track on his Columbia Records debut, Coming Home, and arguably the most powerful song on the record. I’ve long felt River, fittingly, points the way forward for Bridges, who conveys the kind of stately, poignant attitude necessary to make such a song as moving as it is.
Now, his masterpiece has a worthy visual component.
Directed by Miles Jay, the clip for River unfurls like a short film, featuring Bridges and vocalist Brittni Jessie. Filming took place on location in Baltimore, and the infusion of America’s ongoing racial unrest is a subtle but unmistakable undercurrent in the clip, which only serves to intensify River’s already potent effect.
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“A river has historically been used in gospel music as symbolism for change and redemption,” Bridges wrote on Facebook earlier today. “My goal was to write a song about my personal spiritual experience. It was written during a time of real depression in my life and I recall sitting in my garage trying to write a song which reflected this struggle. I felt stuck working multiple jobs to support myself and my mother. I had little hope and couldn’t see a road out of my reality. The only thing I could cling to in the midst of all that was my faith in God and my only path towards baptism was by way of the river.
“When thinking about how to best visually represent this universal battle, I reflected on the depiction of black communities in our media and particular experiences within my own life. This video showcases the unique struggle many black men and women face across this country. However, unlike the captured images which tend to represent only part of the story, I wanted to showcase that through all the injustice, there’s real hope in the world. ... I want this video to be a message of light. I believe it has the power to change and heal those that are hurting.”
See for yourself in the video below. Bridges will travel to Los Angeles in two weeks to compete for his first-ever Grammy (for best R&B album) and will kick off his 2016 tour March 1 in Atlanta.