Let’s begin with that long opening shot that frames Danielle Haim within the piano and then pans to the left to find Alana Haim adding background vocals and bass and then Este Haim adding electric guitar before panning back to the right to feature Danielle again. Though this time she’s not hemmed in and isolated by the piano. She’s out in the open, no longer alone.
This long opening shot is exquisitely timed. Danielle is alone until in the video until just before Alana joins her. And once your expectations are adjusted to expect the continuing camera move to add more people and sounds, it swings around to include Este a little earlier than it included Alana. You expect a new sound, and the video makes you wait for it. Then it delivers a reverberating electric guitar that almost overcomes the entire song. But it doesn’t. It fades away and focus shifts back to Alana’s background vocals and then back to Danielle’s lead performance.
As the camera is in tighter on Danielle this time, she’s not framed in the same way as she was when the song began. The camera then pivots to bring Alana and Este’s movements in the background back into focus. They pick up drum sticks and suspense builds again until they start adding percussive elements to the song. Their drumming adds energy to the song, and that energy is mirrored in the editing. Three cuts between Alana and Este at the drums and Danielle at the piano close the video, and because the video has been one long take before this, those three cuts feel more kinetic than more hectically edited videos. In the final shot of the video, all three women are visible.
And all of this underscores the theme of the song, which is about a woman being jilted, feeling alone, and then gradually reasserting her agency. It’s almost as if the woman singing when the song beings undergoes mitosis and divides into three women who form a chorus of uncompromising self-sufficiency.
The long take also underscores Haim’s remarkable musicianship. Unlike other videos, where frantic editing masks the fact that the band mates aren’t actually playing their instruments in those moments, “Right Now’s” long take makes it clear Haim is performing this song in the studio. Additionally, this suggests that their live show will be just as enervating as this video. Buy your tickets now, you know?
“Right Now” was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Yes – that Paul Thomas Anderson.