Year in Pop: 2017

Sjimon Gompers

Once again presenting our select highlights & standouts from this year's Week in Pop: 2017 features with our annual Year in Pop review edition; photographed by Chula Minardi.

Mike Sempert

A portrait of pop star Michael Sempert; photographed by Brian Stevens.

Featured off the Eightmaps Records album Tend the Flame, Mike Sempert unveils the Sam Fathallah video for “Distance” starring Napoleon Douglas’s inspired narratives & dance moves. The song itself is an inward survey of those intricate expanses between ourselves, others & our internal divisions that can be either purposeful or an unintended aspect of compartmentalization. From the alliteration of chiming chords & subtle electronic atmospheres; Sempert succeeds in spelling out those long distance phone calls that rack up those limited minutes on the monthly bill that double as a life-line between lovers drifting apart behind the closed curtains of shared lonely nights.

Napoleon Douglas responds to Mike Sempert’s sentimental song in reflective & expressive shows of emotion that move from late night pensive moments at home to dapper improvisational dance moves outdoors during the day. Director Sam Fathallah balances the visual presentation that moves from night to day & vice versa where Napoleon is depicted ruminating through the old book boxes of memories, having a drink & a smoke where the feelings seem to break through the blanket of night for the light of a sunny day. Just like Sempert entertains the yin & yang of closeness & distance along a parallel plane—Douglas brings to life the jubilant joy alongside the anxious & melancholic musings that one experiences in the cold of night when a loverly pair are physically far apart. Like the mediums of telephone wires & cell tower transmissions that connect those vacant spaces between two hearts; sullen moods of night cast longings are coupled with the dramatic expressions seen in Napoleon’s swift & sleek motions via Fathallah’s camera lens.

Michael Sempert penned the following exclusive statement about the video:

It’s a pretty cool story how this project came about and the video really feels like a gift from the universe and from Sam and Napoleon.

Sam [Fathallah] reached out to me on FB over the summer asking if he could use a song for a video he was making, describing himself as a recent film school grad. After checking out his website, I was deeply impressed by the poetry of his work. It was clear to me that he and I spoke a similar visual language so I asked him if he’d have any interest in making a video for the song “Distance”. A couple of months later, he sent me a link to this music video featuring Napoleon Douglas, also a recent graduate of Drake University. I was blown away. It’s such an honor to see other artists take inspiration from my music and really run with it.

Their video brings new meaning to the track for me, as a story about the distance within, and between the various selves we inhabit. Napoleon’s stunning performance shows us a desperate, aching, hiding self in stark contrast with a transcendent, beatific and open self. Over the course of the video, we see these selves merge. It’s a really simple idea and I think they executed it beautifully. Thanks for watching!

The legendary Michael Sempert, photographed by Aubrey Trinnaman.

Director Sam Fathallah also shared their thoughts on the making of the visuals:

Napoleon and I went to school together at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. I’m a filmmaker and he’s a talented actor. We shot a film entitled “IDOL”, and we were looking for a solid soundtrack to accompany the story of a man devolving into madness as the distance between his performed self and private self became greater and greater.

Mike Sempert and I had been communicating about putting together a collaboration, and the thought struck me to feature his song, Distance, in the video. It was a happy collision of worlds, and the product was a piece of art that embodies what Napoleon, Mike, and I collectively love most: to use our art to interpret and understand the world around us.

From Napoleon Douglas, lead actor:

Art to me is mainly about giving and receiving. As a performer I study techniques, learn material (music, lines, choreography, etc.), rehearse and prepare myself physically to deliver something to an audience. The way the audience takes in what I am giving will then affect how I continue to deliver said performance—especially in live performance. The creative collaboration is important because it sets the standard to what I as a performer will be producing. That initial collaboration feeds and drives both passion and purpose, which is all necessary to procure true art.

For me, the video is about our skeletons and our aspirations. We fight, hide from, and investigate the skeletons to get closer to our aspirations. Together they are like oil and water—two entities that wont mix. Thus, we determine how oily our life’s water gets.

Mike Sempert’s latest album Tend the Flame available via Eightmaps Records.

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