The very first thing you see in Erykah Badu‘s “Window Seat” video, before the clothes start coming off, is a title card reading “INSPIRED BY MATT AND KIM.” That’s Badu’s way of acknowledging the Brooklyn indie-pop duo (pictured) who went au naturel in Times Square for their “Lessons Learned” video last year, inspiring her similar striptease in Dallas for “Window Seat.” (Badu’s video is streaming at her official site.)
The Music Mix rang up the group’s Matt Johnson this morning to see what he thinks of Badu’s video and the debate it’s sparked. He and Kim are in Atlanta at the moment, finishing up their still-untitled third album. “We’re in the last week of working 13-hour days, six days a week,” Matt says. “We’ve been pretty stressed out, but I know we’re making something really special…And I’m still trying to come up with the video idea that tops ‘Lessons Learned.’ That’s actually something I think about a lot.” Read on after the jump for our Q&A about “Window Seat.”
ENTERTAIMENT WEEKLY: Erykah spoke to you and Kim before she made her video, right?
MATT JOHNSON: Yeah. We got a call, I believe, the day she was going to shoot the video, and we chatted for a little bit. She was trying to get us to fly to Dallas that day to, I guess, make a cameo in the video. We couldn’t do it. At first, when she was saying she was going to do this video, my initial reaction was like, “This is an artist I like and respect.” I was flattered as the person who came up with that idea. But then I also felt like, it was something I came up with for for our song “Lessons Learned,” more than just shock value. It fit for the song. So we discussed. I’ve realized that her idea isn’t through shock value or anything, either. It fit what she was trying to say. In the end it all made sense. I definitely appreciate her [crediting us] in the beginning of the video.
How did she explain to you why she wanted to do her video this way?
It was a little looser than, “This is the one-sentence description of what I’m doing.” She wanted it to be seen as, Kim and I were the first people to — she was referring to it as “take the walk” — and she was going to be the second person to do it, and she wanted to encourage other people. I think in that same sort of liberating feeling [as our video]. Our song was about hitting the bottom of the barrel, when you have nowhere to go but up, how liberating that is to feel.
Did you give Erykah any words of wisdom on how to do a naked music video in public?
I told her about how Kim claims she doesn’t even remember shooting the video. Her nerves had blacked her out. I just sort of got into it and lived it up for the moment. So, you know, [Erykah] heard our perspectives. Afterwards, we had gotten some texts from her, but we didn’t really talk much. It was just things like, “Woo-hoo!” Big exclamation sort of things.
What do you think of how her video turned out?
I thought it turned out well. Again, as the person who came up with this original concept, it was important to me to have, even though you’re [shooting] one take, you still want to have different moments in the video, different breaks in time, and of course the twist at the end, which we had and she did have as well. That twist, even from just a film perspective, makes something fulfilling.
Her video has caused even more controversy than yours did. What do you think about that?
Ours, you know, we didn’t see it close to as much as what’s happening with her. But she’s a bigger artist and I think people maybe expect her to be more conscious about her actions, where they just see Kim and I as a couple stupid kids from Brooklyn who do dumb things. [Laughs] Maybe they feel she should have more responsibility. But really, most of the controversy I heard about, like, her getting nude with children present and that kind of thing, in my opinion, that shouldn’t be as big a deal as we make it in America. We have stuff that airs on television that I’m sure kids are present for in the room, some music videos that have a lot of sexual connotation in them — rather than just someone who’s taking their clothes off in a non-sexual way. The naked human figure shouldn’t be anything that is shunned or shamed or hid. The whole connection to the JFK assassination and all that, you know, I haven’t read whatever she’s saying about that, but I’m sure that she has her reasons.
Do you think artists should have the right to do controversial things like this?
Not just as a musician, as a visual artist as well, that’s just what things have been in history. If you’re trying to push the envelope for what is done, you’re going to piss some people off. When people are seeing things they’re not used to seeing, people get angry. But if you made everyone happy all the time, things would kind of stand still.
(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)
More from EW.com’s Music Mix:
New Christina Aguilera, ‘Not Myself Tonight’: Listen and weigh in here!