After Gerard Smith passed away in 2011, it was very clear that TV on the Radio didn’t just lose a bassist, an organist, or a piano player; they lost a dear and close friend. Smith was diagnosed with lung cancer, and died shortly after at the youthful age of 36. On Seeds, the fifth studio album from TV on the Radio, the band dedicated “Trouble,” as well as most of the album, to Smith’s memory and their state of loss as a band and group of friends. The music video for “Trouble” is a heartfelt and sincere look at loss and the human spirit. It’s a beautifully depicted video that drives solely on personal emotion from strangers passing by on the streets of Brooklyn, New York.
The music video was directed by lead singer Tunde Adebimpe, who is no stranger to directing, as he directed the stop-motion music video for the eerie “Pin” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, as well as other TV on the Radio singles. “Trouble” follows the recent music videos for “Happy Idiot” and “Lazeray,” but this one is much simpler and focused entirely on random, normal people. Adebimpe walked around Brooklyn and asked people to reflect on a specific moment in their lives, whether grand, gleeful, depressing, or otherwise. Without words, the camera captures people as they privately go to personal memories in their heads. It’s incredibly moving and touching to see their slight (or not-so-subtle) reactions. Although we have no idea what they are thinking of or what they have gone through, Adebimpe captures something truly unique and intrinsic to the human condition that connects us all.
Watching the video, you can’t help but tie in Smith’s passing. In a sense, this video feels almost therapeutic and necessary for Adebimpe and the rest of TV on the Radio to continue coping and dealing with their loss. Near the end of the video, Adebimpe offers hugs and condolences to the strangers, and we realize that they need that connection as much as Adebimpe needs it, too. If we stand back and look at the bigger picture, we realize everyone suffers loss at some point, and although that’s an incredibly personal and gloomy state, there’s something uplifting and transcendent about having shared sorrow and empathy with others, even if you don’t know them or even what they’ve been through.
In the lyrics, Adebimpe sings, “Oh here comes trouble / put your helmet on, we’ll be heading for a fall,” which symbolizes the impending end of our lives, especially when someone is diagnosed with a fatal illness. Although TV on the Radio have gone through unbelievable highs and lows in their fourteen years as a band, their ability to remorse, reflect, and connect with others is wholeheartedly beautiful and present, and “Trouble” is another genuine extension of that.