In her latest single, “Nameless, Faceless,” Courtney Barnett returns her solo career with a head-on response to misogyny. The song is her latest release since her collaborative album with Kurt Vile, Lotta Sea Lice.
The video bursts with representations of today’s Internet culture. Cats bounce around on keyboards and a computer mouse furiously clicks the “dislike” button while Barnett sings, “Don’t you have anything better to do? I wish that someone could hug you,” calling out the anonymous hate of Internet trolls.
Both Barnett’s lyrics and the video’s swirling visuals demand attention from the beginning, and the song reaches its climax in the chorus, wherein Barnett paraphrases the Margaret Atwood quote, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”
Barnett enlisted fellow Australian artist, Lucy Dyson, to animate and direct the video. Dyson is known for her collage style and has worked with artists such as Paul Kelly, Ray LaMontagne, and Beyoncé.
The video’s visuals give it a sense of playfulness; the swirling collaged figures call back days of cutting out images from magazines in elementary school. However, when layered with the song’s lyrics, the childish collage elements begin to take on a nightmarish quality. “I hold my keys between my fingers,” sings Barnett, as faceless sets of eyes peer out of bushes and bodiless hands grasp at the air.
“Nameless, Faceless” is the first single from Barnett’s upcoming album, Tell Me How You Really Feel. While the song marks a shift in Barnett’s songwriting towards more explicitly political or conscious material, her lyrics stem from personal experience.
In an interview with Pitchfork, Barnett described that writing the album was a way for her to process the current political climate and its impact on the relationships in her life. Ultimately, however, the songs provided her with a way to reflect on her own anxieties.
“I’d try to write a song about someone I was close to who was going through something, but it would turn into a total self-help book,” said Barnett. “When I look back, it’s like, ‘Oh, wow, I was trying really hard to help myself get through something… Most of what I’m saying on the album can be doubled up. You know how you give your friends advice and you’re like, “Why don’t I ever listen to my own advice?”