The Power of Persistence in Tierra Whack’s “Dora”

Introduction

Tierra Whack is one of the most unique rappers in the game today. Most know her from her 2018 album Whack World, which consisted of fifteen one-minute tracks and propelled her onto the coveted 2019 XXL Freshman list. She is now releasing weekly singles as she gets closer to dropping her next album. One of these singles is “Dora”, a call to persist and explore like Dora the Explorer. The video is particularly relevant during the pandemic.

In this article, I examine the way the music video maintains the strong message of persistence, specifically looking at how the video was created, the aspect ratio that was chosen, and few key images.

Context

“Dora” was released on October 29, 2020. The music video was directed by artist Alex Da Corte with contributions from artists around the world. Animation isn’t new to Tierra Whack — all of her single and album covers are animated and many of her music videos feature animation. She tends to use animation for its playful and wacky qualities, which pairs well with her unique style of music.

In a statement made to Stereogum, Alex Da Corte explains that “Dora is a call to persist and to explore.” In the midst of a pandemic forcing everyone to stay home, this call to action is an unusual one, as Da Corte is the first to admit. What makes the video so interesting is the way it embodies this struggle between exploration and the confining realities of 2020.

Right off the bat, the square aspect ratio is apparent. The square crop is a constricting one. It creates a smaller field of view and is not the obvious choice for a song that champions adventure. A cinematic 2.66:1 ratio like that of the Clint Eastwood westerns would create a sense of space and an urgency to explore it, but a 1:1 ratio does the exact opposite.

With this ratio, Da Corte and Tierra Whack do two things that place this video in the era of quarantine. First, there is the obvious reference to the square crop of Instagram, pointing to the increasingly digitized world that we live in. Second, and more importantly, the aspect ratio signifies the confining qualities of quarantining, therefore giving greater significance to the action of the video.

Da Corte constructed the objects in the video “out of simple items [he] found in [his] kitchen and studio.” He worked within the limited space of his own home and still managed to explore and create. Additionally, the video was created by many different artists all around the world. The collaboration of these artists embodies the message of the song — to persist in your creativity — and it is also directly portrayed in the video. Despite the limited space they have to work with in their homes and in the video, they still create dozens of incredible images in the two-and-a-half-minute video. Both in real life and the video, creativity persists and overcomes constraining circumstances.

There are also examples of this persistence in the face of environmental obstacles in the video, mainly the sequence with Tierra Whack opening doors. There is always another door blocking her way, but she opens the next one anyway. This relates to the title of the song as well as the message. On her adventures, Dora always faces an obstacle (Swiper has swiped something), but she always persists. Likewise, there are always new challenges in life, but one must always face them head-on.

The different animation styles and characters that appear in the video are mainly significant as a whole, as they represent collaboration and the infinite scope that creativity allows. The sequence that features Tierra Whack and the Muppets caught my attention, however. This is partly because I am a die-hard Muppets fan, but it’s also because of what the Muppets represent.

More than any other brand, product, or franchise, the Muppets represent persistence on every level. In real life, they have endured many major setbacks like the death of Jim Henson and survived long hiatuses between projects. Despite this, they are always able to make a comeback after a poor project or a long period without work. In the shows and movies, the cast is always facing some imminent threat and is always hanging on by the skin of their teeth, but they always succeed in the end. In reality and the shows and movies, they always persist no matter how difficult it is, just like Tierra Whack instructs her listeners to do.

Conclusion

Through the use of the Muppets and the imagery of opening a never-ending set of doors, De Corte and Tierra Whack visualize the need for persistence in the face of seemingly insurmountable environmental adversity such as a pandemic. In a broader sense, this call for perseverance is depicted with the adventurous and energetic action within such a constricting 1:1 aspect ratio. Finally, the ability on the part of the artists to use materials found in their houses to create these visuals, as well as collaborating from a distance, embodies Tierra Whack’s message of exploring with persistence. Just like Dora, they went on an adventure to create this video. If they can do it, so can we.

Originally published at https://colinhodgson.com on November 25, 2020.

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Analyses of some of the most interesting and important music videos of the past decade.

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