It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a video that’s as affecting as Nina Persson’s “Animal Heart.” I concede that the one-shot concept is a bit gimmicky and not quite executed to perfection, but those minor flaws are easily eclipsed by the emotional heft that the video carries on a conceptual level.
The song finds Persson feeling a bit adrift in the emotional straits that many married folk find themselves in. On top of a bed of icy synths, she opens the track by confessing that “My animal heart’s telling me to flee,” a desire that she immediately recants in the song’s next line by pleading “Baby, bail with me.” You see, she’s attempting to work out some issues, the kinds of ish that rear their head when the weight of responsibility —to your partner, to your children, to your family unit— begins to feel unbearable. These kinds of outward pressures can result in questioning your partner’s role in your life (“You can blink like a star, or sink like a stone in the sea”), but despite feeling somewhat unsure about the current status of her relationship, Persson ultimately wants her man to act like a beacon during these rocky times. “Come be my man, baby bail with me / Come be my man, babe hang on to me,” she pleads in the song’s chorus. In the context of the water-y metaphor of the song, it’s unclear whether or not Persson or her man is the buoy, but either way, she wants them to float or sink as a unit.
The stroke of genius about the video, though, is that this entire emotional debate occurs during the time it takes Persson to walk to the corner store to pick up a fresh quart of milk and back. The need to temporarily get out of the house in an attempt to clear one’s head during times of relationship upheaval is something that everyone, regardless of where they call home, can relate to. However, anyone who has spent time in an urban environment (like, in this case, New York City) can uniquely identify with just how weirdly cleansing a quick bodega run can be. The pairing of sheer convenience (a quart of milk in your hand in 4 minutes!) with the inescapable velocity of the city (traffic! blind people! the mini-rush that comes when you magically sync your trip perfectly with the flow of stoplights!) is what this video captures, a distinct and very specific feeling that I have never seen presented in a video before.
In the four minutes and thirty-two seconds that elapse during this video, Persson runs the full gamut of emotions as somewhat heavy-handed but easily identifiable visual cues (clear skies, impending storm clouds, even a brief rainstorm) complement the song’s lyrical trajectory. It’s not the kind of thing that will blow you away on either the first listen or first view, but repeated viewings strike a definite chord. “Animal Heart” certainly wasn’t conceived in an attempt to garner VMA nods, but nonetheless proves itself to be a winner simply by being moving and relatable in a way that not many other videos in recent memory have been able to match.