Rod Wave’s New Video Might Be His Loneliest One Yet—Which Says a Lot

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Plus more highs and lows from the world of rap this week, including Jim Jones’ Betty White tribute and Zack Fox’s questionable role on the new sitcom Abbott Elementary.

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Rod Wave in the “Cold December” video. Graphic by Callum Abbott.

Pitchfork writer Alphonse Pierre’s rap column covers songs, mixtapes, albums, Instagram freestyles, memes, weird tweets, fashion trendsand anything else that catches his attention.

Rod Wave’s latest cinematic melodrama is a masterpiece

Rod Wave is a hotly debated figure among fans of singing-ass Southern pain rappers. Some wholeheartedly believe the Florida crooner’s writing about grief and heartbreak, mostly sung over beats driven by melancholy pianos and acoustic guitars, is the work of a genius; others think his music is so incessantly downbeat that it’s just depressing. I land somewhere in the middle. On personal favorite “Fuck the World,” the way he swerves from a grumbling baritone to a sweet falsetto is incredible. But over the course of a full-length project—a few which I really like—his mopiness can wear on you. I get that the driving theme of his music is how no amount of money or success can erase all the struggle he’s been through, but c’mon, the guy sounds like he’s on the brink of a breakdown on every damn song. Selling out shows across the country can’t be that bad!

Generally, his music is more powerful when paired with a music video. They’re usually mini documentary-like glimpses into his day-to-day, a Groundhog Day-style loop of longing gazes out of tour bus windows, pit stops at gas stations and strip clubs in small Southern towns, recording in basic hotel suites, and monotonous fan meet-and-greets. It’s the unglamorous side of rap stardom, which really works with music that presents Rod Wave as a timid outsider reluctant to accept the fame he stumbled into—in other words, a popular loner.

There’s another type of Rod Wave music video, though. I like to call this subgenre: Rod Wave Down Bad in a Beautiful Location. It’s where he sulks in his loneliness on a beach, private jet, or in a gorgeous mansion. His latest video for “Cold December” is a perfect example.

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It opens with a heavy-handed quote about the ego that’s about as deep as any message you would find on a mug in Walmart. Then we get tons of drone shots of snowy mountains, before the video transitions to Rod in Duck Dynasty cargo pants, chopping wood as if he’s living off the land like the girls on Yellowjackets. He lights a fireplace with the logs and then goes full Chalamet in the final scene of Call Me By Your Name, reminiscing on a past relationship while the wood crackles and burns. His heartbroken wails are laid over a chipmunk’d sample of Hank Williams, Jr.’s bleak country ballad “O.D.’d in Denver.” Yes, it’s as melodramatic as it sounds.

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