Music video from local musician questions social realities in the digital age
Alex Nicol reflects on the absurdities of life and why we should accept them
Montreal-based singer-songwriter, Alex Nicol, released the music video to his song “Mirage” last month, critiquing the influence social media has on clouding our judgment of reality.
Nicol, who played in bands for years before going solo, released “Mirage” as part of his debut solo record All for Nada, released in March 2020. The debut album is composed of songs all within a smooth, indie rock genre. When asked why he decided to break away from bands, the singer-songwriter said he would have never gone solo if it wasn’t for his partner Nada.
“She really gave me the courage to go ahead and record them,” Nicol said, explaining he had songs of his own he wanted to work on. “Having somebody around who trusted me, thought highly of me and wanted to support me, that’s the reason.”
Creator of We Write About Music, Austin Sher, described All for Nada as smooth and calming with instrumental complexities throughout the songs. We can see threads of that in “Mirage” and its atmospheric feeling.
Mirage was created with the intention of emphasizing what we see is not always what is real as the world continues to shift towards an increasingly digital age. The song tugs at the layered concepts of reality now that social media is so pertinent in our lives.
Nicol said he wrote this song to express his frustration towards social media and the obligation he has as an artist to hold a certain online presence. “I get anxious, jealous, miserable and depressed after even an hour of surfing the internet,” he said. “I’m obligated as an artist to say ‘here’s my online profile and here's my brand,’ so I had to figure out how to turn my frustration with the whole platform into something that relates to other people.”
“I really just think people need to embrace the world for what it is, not live in fear, and accept that things are completely weird and you only have control over so much [...] What you do have control over is important, and if you honour that and if you own it, life is going to be brilliant.” — Alex Nicol
“Mirage” is Alex Nicol’s attempt to translate the complex way he sees the world and all of its absurdities.
“What we have is language. That’s the tool we use, at least I use, to express myself mostly,” he said. “Lyrically it’s a song about how absurd the world is.”
“I really just think people need to embrace the world for what it is, not live in fear, and accept that things are completely weird and you only have control over so much,” said Nicol. “What you do have control over is important, and if you honour that and if you own it, life is going to be brilliant.”
The song walks the line between questioning what is real and accepting it’s okay not to fully know.
“In the chorus, I say ‘It’s a mirage, come and massage my eyes’ because I really like the idea that we can live in such tension between accepting that what we're seeing is totally absurd but that it’s okay,” said Nicol.
To create the music video, Nicol collaborated with motion design artist and director George Simeo, who also goes by Director Big Shot. The video was greatly influenced by the pandemic and all the changes it brought to life.
“The timing of Mirage couldn’t have been better,” said Simeo. “A lot of it really started with the concept of isolation. Obviously, with the idea of Mirage, the title of the song, everything is an illusion.”
Simeo explained while creating the video he wanted to play with the feelings of isolation, loneliness, and solitude.
“Whether it be real or online, the goal here was to criss-cross all of it together,” he said.
The video begins with the written text: “If an artist falls in the forest and no one is around, do they make a sound?” Simeo explained this is the general idea that ties the various themes of the video together.
“So if no one sees your video, no one hears your music, did it happen?” said Simeo. “That is a testament to your online presence. If you’re not present on social media, do you even exist given the solitude of the world we are living in?”
The video reflects the themes of reality, social media, wealth inequality and also presents political and pandemic-related themes. In the video we watch Alex Nicol spinning in an isolated room which represents the isolation artists feel during a pandemic. This shot then moves into an absurd media feed Simeo created to represent the elite class.
“So, it’s almost like a part of that is me saying, ‘Hey billionaires, I’m over here. Help me make some cool stuff. Share the wealth,’” he said.
While Mirage holds several artistic complexities, both Nicol and Simeo understand every viewer will take away something different from the project. “The video is a giant soup of ideas,” said Simeo. “The general message is that our reality is what we make of it.”