Late last week, Azealia Banks took to her Instagram story to claim that Dua Lipa’s video for her Silk City collaboration “Electricity” was “definitely inspired” by the Harlem-rapper’s music video for “Anna Wintour.”
While Banks has gained notoriety over the years for calling out artists over such borderline infractions, she insisted it wasn’t shade this time: “I think a lot of the artists who are inspired by my art adore me but are intimidated by my online persona and feel as though I may not approve of them liking my stuff.” She added, “I’m really flattered by the gesture and I welcome her to acknowledge the inspiration without fear of slander by the artist she pulled from herself.”
The two videos have similarities, sure: both divas are seen dancing solo through a loft in white crop tops. But the comparisons end there. In “Anna Wintour,” Banks’ routine is fairly stationary, and she’s in a well-lit open space. In contrast, Lipa uses the full floorplan, thrashing across furniture in a dim, cluttered apartment. It should be noted that not even halfway into the video, other dancers join in the action until there’s an all-out party at casa de Lipa — something we don’t see in “Anna Wintour.”
But this concept — dancing alone through an abandoned space — has seen several iterations throughout music video history. In 2011, Robyn memorably stomped through an empty space in “Call Your Girlfriend.” And both Zendaya and Cassie executed slinky solo choreography in their respective visuals for “Replay” and “Me & U.” Even earlier this year — before “Anna Wintour” was released — Troye Sivan writhed through a warehouse in “My, My My.”
If anything, all these videos pay homage to a 1987 classic: Janet Jackson’s top 20 hit “The Pleasure Principle.” In the Dominic Sena-directed clip, the legend executes her signature moves through an abandoned, barely lit space, unaccompanied except for a chair and microphone. While iconic scenes from Footloose (1984) and Flashdance (1983) featured the film’s leads in tightly choreographed scenarios in indoor spaces, Jackson’s was the first major MTV fixture of this mini-genre.
The video has undoubtedly remained inspirational. Not only has Cassie acknowledged comparisons with her own “Me & U,” but acclaimed music video director Joseph Kahn (Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga) admitted that the chair routine from Britney Spears’ “Stronger” video was inspired by Jackson’s visual. The “Pleasure” routine has also been recreated three times in live, high-profile performances: this year, Normani executed the choreography at the BMI awards, while Tinashe and Mýa performed it during tributes to the music icon on BET (2015) and MTV (2001) respectively.
What’s most curious about Banks’ claim is that the rapper herself acknowledged “Pleasure” was on her “Anna Wintour” mood board. When she dropped the video in May, she tweeted (from a now-deactivated account), “Big Shout Out to @JanetJackson for inspiring a legion of art school girls to foliow [sic] in her footsteps. Anna Wintour is an HOMAGE to the queen of black girl cool.” In fact, the day “Electricity” was released, Banks tweeted that “Pleasure” was the “true inspiration” for her video — yet she conversely claimed ownership of the idea by expecting Lipa to credit her.
Was “Electricity” inspired by “Anna Wintour”? It’s unlikely. But it’s safe to give credit to Ms. Janet — whose wide-ranging impact on the past 30 years of popular music is too often overlooked — for unleashing a timeless video that has undoubtedly influenced a lineage of videos, whether intentional or not.
Janet Jackson, “The Pleasure Principle” (1987)
Britney Spears, “Stronger” (2000)
Cassie, “Me & U” (2003)
Zendaya, “Replay” (2006)
Troye Sivan, “My, My, My!” (2018)
Azealia Banks, “Anna Wintour” (2018)
Silk City & Dua Lipa, “Electricity” (2018)