Sometimes art imitates life so closely it’s almost real. Such is the case in the video for “United Kids of the World,” the highly-anticipated collaboration between Headhunterz and Krewella that has become more than a track with two of the fastest rising stars of EDM but also an anti-bullying anthem. Watch the exclusive premiere of the video below:
Krewella’s Jahan and Yasmine Yousaf open the video by reading some vulgar tweets – all real – that typify some of the racist and sexist ugliness that has been thrown at them in the last year via social media. The Yousafs get a text from Headhunterz (aka Willem Rebergen), inviting them to a rave-type rally, where they dance (rage, really) with their fans, who, just like them, have been targets of some social media viciousness themselves.
In real life, Rebergen sent an instrumental track to Krewella, asking for a topline. A few months later, the three artists convened in a parking lot between an old warehouse and some train tracks north of Downtown Los Angeles to film the video with about 100 of their fans, called to attend via Facebook.
“We were just brainstorming ideas and it came up in the studio,” Yasmine says of the song’s creative origins. “We were really inspired by NoH8 and anti bullying [campaigns]. For people feeling like you’re alone, feeling like you need someone, this is your song.”
Partnering with DoSomething.org, Ultra Records made official what was already understood: “United Kids of the World” is an anthem with meaning, flexing its musical muscle to combat bullying, particularly online. While such a sentiment might seem overplayed, the earnestness of Krewella’s singing combined with the sheer gale force of Headhunterz’s melody drives this track straight to the heart of the issue and EDM’s many young fans at the same time. Not to mention, it’s a damn good party song too.
That the Yousaf sisters can connect with their subject here is no surprise. In a genre of music dominated by men, they have at times become lightening rods for vitriol on social media over the least year as Krewella’s career has skyrocketed. Taking it in stride, the sisters say dealing with the haters is just another way in which they can relate to their fans.
“I used to get so mad, and then Jahan would just be like don’t comment back don’t respond, just let it go,” Yasmine says. “She really put that in my head like, if you don’t acknowledge it, it’s not really happening. It’s always going to be there, there are always going to be people saying bad things. If you don’t let it get to you, you can rise above it.”
“They came up with the lyrics but it connected with me so much because I got bullied at school,” Rebergen admits. “I think maybe subconsciously that’s what made me work so hard to get where I am today.”
“You have to think about all the people that love you,” Jahan adds. “There’s that 5% of people that are going to hate on you no matter what.”
On set, the Yousafs and Rebergen were surrounded only with people who love them, a feeling that was readily reciprocated by the artists who mingled unaffectedly with the extras in the blazing sun between takes and made time to sign autographs, pose for selfies and give hugs after the shoot until the last fan had left. Even though they had only a few hours rest between an all-night shoot for their video with Nicky Romero and the “United” call time, the Yousafs were bright and cheery and very much at ease with the scrutiny of the cameras and the throngs of people dancing around them.
For Headhunterz in particular, the video was an opportunity to highlight the communal aspect of hardstyle, a subgenre he has become the ringleader of, even if that role sometimes unnerves him.
“The thing is, I just signed with Ultra Records and they were waiting for a first piece of music from me,” Rebergen confesses. “I was a little bit nervous because I was like, ‘Do you guys really know what you just signed?’ It’s so different from all their other artists. But they gave me the confidence to do my thing.”
Expectedly for anyone who has seen them perform, Krewella has deep connections to hardstyle. One of their first big DJ gigs in Chicago was actually opening for Headhunterz in 2011.
“I know so many people love his music,” says Jahan “When we play [his records] out, we get comments and tweets saying ‘thank you for playing hardstyle.’ Hardstyle is a genre that can appeal to people who are alone. They don’t need to be in a clique or a group of friends.”
“That’s the central idea of a lot of our album,” she continues. “You know, despite what our difference are – ethnicity, gender, race, sexual preference – there’s one thing we can all unite together about and that’s dance music.”
“I think that’s what makes the songs so powerful,” Rebergen says. “It actually is a true story for us. We can really speak from our hearts here.”