Evan Nabavian’s resume is longer than this song.
DAMN. is embossed with parables, but you can ignore them. You can (and should) luxuriate in the warm West Coast glow of “LOYALTY.” and sing along to Rihanna’s hook. The song feels good. But the video makes explicit what the song suggests: that our closest relationships can be pernicious and destructive.
Kendrick and Rihanna play characters that match their real life personas; Kendrick, earnest vanguard beset by inner and environmental demons and Rihanna, unabashed jezebel sex kitten, bubblegum pop origins notwithstanding. They inhabit a comic book noir with surreal touches like quicksand streets, sharks swimming in concrete, and trust falls atop skyscrapers. Only scenes of extreme violence—a fistfight, a car crash, murder—avoid visual embellishment. No Zack Snyder slow motion here to glorify loyalty’s toxic byproducts. The star of the video is Rihanna’s cheshire giggle as she watches Kendrick beat down a goliath that she goaded into a fight. It’s a tantalizing look that melts your better judgement and sends you careening through an intersection or swinging off a building.