Honestly, a lot of the time I wonder what the point of music videos is anymore. Divorced from the MTV world that spawned them, a lot made right now seem like an anachronism, the music industry’s appendix, still there because we haven’t figured out it doesn’t serve any function any more. So Special-K‘s work is a wonderful reminder that if you’re creative and talented, there is still life and energy in the format. The solo project of Iceland’s Katrín Helga Andrésdóttir (also a member of Reykjavíkurdætur), her debut album I Thought I’d Be More Famous By Now is now being released internationally as a visual album, with videos accompanying every song.
The record, which is packed with pretty, daze-dreaming pop music that pitches a little between the Moldy Peaches and a less snarky Charles, is incredibly compelling on its own terms, due to its lyrical smarts (featuring miserably witty lines like ‘I had a plan, and it’s not going great, I have no fans and I’m not getting laid’ and ‘You are talented I try to tell myself, maybe one day dad will think so as well’) and incise interrogation of the cultural and digital landscape a person finds themselves in now. No-one will be able to listen to this record without recognising the feelings it’s built from. Add the videos, and its world expands to something even bigger, a deep dive into a curious playground carved out of music and movie by a being called Special-K. Really, the best way to experience I Thought I’d Be More Famous By Now is by putting its songs in a playlist and watching them in one go, total immersion like a 35-minute movie. But before you do that, you can watch them here, with the artist’s own guide to every one.
01. I Thought I’d Be More Famous By Now
This song is about unfulfilled expectations of fame and glory. I’ve been preoccupied with theories about millennials since I read an article by Tim Urban stating that if your expectations are grander than your reality turns out to be, you will experience disappointment and unhappiness. People of my generation have been made to believe that we are in some way unique, resulting in us all being delusional about being slightly better than everybody else and convinced that great things will automatically happen for us in the future. When that doesn’t happen, we feel like we’ve failed. The video by me and my friend Alma Mjöll, shows me in a pink teenage bedroom reading magazines and dreaming about fame and a fantasise version of me in a glamorous dress in the spotlight on a stage.
02. Date Me I’m Bored
This song is about obsessing over other people on the internet because you have nothing better to do. I had a lot of fun writing this song, it was the first one I wrote on the whole album. I was listening a lot to artists like Weyes Blood and Ariel Pink at the time so the chord progression is inspired by Seven Words and the rhythm change by Another Weekend. In the slightly absurd video I made with Kristín Helga Ríkharðsdóttir, I’m a lonely puffin roaming the streets of Reykjavík, looking for love.
03. Impostor Syndrome Self-Help Song
After having written Date Me I’m Bored and I Thought I’d Be More Famous By Now I had this lingering suspicion that I was terrible at writing songs. I talked about it with my friend and she diagnosed me with Impostor Syndrome, which is the believe that you’re a fraud, that you’re just fooling everyone and one day they will call your bullshit. In an attempt to cure myself, I wrote this song. Many of the chords are from Arabesque by Debussy. In the video by Elín Elísabet Einarsdóttir, I’m trying to climb a mountain, slipping and falling, but always standing up again.
04. Best Friend
I wrote this song when my best friend was going through some difficult stuff. I didn’t feel like writing about the difficulties themselves, so instead I decided to celebrate our friendship that has helped us both through a lot of shit. The verses are in waltz tempo and the chord progression is a super typical and simple one, but I break it up with a weird and chromatic instrumental part in the middle. I shot the video with another one of my best friends in Italy. I’m blessed with having a number of best friends.
05. Hide Your Crazy
Dating is so hard. I don’t believe anyone out there is sane, but then again, neither am I. And I’m very bad at hiding it. But I guess the more you show your crazy, the easier it is to deal with it. I get very suspicious when people I’m dating are perfect on paper, it makes me think there must be something very wrong with them. The chords are inspired by Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush and the video was shot by Jóhanna Rakel in Barcelona.
An Icelandic design duo, Usee Studio, asked me to write a song criticising the fashion industry in a humorous way. I thought the best way to do that without being arrogant and preachy was to make it about myself, so I’m simply mocking my own consumerism in this song. Usee Studio made the video and it was initially shown as an installation in Iceland’s most iconic shopping mall, Kringlan.
07. Give In
One day I was ovulating, thus finding everyone exceptionally attractive. I went to a performance and was absolutely enchanted by one of the performers. After intensive online research I found him on Instagram and since then I’ve been his creepy admirer from afar. The inspiration for this song is my fantasy of him. See, I told you I was crazy… the video is by Sigurlaug Gísladóttir and was shot in Berlin.
08. Almost Famous
I wrote this song when I was on the road with Sóley [Andrésdóttir plays in her live band], the first time I was experiencing really living my dream. Doing what I’d always dreamed of doing, travelling around, having fun with friends, playing pranks, having a thousand inside jokes and small adventures in between playing beautiful music for really appreciative crowds. The video is a compilation of phone videos from tours with Sóley and Reykjavíkurdætur.
09. Dark Matter
This song is about trying to stay sane and fight the evil urges to be revengeful when attacked by jealousy. The video by Nína Hjálmarsdóttir shows me lying in a bed being flooded by dark liquid.
10. Her Flowers
This song is about realising that even though your relationship with a parent can be dysfunctional and complicated, their love for you is still overwhelmingly unconditional. I made the video in collaboration with my friend and fellow member of Reykjavíkurdætur, Kolfinna Nikulásdóttir and her fiancé Sigurður Möller Sívertsen. It’s shot in their home, where four generations of women are living together; her grandmother, her mother, herself and her daughter. The video is sort of a portrait of their everyday life together.
11. Waste Of Time
This song is only 13 seconds long, since its subject does not deserve more time. In the video I’m showing off my line dancing skills.
12. Time Divided By Velocity
Usually when I write songs I start with the lyrics and then sit down and start thinking strategically about the chords and melody. This song is different. I dreamt this melody and when I woke up I sat down at the piano and played it. That’s why it’s so minimal and uncomplicated. I probably wouldn’t allow myself to make something this simple if I was fully awake. The song is played at two different tempos at once, that’s why it’s called Time Divided by Velocity. The video shows me as the puppet master of my whole project, sitting in front of twelve TVs, watching all the other videos I’ve made.
I Thought I’d Be More Famous By Now is out on January 29