Music Video Showdown: Speak Life Vs. Not Gonna Die

Skillet and tobyMac are two of my favorite acts in Christian music. I love the intensity that Skillet brings, and I’m constantly amazed by tobyMac’s diversity. Even though the two are very different, they do have at least one thing in common: their latest music videos are very similar. Skillet’s new video for “Not Gonna Die” released on February 6th, and tobyMac’s video for “Speak Life” debuted on the 12th of the same month. Both videos explore life and death, and they both tell the story of how several individuals combat the notion of death as it surrounds them. Many aspects of the two videos are the same, (or very similar) and I’ll be going into more detail in this article. Read on to see what I though about each video, and see which one comes out on top.

“Speak Life” follows the story of four individuals. The first is a young boy who is being teased by his friends for opting to stay inside and practice the piano while they go out to play football. The second is a married woman who is being verbally torn down by her husband, and his tirade leaves her in tears. The third individual is a dying man in a hospital; the doctors tell him he’s not going to make it. Finally, the last example is of a young man who is being yelled at by a group of protesters. All four individuals are hurt by the words spoken to them, and the video depicts them as dead due to the negativity spewed out by the antagonists. Then, near the end of the video, a young girl wearing a white dress comes along and whispers in the ear of each of the four characters; rejuvenated, they have a new lease on life.

The thing about this video is that it goes perfectly with the message of tobyMac’s song. He wants us all to “Speak Life into the deadest, darkest night…. Look into the eyes of the brokenhearted; watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope, you speak love, you Speak Life. ” As the world all around us tears us down, tells us we aren’t good enough, or berates us for being ourselves, we have to take it upon ourselves to be the kind ones who speak uplifting things to others; we have to speak life. Like Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

I love how “Speak Life” uses great symbolism and imagery to demonstrate the effect our words can have on others. Maybe you don’t understand what it’s like to be on your death bed as the doctor discourages you with news that you won’t make it, but I’m sure we’ve all been hurt by nasty comments by friends, spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends, or even parents or children. tobyMac hits home no matter where you are. Then, by showing the effect the little girl has on others by speaking life into their ears, we can see how everyone’s lives are drastically changed by kindness. The dying man makes a recovery and walks out of the hospital. The young boy’s mother comes to encourage him in his piano lessons while his peers do the opposite; all it might take is one person to change a life.

Much like in “Speak Life,” “Not Gonna Die” shows people as they struggle with things in their life that try to bring them down. One woman is running through a forest, presumably as somebody or something is chasing her. Near the end of the video, she puts on a gas mask as a red gas surrounds her. Another woman is sitting in a room hooked up to an oxygen mask, and a clock is sitting in front of her, which I assume shows her time as it is running out. Somebody else has been covered in a white, snowy substance (and a book), and yet another girl is laying on the ground in a white room, twitching, as a vial of red, paintlike liquid sits near her. Then, near the end of the video, everyone fights back against their respective situations under their own power, except for the girl with the oxygen mask. A little girl in a blue dress comes to her, touches her face, and brings her out of her daze.Then, as everyone is fighting against the things that hold them down, the video ends and cuts to black.

Now, Skillet’s video didn’t leave me as inspired as tobyMac’s did. Considering the two are very similar in a lot of ways, it’s hard to look at them both and not see how one did a better job than the other in certain aspects of the video. For example, “Speak Life” very clearly states what each individual is fighting against: verbal abuse, taunting, and literal death. Skillet’s examples were more abstract. What did the paintlike substance mean? Was that an allusion to alcohol abuse? What on earth was the pile of white stuff? Why was a hospital patient just sitting in the middle of an unfinished building? None of the examples quite made sense.

Furthermore, the resolution for “Not Gonna Die” was pretty abstract. Did the lady with the paint ever get out of her room? What happens to the woman covered in the powder? Did the girl with the oxygen mask ever leave her building? I mean, I can tell that each individual is fighting against the struggles that try to kill them, but do they succeed in fighting back? If the purpose of the video is to keep us confused or on edge, then they do a fine job of it. On the other hand, unless there will be a Part 2, (which is possible because “Good To Be Alive” is practically the sequel song to “Not Gonna Die,” and they could potentially make a “Good To Be Alive” video as a follow up to this one) the ending to this video makes no sense, has no meaning or purpose, and isn’t really satisfying. To contrast, each storyline was carried out to the end in “Speak Life,” and we can see how everyone’s lives are changed positively due to kindness.

It pains me to say this, but I don’t like the “Not Gonna Die” video at all. I have a huge amount of respect for Skillet as a band, and I truly wanted to love this video; it had a lot of potential. However, it fails in making good sense of the points it is trying to make. To make it worse, if I hadn’t disliked the video enough already on its own, watching “Speak Life” succeed in nearly every way that “Not Gonna Die” failed made the gap between the quality of the two videos much larger and more noticeable.

Therefore, “Speak Life” wins this showdown, but what do you think? Maybe you have a more imaginative, artistic mind that allows you to appreciate Skillet’s video more. Who do you think had the better video? Comment below with your thoughts, and thanks for reading.

Matt

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