There comes a time in every artist's rise where they grapple with their identity as a creator, as a pop star, as a brand. These instances of self-doubt can stall projects and even halt entire careers; artists call into question their reputation, their style, and their love of art itself. Anxious, but unafraid, Jesse Saint John is ready to face this juxtaposition in the video for his newest single, "Wiser."
Related | PAPER's Top 100 Songs of 2018
The Kentö-directed video is about "putting on a front when it hurts, and racing the clock to figure out when it becomes clearer," Jesse tells PAPER. "What if I'm not getting any wiser, I'm only getting older?" he asks the camera in "Wiser," desperate for answers. His face appears to shapeshift throughout; he transitions from barefaced to caked in extravagant eyeshadow, eventually ending up painted haphazardly while he delivers his most anguished lines.
"Wiser" features a cast of Saint John's closest friends and collaborators, from Kim Petras and Aaron Joseph to Leland and Gianna Gianna who also attempt to struggle with the same pressures. For a video and song about the hidden push-pull behind engineering a pop star, it's an appropriate cast — all of the artists have won over music fans recently with their genuine trajectory and true-to-self discographies.
While it may not appear to the public that these otherwise confident stars wrestle with questions of self-doubt, Saint John emphasizes that there are "expectations that come along with releasing music or sharing your art." Anyone is vulnerable to the pressure of selling out over producing a body of work that most accurately represents one's identity.
Ultimately, "Wiser" is a track about anxiety, but if Saint John can remain surrounded by such a talented group of friends and collaborators, there's hope and strength in numbers. Watch the video's PAPER premiere, below.