Thirteen Things I Noticed While Watching the Music Video for Lil Peep’s “Awful Things (feat. Lil Tracy)”
by Nina Palattella
I. The music starts as, in the video, a car full of boys rolls up to the local high school. They are all too old to still be in high school, albeit not by much, but I understand that this is the artist making a point.
II. The boys enter the high school; the music continues playing, the muffled chorus more like a shout the second time around. Characters are introduced; the blonde girl with the scared, damaged expression is being stared at by the boy with the shaved, dyed-blond head and mischievous grin. I saw this in a movie once; we all have. When she looks back, her eyes flash red. But who is the victim supposed to be?
III. By now it becomes appropriate, necessary even, to mention the tattoos. I know a couple of people who got tattoos when they were still in high school, but nothing quite like this. The main male character of this three-and-a-half-minute drama has, among other things, the word “Crybaby” inked above his eyebrow. The meaning is obvious, and it isn’t.
IV. A poster in the classroom bears an illustration of a cartoon hot dog and this message: “DAB: DRUGS ARE BAD.” See synonyms for context: “mockery,” “satire,” “prophecy.”
V. An actor playing at being a teacher punishes the main guy playing at being a high school student for looking at that girl instead of listening to the lesson—the one he doesn’t need because he’s too old for high school. He is sentenced to writing sentences on the chalkboard that then turn into other sentences, making an expression of forced remorse into lust. Chalkboards and lust do not seem to fit together, but maybe high school was like that for some people?
VI. The boy and the girl hook up in a locker room. The colors go wild. I don’t think I remember this part of high school. Before they leave, the girl lights a cigarette. Remember that image of flame. It will become important later.
VII. A close-up of the lighter reveals this inscription: “ASH IS OUR PUREST FORM.”
VIII. It is a new day and the scared-looking girl enjoys the company of a new man, who has considerably fewer face tattoos and a letter jacket. The self-identified “Crybaby” is hurt, or maybe he’s just pissed. This part of high school is more familiar to me.
IX. Upon witnessing this teenage betrayal, which is being acted out by adults, Crybaby uses the aforementioned lighter to light himself on fire. Most (but not all) of his classmates scurry away in all directions, terrified. The high school burns.
X. He and the blonde girl find themselves together in the midst of the flames with no one else around. Are they dead or dreaming? They become silhouettes which embrace and kiss, and the flames become majestic mirages of color.
XI. The final image is of the high school, sparkling and renewed, accented by a rainbow. Life itself seems to glitter.
XII. This video was posted on August 17, 2017. On November 15, 2017, Lil Peep died of an accidental overdose of Xanax and fentanyl, two weeks after his twenty-first birthday.
XIII. As of sometime in the afternoon on September 9, 2018, the music video for “Awful Things” has been viewed one hundred fourteen million, seven hundred forty-four thousand, five hundred sixty-six times.