By now, fans of Alex Woodard are accustomed to winsome, emotionally provocative animated music videos — clips that align Woodard’s forthright pop-rock songs with the long tradition of confessional storytelling. But with “Open Up,” his latest effort, he’s outdone himself. The clip for the single is poetic, graceful, strange and alluring, strategically recursive, and very beautiful. Once again, Woodard is working with San Diego songwriter and animator Savannah Philyaw, whose gorgeous watercolor-like illustrations match his melodies like sand matches surf. Her “Open Up” video introduces Alex Woodard as an explorer, and a fearless examiner of psychological barriers, journeying through the jungles of the unconscious mind to find himself.
“Open Up” builds on the success of “Halfway,” another video collaboration with Savannah Philyaw. That clip was invested with symbolism and allusion, but it was pointedly autobiographical. “Halfway” told Woodard’s compelling life story and addressed his artistic trajectory in bold strokes. Its sequel is more impressionistic, more dreamlike, more hypnotic, and a good deal more immersive. But make no mistake — it’s as articulate an elaboration of Alex Woodard’s psyche as its predecessor was. It uses the language of fantasy to address things that are very real: memory, loss, longing, and the quest for meaning.
Those who’ve followed Woodard may well be familiar with the song. “Open Up” is a crucial part of the singer’s repertoire — an upbeat rocker with dark, ruminative undercurrents, and a reliable concert crowd-pleaser. Alex Woodard has performed it with his friend Jason Mraz, an artist with whom he shares an outlook, a sound, and a sense of defiant optimism. As Woodard’s story has developed, the meaning of “Open Up” has matured along with him and become richer and more poignant. Its themes of resilience, trust, and the craving for connection feel particularly relevant to the present era.
We could tell you that Alex Woodard is an inspirational speaker and an author as well as a singer-songwriter, but that’d be somewhat misleading. It’s not because he isn’t those things, but because his writing, music writing, public speaking, and vivid dreaming are all so profoundly linked that they feel like expressions of the same deep understanding and drive to communicate. Savannah Philyaw makes authorship one of the themes of her work for Woodard, and the “Open Up” clip guides us through the pages of a picture book. Even within that book, there are other books to encounter. Woodard’s protagonist drives through the forest with a copy of “Loving Through Memory Loss: A Guide For Sons” on the passenger seat. Later, in a scene rich with emotion, a child dances with his mother atop that same book. Drunk with joy, the boy twirls around, and the smiling parent fades to white.
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