by Patheresa Wells
We’ve all had that moment: You’re walking down the street, and you notice eyes on you. You feel someone’s gaze permeating your being and instinctively know they think things about you, that they’re forming opinions of you based on their interpretation of what they see. The radar, the detection system used to identify you in other people’s minds, is the basis for Gui Chevalier’s new single “Radar.”
A homegrown Washingtonian, Chevalier, known musically as The Radical Human, has been making music for six years, releasing his first album in August of 2018. His influences range from Prince to Michael and Janet Jackson to Chris Cornell and Christina Aguilera. But, he says, it “just depends on the sound or vibe I am resting in that day.” For instance, he says the music that holds power over him may come from different genres, vocal ranges, elements of persona, or even the way the artist gestures with their hands and the animations they use to illustrate their sound.
The video for “Radar,” he shares, is inspired by “ʼ80s synthwave production, while still using futuristic elements, evolved in my mind.” He codirected it with Solarsite, a local videographer with his own production company, HRD CVR productions. With the video, Chevalier wanted to convey “a sense of ignoring, unsubscribing, defunding, and overall withdrawal from what I feel is a quickly forming police-state society.”
Being caught in the radar isn’t only about being seen and judged. It’s about the narratives, the stories created when that happens. Narratives that strip away our identity and take our truths from us without our permission. When those in authority do this, the police or the government, for example, there develops a new narrative about who has the right to tell their own stories. Chevalier says the song and its video are “largely about living in a crazy surveillance police state, and some of the feelings of being watched and judged as a Black male by police, and the sense of wanting to escape that judgment.”
The video shows the radar headquarters operated by the police state to oppose the singer’s musical protest. At the same time, as he acknowledges their eyes on him, their attempts to narrate who he is fall in line with the words, “I feel the pressure to be the one that you see.” Chevalier says that the criticism of the singer by those watching him is about “the psychological awareness of who the state is and who they want me to be: whatever cog in the machine or whatever stereotype fits the corporate agenda.”
While there is a futuristic element to the radar headquarters of the police state, the experience of being watched is personal for Chevalier. While at a friend’s bachelor party in Hayden, Idaho, he went to his car for something. He felt eyes on him. “A police officer in a shiny new Dodge slowed to stare over his tinted window and looked at me with this sort of twisted opportunity. I remember feeling like looking in his eyes only would instigate his judgment.” The lyrics to the song speak to this judgment found behind the eyes of others.
“With your eyes I know you’re gonna run me through your mind. Don’t count on much from me ’cause my eyes keep promises. You can lose what you find if I cross your mind.”
But the song isn’t only inspired by Chevalier’s experiences as a Black male being watched by the police. He also says that the song’s hook was inspired by a moment that could happen to anyone when you feel the glare of someone undressing you with their eyes. He says it can be a professional glare. For instance, he has spent 12 years working in education, where as a Black man he is a minority in his field. Also, for inspiration, he used the experiences shared with him by female friends who spoke about being catcalled as they walked down the street. “I thought about how it’s not fair that some people walk around the world feeling more safe than other people do. We should all feel safe no matter where we are,” Chevalier added.
The beats from “Radar” use a futuristic synthwave vibe, while the lyrics ask us to question how we see each other. The video envisions a world where we are disconnected from each other and disconnected from our identities, where the goal of the state is to dismantle things like love, community, cultural connection, spiritual identity, and autonomy. Yet that future — our possible future — isn’t only about an evil state controlling us. It’s about how we get there.
At the end of the video, we see the singer unplug from the surveillance of radar. Though this can be taken as a literal unplugging from the propaganda fed to us, there is also a personal responsibility to the detection system within us. The stories we tell ourselves based on what we see. It’s easy to take away someone’s narrative, someone’s identity, by doing this. As a society, we allow things to happen on the governmental level, but then are we not also buying into it in our minds? These are the questions posed by Gui Chevalier’s new song “Radar,” a song where music meets protest. A song that will make you think as much as it makes you want to move.
“As someone who has always been Black, there is a certain added set of eyes that scrutinize us, judge us, look for crimes, doubt our existence, doubt our identities as pure as they think theirs are.” —The Radical Human.
Listen to “Radar” on Spotify.
Check out the video premiere on Youtube.
The song is produced by Lucy Christo, mixed and mastered by Sendai Mike. The Radical Human is the lyricist, stylist and creative director of the song and video. Lead choreographer for the video by Ben “Heartbreaker” Chi. Consulting choreography done by Janu Sung.
Patheresa Wells is a Queer poet, writer, and storyteller who lives in SeaTac, Washington. Born to a Black mother and Persian father, her experiences as a multicultural child shaped her desire to advocate for and amplify her community. She currently attends Highline College in Des Moines. Follow her on Twitter @PatheresaWells.
📸 Featured Image: Left: Gui Chevalier, known as The Radical Human, is a musician and poet living in Seattle. His new song “Radar” combines creativity of rhythm with words that express what it’s like to feel watched, especially when you are under someone else’s surveillance. (Photo: Robinson-Stark Photography); Right: Single art for “Radar,” a new song by The Radical Human. Artwork by Ultra_urgent.
Before you move on to the next story … Please consider that the article you just read was made possible by the generous financial support of donors and sponsors. The Emerald is a BIPOC-led nonprofit news outlet with the mission of offering a wider lens of our region’s most diverse, least affluent, and woefully under-reported communities. Please consider making a one-time gift or, better yet, joining our Rainmaker Family by becoming a monthly donor. Your support will help provide fair pay for our journalists and enable them to continue writing the important stories that offer relevant news, information, and analysis. Support the Emerald!