From his landmark album Stranger, out last fall, comes Tunde Olaniran’s music video for “Vulnerable,” which was inspired by a memory.
“It was written while I sat in my car, not wanting to go into work,” Olaniran tells Out. “The same day, I picked up the phone and called my supervisor and told her I wanted to leave a company I’d worked for my entire young adult and adult life, up until that point. I’d reached a point where I wanted to be honest about my aspirations as an artist.”
The queer, Flint, Michigan-based musician is referring to his work as a full-time sex educator for Planned Parenthood, a job he held and loved before pursuing music full time. Olaniran’s past life in advocacy carries through in his work and music, as his lyrics often tackle issues like race, class, bigotry, and gentrification.
But “Vulnerable,” released in tandem with his announcement of a North American tour, is a bit more personal. In Olaniran’s words, the track can be described as a “soft femme trap anthem,” a synth-driven ballad that pulls together some of his favorite things as a music artist: auto-tuned choirs, drums, the folksy undertones of Feist and the ferocity of Nelly Furtado. In collaboration with director Natasha Beste, the “Vulnerable” video is a reminder of how we change and grow as we chase our dreams.
“The song is me trying to recreate the feeling of free-falling and landing in your own embrace. Vulnerable is a reminder that life isn’t promised and that I should nakedly pursue joy and happiness while I have the chance,” says Olaniran.
The video’s art direction, created in collaboration with Terra Lockhart of Walking Graffiti, assembles a half-reality, half-fantasy dreamscape of this memory. Olaniran also makes a lot of his own clothes (his Instagram is to die for) and collaborates on the rest. The costumes in “Vulnerable” were all handmade in Flint, with influences from traditional Yoruba garb — a wink to his Nigerian heritage. “I think that sartorial influence is something that’s just imprinted on me in some way.”
Creating work in Flint, instead of fleeing to a coast like some of his contemporaries, is something that remains very important to Olaniran. “I think right now Flint doesn’t really have a strong coherent art scene,” he says. “Right now, it’s run by wealthy, older white people who may or may not have experience creating art. I want to set an example of being an artist in Flint who is making excellent art and bringing national attention to the city in that realm. I want to challenge our institutions here to fund and invest in artists in the long term.”
“Why wouldn’t we be interested in the work someone would produce who has been living in Flint for the last several years? We have something to say.”
Watch the full, exclusive video, here:
See Tunde Olaniran on tour.
May 8th - The Cedar Cultural Center - Minneapolis, MN
May 9th - Lincoln Hall - Chicago, IL
May 11 - Velvet Underground - Toronto, ON
May 13 - Café 939 - Boston, MA
May 14 - Rough Trade - Brooklyn, NY
May 15 - Milk Boy - Philadelphia
May 16 - Rock & Roll Hotel - Washington, D.C.
May 17 - Gallery 5 - Richmond, VA
May 29 - Zebulon - Los Angeles, CA