When Corinne Bailey Rae played "Hey, I Won't Break Your Heart" at NPR Music's Tiny Desk earlier this year, she introduced the song with a simple, yet meaningful remark. "This is a song that I wrote about love the second time around with the same person," the British singer explained. "So I guess it's about the beginning of trust again." Elegant words for complicated emotions.
The song — the second track from Rae's recent album The Heart Speaks In Whispers — is a relaxed, tender soul ballad, all acoustic-guitar arpeggios, organ swells and robust backing vocals. She sings as someone who's had her heart broken once before, but who returns to that same lover, proffering the pieces in good faith. "So come bring your love here with all its mistakes," Rae sings, acknowledging and forgiving old wounds in the same breath. "Here are the fragments I saved for you."
In her new video for "Hey, I Won't Break Your Heart," Rae appears in various circus costumes, from a fluorescent clown ensemble to a harlequin leotard accented with tear-smudged mascara. "I am so thrilled I could make this video," she writes in an email. "I have always wanted to work with Leeds-based set designers Lord Whitney. We talked about a circus theme, and this dream was brought to life and taken to the greatest of heights by director James Frost, who filmed it in a freezing-cold, empty store in Leeds."
Watching the video, we might think of Smokey Robinson's version of Pagliacci, the clown who attempts to hide his true feelings behind a jovial mask. Yet Rae's character seems to have embraced her emotions, however tangled. Perhaps she's tried to put on a performance of caution, to throw up protective walls — but she's in love again, and she's unable to keep up the charade. So she looks directly into the camera with a penetrating gaze, to strip viewers of our disguises just as she's allowed her own guard to fall, and her trust to return.