Conchita WURST’s ‘To The Beat‘ music video returns to Tom Neuwirth’s childhood attic and to his Oma
Because I knew, just from that 21 second clip, this was something special.
A video where, for the first time in his music, Tom Neuwirth has gone back to his childhood. A childhood in a tiny Austrian village. A childhood I have always felt was far sadder and more traumatic for that boy than he has ever said.
A childhood where he spent much of his time hiding away from the judgments of most of the people around him. A childhood often spent in the attic of his parents’ guesthouse.
A magical space he created where he could be himself, dream his dreams and plan his escape.
That attic is now the location of Conchita WURST’s ‘To The Beat‘, an upbeat electro pop song with anthemic lyrics that tell anyone that will listen, you can put him down, stand in his way at every turn and do everything you can to hurt him.
But he will still move forward, dancing to the beat of his own drum, and he will never let you destroy him.
“cover my ears, i will still hear the beat, oh
put me in chains, i will still feel all free, oh
cut off my legs, i will still walk ahead, oh
give up on me, cause i will still lead”
The emotion and imagery behind WURST’s ‘To The Beat‘ music video
What is interesting to me about WURST’s ‘To The Beat‘ music video, however, is the emotion and imagery Tom Neuwirth has chosen to use for it. Emotion and imagery that tells a lot about him, and about how he thinks and feels.
The message of the song is simple enough.
Young Tom storms up to the attic, upset about something that has been said about him or done to him.
In the corner sits WURST, dressed in an old gown and shawl, elaborate headdress and ostentatious jewelry. He notices Tom, moves out of the corner where he is sitting reading and approaches him. Offering him the book, in an attempt to cajole him out of his distress.
The video moves onto Tom and WURST playing roulette on the floor. But not any ordinary roulette. Instead it is Tom’s elaborate dream of how his grown-up life will be.
A life with pearls and diamonds. A life where he will always win.
The video then moves back and forth from Tom and WURST in the attic reading letters to now adult Tom Neuwirth in the kitchen with his Oma (grandmother), making soup and strudel, playing UNO and drinking wine. All with an underlying emotion of happiness and joy.
Young Tom is happy he has conjured an imaginary friend to help him through his loneliness and pain.
Adult Tom is happy in the kitchen with his Oma. The person I have always felt made his childhood more bearable than anyone else. The person who was his cheerleader, his shoulder to cry on, his standard bearer.
Oma was the one person who never wavered in her love for Tom. Never believed anything but that he could do what he wanted to do, be who he wanted to be, and knew he would always succeed.
(And just an aside here, but I have always felt that as strong as Tom Neuwirth is, and don’t ever let that slight figure fool you, because he is steely strong, I still wonder how well he would have done without his Oma? Because she is the person who was always his rock. Even during times when everyone else failed him).
The video finally changes back to WURST still in his extravagant flouncy gown, dancing in the attic. Alone. Just as Tom used to do and be when he was a child.
Because, while we now know young Tom gets through the troubles of his childhood, moves to Vienna, creates a successful career, wins Eurovision and becomes an international celebrity, WURST is still in the attic.
And it is that fact that tells you a lot about Tom Neuwirth now.
An artist who refuses to define himself with anyone else’s expectations. A man who looks how he wants, wears what he wants, sings what he wants, and acts how he pleases.
Regardless that many in this oh so stuffy Austrian society, and in the world in general, would prefer him not to.
Because no matter what Tom does or how he chooses to live his life, he will always be able to count on the fact that WURST will still be there for him back in the attic.
Encouraging him to live his dreams, create his perfect world, and to always dance to the beat of his own drum.
In other words, what WURST’s ‘To The Beat‘ music video and song really are, is Tom Neuwirth not only telling other people he will not let them destroy his dreams, and he will get to where he has always wanted to be, they are also Tom Neuwirth telling himself that.
And, of course, it is his homage to his Oma.
Imagery to look out for in WURST’s ‘To The Beat‘ music video
Note how everything in the attic is old-fashioned, ultra-feminine, with broken toys, the heads of dolls, and with a feel of a hark back to Austria’s imperial past. Because this is how Tom Neuwirth has always seen himself. Austria’s modern day version of Sissi, Empress of Austria. Beautiful, to be admired but only from a distance, and always tragic.
Because, even as WURST, while he tells fans he wants to be ‘more open’, in reality he still keeps himself at a distance, and how he really feels inside is still completely off limits.
While this may be purely coincidental, I am loving that WURST’s gown and headdress is reminiscent of the funny story that came out right after Conchita’s Eurovision win. “We oppose Conchita Wurst and all bearded men in dresses”, say bearded men in dresses.
It also makes me think about how Tom Neuwirth is incredibly observant, and stores everything he experiences and sees so that it can be used later in his art.
The Roman Catholic imagery — and all the judgey judgey judgey judgement and guilt that often comes with that religion.
Note the sewing machine right at the end of the video. A sewing machine on which Tom Neuwirth made his own clothes, while studying for fashion design certification, and an object that Conchita’s Eurovision Song Contest ‘golden gown’ was definitely rooted in.
WURST’s ‘To The Beat‘ music video production and song
‘To The Beat‘ was written by Eva Klampfer (Lylit) and Albin Janoska.
Tom Neuwirth — Tom, aka WURST, came up with the entire concept for the music video as he does for every one of his music videos. Yes, his artistry really is that good. He was also the Creative Director during the video shoot, and did his own hair and make-up. Dance-wise, on this, he is also a god. Because every movement expresses the intense emotion he is feeling to perfection.
André Karsai — Conchita’s former Social Media Manager, and now the CEO of her company, André Karsai was Producer and Director of the video. A music video that is his best work yet. Considering he has not only created Tom’s artistic vision superbly, but has also directed incredibly emotional scenes. The emotions flooding from WURST’s face. The joy on little Tom’s. Those utterly perfect WURST dance moments, that are a mixture of strength, power, anger, determination and pain.
Johannes Dürhammer — Camera, Editing, and Color Grading — stunning in every respect. Particularly the editing and the color grading, which are gorgeous, and bring such strong emotions into every shot.
Birgit Mörtl — Set Design and Props — A stunning recreation of Tom’s attic. And perfect from every angle, every shot, every prop used to express Tom Neuwirth’s vision.
Watch Conchita WURST’s ‘To The Beat‘ music video below, and I suggest you watch it several times. There really are so many lovely things to pay attention to.