What’s the best way to make people care about the dozens of black lives we’ve lost to recent crimes of racial injustice? Force your fans to watch a video that won’t let you take your eyes off the screen … literally. That’s the aim for Usher and Nas’s new protest song, “Chains,” featuring Bibi Bourelly (who wrote Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money”), for which they’ve released a striking interactive video today for free on Tidal. Using technology from your computer’s webcam (in either Firefox or Chrome), the video commands you not to look away from the faces of Trayvon Martin, Rekia Boyd, Sean Bell, and other blacks whose lives ended under suspicious circumstances. If you try to distract yourself from the harsh reality of their deaths by switching to another tab or window, both the music and video will automatically stop. (Creepily, anytime my eyes wandered, even while still on the video’s page, it would pause, and the words “Don’t look away” would pop up instead.)
But it isn’t just the video that takes a firm political stance; the song is equally outraged. “We’re still in chains. You put the shame on us,” Usher sings more furiously than he ever has, suggesting that slavery is far from over. He also calls out just whom America’s lax gun-control laws endanger the most: “American school and we in church too (Don’t shoot) / Shooting, shooting, shooting, we the prey.” Nas enters the song sounding just as fed up as Usher. “I am no prison commodity, not just a body you throw in a cell,” he raps, later referencing a conversation he had with Tamir Rice’s mother. Usher will reportedly perform the song for the first time next week at Tidal’s benefit concert along with the families of some of the victims whose eyes you won’t be able to look away from in this intense, effective video.