Michael Kiwanuka’s “You’ve Got Nothing Left to Lose” is a study in contrasts. Last year, the U.K.-born soul singer/guitarist met up with roots-music connoisseur Jack White, who produced the track and is releasing it on his Third Man Records Label. On the tune, Kiwanuka’s delivery is tender and unhurried, referencing the gentle style of Bill Withers. As Kiwanuka delivers solemn advice about growing up to his son, his acoustic guitar plays against the delicate timbre of his voice, adding a muscular but melancholy backing.
Meanwhile, in the video, director James Cathcart continues the examination of differences. A transgender woman makes her way through the city, carrying a birthday gift, alternatively accepted by a “good ol’ boy” in a bar and ridiculed by a teenager on the bus. Only when she reaches her destination is the purpose of her journey revealed.
“When I’m directing a music video, I like to take the song’s literal meaning and twist it just a little with the imagery,” Cathcart tells Rolling Stone. “By letting the aural and visual aspects play off each other, both become more dynamic. It’s about misleading perceptions — not just in terms of the character’s gender, but also from what we expect of the people she encounters.”