According to various outlets, the video honors the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting which occurred in June 2016 in Orlando, Florida.
Directed by Sia and Daniel Askill and choreographed by Ryan Heffington, the video stars Maddie Ziegler, the young dancer who also brought Sia’s visions to life in videos for “Chandelier,” “Elastic Heart,” “Cheap Thrills” and “Big Girls Cry.”
The clip starts on a black screen with the words #WEAREYOURCHILDREN printed across. Then, we see a crying Ziegler wiping paint under her eyes, as if crying rainbow tears, or perhaps applying warpaint for battle. A large group of kids lies on the ground below her, motionless, and she begins screaming (though we don’t hear her), urging the kids to get up.
Once the music starts, the group begins moving in unison, with Maddie leading the charge. Attitude reports that the children represent the victims killed in the deadliest mass shooting in America’s history ― “49 dancers for 49 lives lost,” as the magazine put it. With lyrics like, “Don’t give up, I won’t give up / Don’t give up, no no no” and “Running out of breath but I / oh I I got stamina,” it’s hard not to draw those parallels.
The kids dance through an old house, eventually coming together as one group. They jump up and down, moving together as a single entity (much like individuals would at a club as music blares through the speakers) before collapsing to the ground, leaving behind the haunting visual of bodies on the floor.
Writers from numerous media outlets, including E! Online, Cosmopolitan, Variety, People magazine, concluded that the video was a tribute to the victims of the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting. The video opens with a low drone and cuts between shots of a fraught Maddie Ziegler smearing rainbow colors on her cheeks. She frees 48 other young people trapped in a cage (49 being the number of people killed in the shooting); their freedom is shortlived, however. Later, a wall is seen riddled with bullet holes as everyone falls to the ground, and tears stream down Ziegler’s face. Kornhaber wrote:
Absent of any social context, it’s all striking and beautiful and ineffably sad. With the knowledge that it was inspired by queer youths and friends gunned down in the act of coming together and enjoying themselves, it becomes almost unbearably poignant. Sia keeps singing about having stamina; Kendrick Lamar’s verse, omitted from the video, is all about surviving adversity and haters. What’s so potent about the video—and so specifically awful about this massacre—is that its subjects do seem to have struggled and triumphed to find the freedom to flip out together, and they are still cut down. It’s bookended by Ziegler crying: As is appropriate, there’s no take-home moral to make what happened seem okay.