There are layers to violinist and singer-songwriter Joe Kye‘s new video for “Stick on Me” from album Migrants. Musically, it moves, Kye’s songbird-sweet voice is as dynamic as his nimble string work, his chorus the kind that sticks in the head for all the right reasons. Visually, it pops, cartoon overlays applied sparingly to already vibrant scenes that relay the story of three children – Henry, Kim, and Chloe – as they use all their unassuming genius and creativity to liberate Kye from a dimly lit prison cell. There’s more ideology here, though, than meets the eye.
“Like many other young people who grew up as an immigrant and as a person of color in America,” says Korean-born, Seattle-raised Kye, “I’ve had many experiences, some more blatant than others, that suggested I didn’t belong here, that I should leave. There’s no greater symbol of this sentiment than the current policy of separating families and incarcerating immigrant children at our border.” As Kye leaves the cell, there’s solemn gratitude on his face, his slow-motion walk with our heroes ending the video on a somber note as it evokes the real immigrant families who have yet to experience the same freedom.
That a visibly diverse group of children take the lead in Kye’s story is no accident. “The video reads like a short film; it has a Wes Anderson aesthetic without Wes Anderson casting,” he says. Kye notes that the cast members “make up an interesting representation of America, each with their own unique skillset and differences that allow them to contribute individually to a common goal”. It’s the American dream as it should be, Kye reaching across the divide with music to try and heal it – for everyone.
“Stick on me / And go lick your wounds / And we’ll grow together,” he sings in his refrain. It’s a message of empathy for all struggles, including those of the current administration’s supporters. Their suffering, says Kye, “affects how they move about the world, and their feelings that the world they should be living in does not include me”. The hope that Kye lifts in “Stick on Me” is a hope for the well-being of everyone – especially immigrant children.
“I had my parents,” continues Kye. “That access to family is so huge, especially in times of hardship. It is so imperative for basic humanity. So when I think of these kids whom I feel a connection to, having also immigrated to a foreign country at a young age, the fact that these kids don’t have access to their families is devastating.”
With “Stick on Me”, Kye, in his sonorous way, demands compassion. “We have to confront this truth that we are incarcerating children and separating families who, just like the monarch butterfly or the humpback whale, are migrating for the purpose of sustenance and life,” he concludes. “We need to rise to the challenge and give of ourselves.”