DENNY “Woke up in the Hills”, and they’d like you to know how it felt.

By Gabriela Caeli Sumampow

The alternative-indie song speaks of success, and that’s supposed to be a wonderful experience, but when you’re accompanied by ego and blind ambition, no way José! DENNY utilizes “Woke Up In The Hills” to show the emotional turbulence that comes with fame, as well as the results of going down a “proverbial rabbit hole” that ends in darkness.

The music video opens with DENNY’s lead singer, Alexander Rollins, hugging his knees. At first sight, his movements may lead us to think he’s drunk. He is continuously tormented by a man portrayed by the band’s multi-instrumentalist, Randon Nelson, before ending up in an elevator with his hands running up the buttons to press a certain level. However, this series of events – although misleading at first sight – shows a dazed Rollins waking up from a recurring nightmare.

If a “nightmare” is enough to turn him into such an intoxicated state, then one can only imagine how tormenting it was. After all, the main message of the music video is that being famous has its own downfalls, and the deterioration an individual’s psychological health (like nightmares that affect a person physically), violation of privacy to some extent, pressure of having to meet public expectations, are just some of the many examples.

The music video takes a darker turn during the second verse as we now find Rollins walking around a shady field – not knowing where he is. Following this, a car stops in front of him and he is dragged to its trunk. There is a coincidence in how Rollins is pulled in the van as he sings “She painted a fool, she pulled me in”, thus providing deeper meaning to the line which is repeated in both verses of the song.

The way DENNY describes the female  he speaks of in the song (as heard in the continuous use of third person female pronouns in the verses) expresses his infatuation and attraction to her charms. The lyrics “she painted a fool, she pulled me in” is the pivotal point of the song as it marks the beginning of his journey down the “proverbial rabbit hole” – resulting in darkness. Rollins’ infatuation results in him being a fool (thus, where the idea of blind ambition comes in) and following wherever the “female” pulls him into – even to a dark place. When speaking about unexpected success, “the hills” themselves reflect the state of being famous – being on top of the world, in other words.

The two lines were repeated to show that if Rollins wasn’t a fool and allowed himself to be pulled in, he would not wake up in the hills and meet a bad ending. As stated earlier, “she painted a fool, she pulled me in” is marks a turn of events and the beginning of the rising action as Rollins is locked in the van. He “woke up in the hills” and the music video as well as the mood of the instrumental showed how dark it was, although the state of being famous is usually sugar coated with glitz and glamour.  

Rollins’ kidnapping is exactly what DENNY suggested with the “darkness” that was at the end of the said proverbial rabbit hole. Seeing him in the van is the first time we get a clear view of his face, and his shocked expression connotes a sudden sense of awareness. The song, on the other hand, reaches its bridge with an instrumental that’s so soft it’s almost inaudible. Thus, it further emphasizes the importance of this certain part of the music video and the song.

Rollins has come to his senses and his widened eyes show awareness of his current whereabouts. This sense of realization usually happens when an individual blindly follows a path to “the hills” and experiences a dark situation, which therefore results in regret. DENNY teaches a life-long lesson to their listeners in the most aesthetic and dark way, showing them that regret and a terrible fate is often the result of blindly following a path to success.

As the final head-banger of a chorus breaks in, the drummer Sully finally makes an appearance after Rollins is dragged out from the van and thrown onto a pile of snow. He wears a mask, paying homage to a horror movie named “The Purge”, and holds a gun. Ending the music video with the last “I woke up in the hills” lyrics is an ending that is guaranteed to leave viewers wondering.

We don’t know what happens to Rollins next, but one can always assume a horrifying end to the music video.

The song was inspired by a love of self, but not the kind where an individual accepts and appreciates him/herself without continuously pointing out his/her own flaws and beating him/herself up for it. The type of self-love in this case is one accompanied by ego and blind ambition, which is why DENNY expresses what it feels like to “wake up in the hills” and find out that they are dark and devoid of the success they promise.

Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!

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