The function of a music video is to enhance the song. Most of the time, as in the great video for Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt,” it is by reinforcing and deepening the context of the lyrics. Or you can cheerfully subvert them, as in the case of “Bar Room Queen.”
The lyrics concern a dominatrix bartender whose existence is encompassed in a dungeon of a bar, grubbing money from submissive customers. She is, as rhyme dictates, mean. By the end of three verses, she is revealed as a faded beauty “way downtown on Cary.” While the words are dark, the music is cheery, a brightly rolling, syncopated piano accompaniment.
Taken on its face, it’s a catchy, if vaguely misogynistic revenge song- akin to Robbin Thompson’s “All Alone in the End Zone.” But Kingsley is just having fun, not settling scores. With his polished vocals and NOLA accompaniment, “Bar Room Queen” goes down as easily as a rail cocktail. It could even be top shelf, with the right twist of self-awareness or a dash of sympathy.
Which is exactly what the video provides. It starts with two nattily-dressed guys (Kingsley and drummer Jordan Stoll) getting a cold welcome at an anything but dank establishment- the urbane, well-lit Savory Grain. They get rejected and ejected with a two-for-one Three Stooges face slap from the “mean” bartender of the song. Contrary to the lyric, she is not a “victim of father time” but a pretty girl with long dark hair (The Folly’s Anneliese Grant) who’s shown dancing and doing shots with her friends.
In case anyone misses the point, it ends with Grant’s cold glare brightening into a big smile, followed by outtakes of cast and crew partying, with Kingsley, in his signature diving bell helmet. If the song was written in the burning heat of anger, it’s faded to heat lightning on a midsummer evening.