Imagine sitting across from your partner and staring in silence for an undisclosed amount of time, to see what emotions arise from the experience. That’s the concept behind Savannah Ré’s intense video for “Opia." The Toronto-born singer and her husband, and a few other couples, and one set of strangers, take turns sitting in front of their partners to find meaning in their eyes while her somber single plays in the background. As she waxes poetically about opening y to her partner, tears fall, people laugh, and new understandings are found about what love means. Its power lies in how it falls into the cracks of what regular emotional displays equate to, showcasing how vulnerable the heart is when put into compromising positions.
“Opia” is the title track to Savannah’s debut EP of the same name that is out today and, during a Zoom call a day before its release, she describes the Brent Faiyaz-inspired body of work as a way of telling her story at the beginning of her career. “This is my full story from top to bottom and it is very emotional,” she says. “I want people to feel it and also sit with themselves and look inward afterward.”
Breaking down her debut EP Opia, Savannah Ré has detailed the project, being married, and what it will teach fans about her. Check her conversation with BET below.
BET.com: Where did the Opia name come from?
It came from Brent Faiyaz. He's in a band too called Sonder and he tweeted something to do with it. The word interested me because it sounds so close to “somber.” I Googled “Sonder,” and then something called the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows came up and it has 45 different words for feelings. "Opia" was on that list. And the meaning kind of just really jumped out to me right away.
BET.com: What was the creative process like for Opia? How long did it take to make it?
A long time. The oldest song on the project is two and a half years old, almost three years. So, we've kind of been chipping away at the project for a number of years now.
BET.com: It covers a vast amount of emotions and experiences. What kind of story are you telling with it?
It's my first project, and I want fans to know me and connect with me. This is my full story from top to bottom, and it is very emotional. I want people to feel it and also sit with themselves and look inward afterward.
BET.com: You released two songs prior to its release: “Highly Favored” and “Solid.” How did they come together?
“Highly Favored” comes from me being raised in a Christian household. While it's not a gospel song, it's definitely acknowledging God's position in my life and knowing that, at the end of the day, I’m a vessel. I’m blessed and highly favored — my mom always said that to me when I was young, so I remembered that.
And then “Solid,” it's interesting because there are sections to it that have made people tell me it made them cry or that it will be their wedding song. And that wasn’t even the intention that I had when I wrote it. Back then, it was a song about loyalty.
BET.com: So “Opia” means “invasive and vulnerability intensity.” Which songs on the EP, if any, were hard to make?
“Opia” it's probably the hardest song to make on the projects, which is why we definitely felt it was suitable to score the video of the same name. This is straight into saying things on this song that I've never even said out loud.
BET.com: So, that brings me to the video itself. Honestly, I've never seen a video so...raw. How'd you come up with the concept for that video?
I'm a very visual person, and when I read the definition of the word, the concept just popped into my head. On one of Jay-Z's albums, there was a piece with this artist and what she does is she stares at people. Strangers will come and sit in front of her, and she just stares at them. And no matter what happens, scientifically after a certain period of time, an emotion happens. So you don't know what emotion is going to be.
So, I was like, "How can I expand on this? And at the end of the day, I make the music. So, I want that. My part is the sonics, the sound. But I also wanted to create a human element to "Opia," which is why it was important for me to get an unrelated piece to the music part, one couple of strangers. That we have a queer couple, we have a couple that's just dating, and then we have my husband who is married and me. So, I just wanted to get a bunch of different people and show that there is that level of relationship between us.
BET.com: After you finished recording the video and were reviewing the footage and just seeing how everybody had a different experience, did that teach you anything about your relationship?
Absolutely. I think my husband and I have a great relationship, but there's never a time where you sit down and you have to stare at somebody. You don't have that experience before you have to. I think that experience changed us for the better. And because of all the COVID stuff, not all of us were there at the same time with a couple. So, prior to seeing the first cut, I didn't even know which reactions had happened with them. So, to kind of see everybody cry and especially the strangers, for them to have so much in common and actually not know each other, it was very, very humbling. It was a very human moment in the best of ways. We're really not that far removed from each other, even if you don't know each other.
BET.com: What do you want Opia to teach the world about you?
That I'm just like them. part of my person, part of my brand, if you would call it is, I love for people to see themselves in me and be a part of this journey. And people think after you're married, it's just like, "Oh, that's it." The only thing that it's just, this is you being married. I went through quite a bit to get here. So, it's just the journey, and I just want them to leave feeling something.
Photo: Hansel Alonzo