BY KORY GROW
QUEEN KWONG PERFORMS a pole dance for a dirty rat in a new video for “The Mourning Song,” a track off her recent Couples Only album. “I’ve only ever loved one man and you weren’t that guy,” she sings over deceptively gentle indie-rock guitars. “But I tried and I tried.” As she describes the breakdown of a relationship — “You said it would be the end of my life,” she sings, “But at least I’m not dead inside” — it builds to her repeating, “Mourning will break your heart,” as the screen splits into kaleidoscopic extremes.
“‘The Mourning Song’ is probably the most personal and blunt song on the record,” the singer, whose real name is Carré Callaway, said in a statement, “so I wanted the video to be equally as bold and vulnerable.” The clip was filmed and produced by an all-female or nonbinary cast and crew. Filmmaker Tammy Sanchez directed the video, which was shot at the L.A. strip club Jumbo’s Clown Room.
“Alongside director Tammy Sanchez, a queer, femme visionary, and an all-female and non-binary crew, we removed the male gaze and replaced it with pride,” Callaway said. “We shot the video at Hollywood’s famous bikini bar Jumbo’s Clown Room last summer, but its release was delayed because of recent legal action. Now that I’m on the other side of that, this video release means even more to me. It represents women’s power, artistic expression, and refusal to be quiet. It’s time to be fearless and proud.”
Last year, Callaway explained that one line from the song, “Now the tires lost air and Daisy died,” was based in part on her breakup and eventual divorce from Limp Bizkit guitarist Wes Borland. In 2019, when the marriage collapsed, she was given only three days to leave the house where she and Borland had been rescuing cats, she told Bandcamp Daily.
“We had seven or eight cats of our own, and when everything fell apart, one thing that made me realize things were really over was his desire to not only get rid of me, but the cats too,” she said. “There was a disabled one called Daisy. She died a week after he left because he was the only one who could care for her. That’s the hardest thing to get over, honestly … I still have nightmares about it.”
Earlier this year, Borland filed a legal motion asking a judge to sanction Callaway for making the above statement, claiming it violated a defamation clause in their divorce agreement. The statements, his lawyer claimed, “adversely affect Mr. Borland’s public image and reputation that he has built over a twenty-plus–year career.”
This month, a judge ruled that Callaway’s claims did not, in fact, hurt the reputation of the “Break Stuff” and “Nookie” songwriter. “In the Bandcamp Daily article, [Callaway] expressed her opinions, frustrations, and the struggles of her divorce from [Borland],” Judge Helal A. Farhat of the Third Judicial Circuit, Family Division, in Wayne County in Michigan wrote in the ruling. “Ms. Callaway did not specifically indicate that [Borland] was the cause of her being ‘broke and homeless.’”
“I made a record that I’m very proud of,” Callaway told Rolling Stone at the time of the ruling. “It’s painfully real and honest, and I think that was enough to cause Wes discomfort and displeasure. As a result, he attempted to weaponize my record’s lyrics and press coverage against me in a frivolous legal action. This was an act of intimidation via a court system with the intent of disrupting my career and shutting me up. Which, unfortunately, is a common bullying tactic used by people in positions of power to evade accountability and intimidate women into silence.
“Though it was an emotionally and financially exhaustive battle, I’m glad I chose to fight it,” she continued. “The judge made the right decision and freedom of speech and art prevailed. I’m relieved to be walking away with my voice and I hope this outcome will deter similar attacks against women and artists in the future.”