R&B singer JHENÉ AIKO is also now a “maniac” of a music video director as well. In the darkly sexual new single and its asylum based video, she can be seen tied to a hospital bed and in a wheelchair, completely in character, as she sings about being a maniac in bed. It also include a solitary confinement scene that Rolling Stone affectionately compared to FX’s American Horror Story.
“There are so many layers to my personality. One of them is very sexual and ‘Maniac’ is me sharing that side of myself,” Aiko tells Rolling Stone.
“When I started putting together the concept for the ‘Maniac’ visual, I wanted to explore what it meant to be manic.” To that end, the singer researched old asylums, watched movies on the topic and learned the “bizarre techniques that were used back in the day to treat mental patients.”
“I learned that lots of women were admitted for absurd reasons, including being ‘nymphomaniacs’ and were basically tortured in the name of treatment,” Aiko says. “Ironically, I released ‘Maniac’ at a time where I had recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, so my interest in the research was genuine. I think we all have some sort of imbalance, but I also believe that we can overcome it. I find my balance through creating art. The ‘Maniac’ visual is the story of a mental patient who finds her own cure.”
Aiko first released “Maniac” last November in tandem with an art project directed by photographer Steven Taylor.
“One of the things I love about creating visuals is that I get to act out my fantasies,” Aiko says. “Shibari was something I’ve always found interesting and wanted to try. Being tied up in general is something I’ve always found exciting. I’ve always liked a little pain with my pleasure. Most of the props that I used in the ‘Maniac’ visual are actual sex toys that I bought myself, including the gag and restraints. Being tied up, gagged and caged were all treatment techniques used in asylums back in the day. Being tied up, gagged and caged are also forms of pleasure for some people … who some may call crazy … maniacs even.”
Inspired, she then created her own Japanese-like visual to serve as the corresponding cover. “Maniac” will be part of Jhené Aiko’s yet to be titled sophomore album. Her 2014 debut Souled Out received praise from tastemakers, topping the R&B/Hip Hop album chart, and reaching number 3 on the Billboard 200. Watch “Maniac” above.