The “Freaky Queen” Senhit has dropped the first video in her #FreakyTripToRotterdam series of Eurovision covers. But her reinterpretation of Teo’s 2014 song “Cheesecake” takes the song in an unexpected direction and makes powerful statements.
It’s a long road to Eurovision 2021, but Senhit — who will again represent San Marino — is treating fans to a series of cover versions from the Eurovision back catalogue with videos made in collaboration with her artistic director Luca Tommassini.
Back in 2014, Belarus’ Teo delivered the smooth R&B track “Cheesecake”, serving an Eastern European take on Robin Thicke. But Senhit has ripped that up and presented the song’s lyrics in a new light.
When Teo sang “Cheesecake”, it was a playful tune about a man trying to get out of a troublesome romantic relationship. But with her music video Senhit has recontextualised the “Cheesecake” lyrics to pick up on the Black Lives Matter movement, examining the relationship that Black men have with law enforcement authorities.
Senhit – “Cheesecake” music video
In the video, Senhit sports an androgynous look, wearing a suit and with her hair styled in an angular flat-top style. The Eritrean Italian diva’s face is painted with black makeup and red lips, evoking the blackface minstrel style. This is a bold statement — other Black artists have also used blackface makeup to make social commentary.
The look is especially reminiscent of the iconic Jamaican diva Grace Jones who wore dark makeup in a famous portrait created by her partner Jean-Paul Goude. Jones and Goude’s bold style — mixing high fashion and music and blurring the lines of gender and race — is an influence on the “Cheesecake” video.
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Get ready! On Wednesday the #FreakyQueen @senhitofficial will launch her #FreakyTripToRotterdam! She’s treating the world to a new #Eurovision inspired video EVERY MONTH ? Her team tells us: “Each month a different song will be reinterpreted by her, with the artistic direction of Luca Tommasini, becoming not a simple video clip but a real work of art. In each video, Senhit will make a transformation in look and style, wrapped in a re?ned and unique scenography.” #esc2021 #eurovision2021 #eurovision #eurovisionsongcontest
Senhit brings Black Lives Matter into the video by having Senhit play off a “hot cop”. Rather than dominating over Senhit as a strong authority figure, the cop is serving her. He’s sweeping the floor as she attends to business at her desk; he brings her a banana on a platter.
Senhit lures the cop to the bedroom where — fully clothed! — they engage in certain positions, ending up with Senhit in a position of dominance.
In this context, Teo’s lyrics take on a different meaning. When Senhit sings “I don’t wanna be your boy”, there is the sense of the offensive meaning of “boy” — a black slave worker. And the lyrics “I look over all the maps trying to escape ’cause I’m tired of your sweet cheesecake” now takes on a new meaning, of an oppressed person trying to escape their oppressor.
There are other layers too. Senhit is playing with gender roles. While she is dressed in an androgynous style, sometimes there is a strong masculine vibe to her, other times feminine. The video also has a playful homoerotic flavour at times, with the hot cop, Senhit and the cheesecake.
And there’s an art explosion, with visual references to Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Roy Lichtenstein. There’s even a cameo appearance from a dog. And we should note — the video is a lot of fun.
But in case there was any doubt as to the overarching message of Senhit’s “Cheesecake”, the video ends with a quote from Archbishop Desmond Tutu:
The “Cheesecake” video is the first in Senhit’s #FreakyTripToRotterdam. In the lead-up to Eurovision 2021, Senhit will be dropping one video per month, covering a Eurovision song from the past.
Working with artistic director Luca Tommassini — the genius behind Senhit’s “FREAKY!” video and many a scene for Madonna — she’ll once again encourage everyone to unleash the freak within. It’s a celebration of European music which will let the “Freaky Queen” once again bring people together — just as she did with her #freakydance at the height of the European pandemic.
Her team promises: “Each month a different song will be reinterpreted by her, with the artistic direction of Luca Tommasini, becoming not a simple video clip but a real work of art. In each video, Senhit will make a transformation in look and style, wrapped in a reﬁned and unique scenography.”