The song “Haunted” comes from Beyonce’s 2013 self-titled visual album, Beyonce. It is a two part song that has been divided into two music videos. The first half of the song is portrayed in the video, “Ghost,” and the last four minutes of the song are visualized in “Haunted.” The song was written and produced by Beyonce herself and the music video is directed by Jonas Åkerlund, a Swedish director who has created music videos for notable artists including: Lady Gaga, Madonna, and Britney Spears.
At the beginning of the video, Beyoncé arrives at an opulent mansion. She enters the estate, which seems to come alive at her arrival. After being greeted by the butler, she tosses her coat aside and reveals a sleek black suit that matches her short, 30s-inspired hairdo.
She continues into the house and instead of engaging with any of the guests within the house, she merely gazes into each room that she passes. We are given glimpses into the scenes unfolding in the rooms and they are definitely haunting. There are depictions of orgies, Wednesday Adams look-alikes, actors in gas masks, and other erotic scenarios. This is melded in between clips of Beyoncé singing the song while dancing and writhing on a bed, which is surrounded by lingerie-clad dancers.
There is nothing suggestive about this music video; it is a voyeuristic mirage of sexual desire and fetishism. The theme of subculture is also prevalent. Within the scenes, the director chose to include fantasies that are ostracized in our society such as BDSM, group sex, interracial partners, and extreme age gaps.
It has been widely compared to Madonna’s 1990 music video for her song “Justify My Love,” and with good reason. Both women are portrayed wandering down a hallway and gazing in on sexual scenes as they pass. However, Beyoncé’s video is a more modern and slightly creepier take.
Among fans, there has been much discussion about the choice to lighten her skin tone in the video. Some believe that it was a morally questionable decision, considering her sway among women, especially among women of color. Although there is a definite stigma that presents lighter skin tones as more desirable among women of color, the choice to lighten her skin tone in this instance was in order to match the sullen, ghostly mood of the video. It added to the ambience of the visuals as well as the starkness of Beyoncé’s look in the video.
“Haunted” plays on the sexual themes that color her fifth album. Throughout the album, she asserts that she is taking charge of her image, and the fact that she is not ashamed of her sexuality. This video is an admission of her need to stress the capability that women have to be more than just demure, wilting flowers. She’s testing new waters and bringing more of an artistic edge to her videos and songs. Along with director Jonas Åkerlund, she has created something that is darker and more evocative than her other work.