Gavin Filipiak’s noir-ish direction of Pet Shop Boys’ latest single from Super, “Twenty-something,” is not the only surprising element about the visual accompaniment to a track that paints the picture, “Twenty-something in the mix/Always that ironic twist.” With Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe themselves excluded from the video, we’re instead given a glimpse into the life of a recently released from prison gang banger living in San Diego.
His reception back into his house is mixed, with his wife disappointed in his inability to pay bills and adequately support their two children (she’s also got another on the way), leading our anti-hero to kneel subconsciously before the crucified Jesus in front of him for guidance–because it wouldn’t be a Pet Shop Boys music video without some sort of religious iconography reflecting the duo’s decades of guilt simply from possessing a Catholic background (see: “It’s A Sin”). And then, of course, there is the symbolism of every released inmate being, for all intents and purposes, destined to be continually crucified for their actions thereafter.
Not wanting to fall back into his old ways, the former gang banger tries to find his path on the straight and narrow, renouncing his former gang members by appearing in front of them in a proverbial monkey suit as he attempts to find a job that honors the phrase “honest living.” But it seems that everywhere he goes, his application with the predictable admission of being convicted of a felony leads even those in the fast food industry to throw his resume in the trash.
Intermixed with sweeping overhead shots of the San Diego area, Filipiak lends an enduring sense of hopelessness and helplessness throughout the entire video–as though this man is doomed to fail no matter how he tries to fight against his fate. A notice on his apartment to vacate the premises seals the final nail in the coffin of his return to gang life, with no other viable options for making money presented to him. It’s very much the embodiment of that term, “vicious cycle.” A phrase all too fitting not just for the prison system of America, but for being in one’s twenties. It is thus that Pet Shop Boys have found an even deeper meaning to the song with its music video.