In 2021, Musicians Made Cake-Smashing Videos for Perfectly Baked Catharsis

Remembering all the confections we lost last year in dramatic acts of sensuality, spite, and symbolism.

I haven’t looked at a cake the same way since watching Indigo De Souza’s music video for her song “Kill Me.” Early in the video we’re presented with De Souza softly caressing the top of a blue-frosted cake as she beckons for a type of death. Then, we’re transported to a wrestling ring where two more cakes wait. A pregnant woman and a man enter the ring and begin to demolish the confections with their bodies. The video flashes between De Souza dancing and smashing the once primly decorated cake, its green insides oozing into the teal. The woman solidifies her spot as the cake-smashing winner, sitting on top of her opponent and finishing him off by plastering his crotch with cake. It’s a colorful, cathartic, messy, and sensual performance. 

Cake is sort of weird when you think about it—bakers spend hours preparing the glamorous dessert to be dressed to sugary perfection, only for it to be devoured in celebration immediately after. And on some occasions it isn’t expected to be cut properly with a fork, but smothered in one’s face. Smashing cake has been a ritual for birthdays and weddings. It’s even turned into a profitable fetish.

Cakes have always been a temporary bliss—indulgent sweets celebrating special occasions. Romans used cakes as offerings to the gods, in addition to breaking it over a bride’s head to symbolize good luck. In East Yorkshire, part of the bride’s cake is thrown over the couple’s heads in order to ensure they “will want for nothing.” As the science behind baking expanded and the ingredients became more expensive, the more cake became a sign of affluence. I mean, even since the unverifiable myth of Marie Antoinette, the sweet sponge has become a loaded symbol for status, glutton, and glamor. 

So isn’t smashing cake sort of subversive? It definitely felt that way this year with artists taking their anger out on the yummy creations. Since 2020, we’ve collectively been losing our minds, and I think we’ve been continuing to lose them in new ways. Maybe it’s the decision to get lost in bingeable Netflix or HBO series, or the dedication to self-care with cooking and eating homemade meals. Most likely you’ve turned to a form of hedonism—something big or small that would guarantee a serotonin burst. But pure hedonism is never sustainable. Whether it’s a hangover or a headache, too much of anything doesn’t come without consequences. 

After giving in to a year of doing anything to maintain sanity while locked inside, smashing cake remained as a common cathartic image throughout the year. On Connie Constance’s explosive single “Prim & Propa,” the British singer dismisses societal value based on financial limitations, and that a lush lifestyle defines character or happiness. “It’s about looking at that big white house and the perfect grass and saying, ‘Yeah, nah, not for me, mate—not without my people enjoying it with me,’” she said of the track. In the accompanying visual, Constance wears white, bridal lingerie and smashes a white cake with a pink baseball bat on a loop. It’s an act of defiance against anticipated elegance; paired with the song, it emphasizes Constance’s denial of societal norms and a revolt against anticipated perception.

It’s a pointed destruction of aesthetic that’s similar to The Armed’s “Average Death” music video. Bizarre characters each inhabit bright monochrome rooms—a rich teal, a vibrant lime green, yellow mustard, a pale blush. One character is a freshly tanned bodybuilder. Another, is a corseted botanic starlet. After a minute of The Armed’s cascading punches, they begin to shove cake, equally as vibrant as their backgrounds, into their mouths. It’s intriguing and somewhat disgusting, the intensely hued crumbs making these slowed-down images both pretty and grotesque. The group’s intention with the video was explained by frontman Dan Greene, who stated its mission was to be “equal parts mesmerizing and uncomfortable.” He described it as “the harshest, most beautiful, most hideous thing we could make.”

And even when destroying cake wasn’t concerned with smashing conventions of beauty standards or status, it helped underscore frustrations and elations of the heart. The pivotal moment where Taylor Swift’s chorus on “I Bet You Think About Me” coincides with her showing up at an ex-lover’s wedding and ripping into the cake, revealing the symbolic color red. And in Snail Mail’s epic return with her single “Valentine,” she smashes cake into her face during the middle of the chorus when she witnesses her heart’s devotion in another man’s arms. At the song’s end, after a violent (and surprising!) altercation occurs, Lindsay Jordan is covered in blood and stuffs cake in her mouth. At one point, she smears it on her face amidst the blood. Neither of the videos show these musicians primly consuming this delicacy. Instead, Swift’s behavior is spiteful, symbolic of her memory plaguing every moment of her ex’s life. And Jordan’s chomping is out of anger and desire, indulging in consumption and comfort. 

The most sensual cake moment from 2021 came with Troye Sivan’s “Angel Baby” video. Sivan sings about wanting to make blissful moments last a lifetime, abating a fear that nothing in the future would compare. The Luke Gilford–directed film is an artistic celebration of touch. In one scene, two lovers embrace each other by rubbing strawberry shortcake over each other. Cake exfoliant might not sound as sexy as it plays out in the visual, but Gilford makes the point that bodily desire is human hunger. 

“Angel” is the most explicit of the videos here that use cake as a conduit for human connection. But whether it’s Jordan stuffing her face amidst a romantic fantasy, or De Souza reminding us that cake-smashing is an art (and maybe even a metaphor for control), these visuals were a strange reminder of the tactile deficiency of the past couple years. For centuries, cake consumption has been a ritual of celebration and incorporated into many societal norms. But in 2021, smashing cake was evidence that our sense of normalcy was destroyed and somehow continues to shrink. This sugary smash seemed like an anti-celebration that almost felt like a reclamation of sorts. Why settle for having your cake or eating it, when smashing it is more fun? FL

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