It’s Freaky Friday for Jhené Aiko. The soulful songstress has unveiled the darkly sexual visuals for her provocative new song “Maniac.”
In the self-directed clip, Aiko gets tied to a hospital bed in an asylum styled set. As Jhené sings about being a “maniac” in bed, she is bound and gagged in wheelchair surrounded by faceless doctors. Later, the tables have turned, she’s free from her binds and is straddling a mannequin.
“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 released the single last November alongside an art project directed by photographer Steven Taylor. For the project and the single’s cover art, the singer was tied up in a style representative of Japanese rope bondage art shibari.
“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.”
The R&B singer’s upcoming sophomore album follows her 2014 debut Souled Out. Last year, she teamed with now-boyfriend Big Sean on the collaborative LP Twenty88.