Bill Nighy Plays Florence Welch’s Anxiety in Florence + the Machine’s New Music Video for ‘Free’

Actor Bill Nighy makes an unexpected appearance in Florence + the Machine’s new music video for “Free.” He plays an even more interesting role: lead singer Florence Welch’s anxiety. It’s a thought-provoking concept, something prevalent in the alternative group’s other videos released in the Dance Fever campaign so far.

“Free” and its video reiterates that Florence + the Machine’s upcoming album will be one of their most cathartic records.

Florence Welch performing with Florence + the Machine in Torino, 2019.
Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine | Alessandro Bosio/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Bill Nighy plays Florence Welch’s anxiety in Florence + the Machine’s new music video for ‘Free’

Along with Dance Fever‘s other three singles, “My Love,” “King,” and “Heaven Is Here,” “Free” was directed by Autumn de Wilde.

Welch dances and sings in the same apartment complex in “King” and “Heaven Is Here” and in a 1920s nightclub in “My Love.” However, in “Free,” the lead singer and Nighy act out their little play in a banquet hall and surrounding areas.

Like the rest of the singles, Welch and de Wilde perfectly manifest strong imagery for the themes present in Welch’s singing. In the beginning, Welch sings about her anxiety. “Sometimes I wonder if I should be medicated/ If I would feel better just lightly sedated/ The feeling comes so fast and I cannot control it/ I’m on fire, but I’m trying not to show it.”

Nighy is never far away. As her anxiety, he mirrors her movement and constantly talks on the phone while drinking coffee, two things many people do when anxious. Meanwhile, it’s as if the walls around Welch are too confining. She’s stuck with Nighy and needs to break free.

Eventually, she does. She runs away, making a grand exit from the place. Anxiety is still with her but not as close. Welch starts singing about how music helps her through. She dances her frustrations out, singing, “And I hear the music/ I feel the beat/ And for a moment when I’m dancing / I am free…”

In the end, though, Welch and Nighy embrace. Welch can seemingly bear it all thanks to dance. Or maybe she chooses not to and instead dances her way through it while being anxiety’s friend. They look out at what appears to be a cemetery in Kyiv, Ukraine, ironically. The band dedicated the video to “the spirit, creativity, and perseverance of our brave Ukrainian friends.”

They filmed the video in the country’s capital in 2021. Now, it could be an anthem of sorts for those who feel trapped in a dangerous country.

RELATED: Florence + the Machine’s ‘King’ Decries Double Standard for Female Artists

Florence + the Machine’s ‘Free’ is the best single so far

So far, “Free” is the best single off Dance Fever. It has a good beat and melody.

On “King” and “Heaven Is Here,” Welch sings powerful lyrics, but there is barely any melody against the bone-breaking drum beat. “Heaven Is Here” sounds more like a medieval chant, and “King” sounds like a protest song.

However, “Free” has that quintessential Florence + the Machine melody. First and foremost, it’s a dance song, which is what the song is all about. Its electronic beat sounds similar to the She Wants Revenge song, “Tear You Apart.” The chorus is catchy.

Most of all, the song is relatable, like “My Love.” Both will undoubtedly be remixed and played at nightclubs worldwide, which Welch hoped. She wanted nightclubs to play Dance Fever when people returned to them.

RELATED: Jack Antonoff ‘Loved Nothing More’ Than Working on ‘King’ by Florence and the Machine

‘Dance Fever’ seems to be a cathartic record

The singles off Dance Fever feel very cathartic. According to NME, Florence + the Machine recorded the album during the pandemic, and many of the world’s problems at the time found their way into Welch’s songwriting.

For instance, “Free” could be about the constraints of lockdown and the anxiety many felt, wondering about the world’s fate. In “My Love,” Welch could be singing about having writer’s block brought on by quarantine.

She sings, “I was always able to write my way out/ The song always made sense to me/ Now I find that when I look down/ Every page is empty/ There is nothing to describe.” When she sings, “I pray the trees will get their leaves soon,” that could mean she can’t wait for the world to heal and get back to normal.

Welch had nowhere to put her love because we were all separated. All she could do was wait. “And when it came, it was stranger than I had ever imagined/ No cracking open of Heaven/ But quiеt and still (All my friends are getting ill).”

Writing both songs was cathartic, but so were “King” and “Heaven Is Here.” In “King,” Welch sings about the double standard most female artists face in the music industry, deciding between having families and continuing their careers. In “Heaven Is Here,” Welch said she wanted to write something “monstrous.”

Welch has returned to fans after reaching into the inner depths of her soul to reveal her biggest struggles. If the four singles bear this much feeling and catharsis, the rest of Dance Fever will undoubtedly follow suit. Since its themes can resonate with everyone, it’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser. It already is.

RELATED: Stevie Nicks Felt She Influenced This Florence and the Machine Song