“I wanted to create something that was like the early-2000s music I grew up listening to but make it unapologetically gay.” Toronto-based musician Quinn Bates, also known as Quarterback, discusses the
newly released music video for his R&B dance single “Swerve.” It’s a colourful and highly stylized video that he describes as, “an homage to Hype Williams.”
In many ways, Hype Williams—who directed videos for artists like TLC, Missy Elliott, and Aaliyah—is responsible for much of the imagery we now associate with the late ’90s and early aughts. From fisheye lens distortions to all-white backdrops, Quarterback’s “Swerve”, which is directed by Dylan Mitro, is a successful reimagining of Williams’s canonical Black imagery. It even offers a nod to the iconic opening sequence of Williams’ 1998 movie Belly by recreating its blacklight-induced fluorescent purples and glow-in-the-dark eyes. But unlike the Belly sequence, which follows DMX and Nas as they walk through a strip club, “Swerve” instead depicts Quarterback singing about boys and doing playful choreo. “I love Hype Williams,” says the artist. “It was fun to take something I love and see it through a queer gaze.”
Trained in classical opera and musical theatre, Quarterback got into R&B because it allowed for greater authenticity. “I wanted to create music that expressed who I was; I wanted to make stuff that was talking
about fatness, queerness, and Blackness,” he says. “That’s what lead me to creating Quarterback—a character that is playing off of the hypermasculinity of a quarterback.” The single, which begins as an R&B track but transforms into a booming dance track, pairs the artist’s timeless, velvety vocals with bright, contemporary production. “In a way, it represents the duality of who I am as an artist.”
“Swerve” also foreshadows the artist’s upcoming album, which he says will lean further into the playfulness of pop. “My songs are about my breakups, my biggest and deepest insecurities, and my sexuality, but it’s done with a self-awareness of the silliness of pop,” he says. For Quarterback, lightheartedness and earnestness hold equal weight. “A huge thing that inspires me in writing pop music is creating songs that people can sing out that make them feel good about themselves,” he says. “Pop is about community-building, it’s about unity, it’s about bringing people together.” In its strikingly subversive visuals and a sound both gritty and refined, “Swerve” invites us to embrace duality, sensuality, self-assuredness, and fun.
Photos by Dylan Mitro. Outfits designed by Jay Aragoza