Melody Set Me Free

Kalup Linzy (b. 1977) Melody Set Me Free, 2007 Digital video, color, sound TRT: 15 minutes 10 sec (00:15:10) The Studio Museum in Harlem; Museum purchase with funds provided by the Acquisition Committee 2009.1

Melody Set Me Free revolves around protagonist Patience O’Brien, played by Kalup Linzy, who leaves her hometown to become a singer over the protestations and discouragement of her mother. Appearing in drag, Linzy lip-synchs to a prerecorded voice-over alongside other actors. A biting takedown of heteronormative cinematic narrative devices, the work also reflects on the intimacy of familial and interpersonal relationships. The video acted as a pilot for a series of the same name that unfolded on YouTube in 2010 and 2012, mirroring the artist’s own trajectory from small-town obscurity to big-city success.