I used to think that I was good at walking. I take my two dogs on a 45-minute walk every day. When I go to work, I walk about a mile and a half instead of driving. I even covered the 2016 Olympic racewalking finals, making me a certified Walking Journalist. After all, I’m a New Yorker. We walk everywhere!
Imagine my surprise when I found out that the world’s greatest walkers are actually from Los Angeles—specifically, the people who make music that sounds like Los Angeles. I’m talking about Haim, the trio whose trademark music videos feature them simply walking around the city. The Haim sisters used to do a lot more in their videos —in early ones, they rode motorcycles, schooled some hunks in 3-on-3 hoops, and made Jorma Taccone weep explosively. And to this day, their music videos sometimes show them playing their various instruments and/or dancing. But somewhere along the line, they realized the best visual accompaniment for their ethereal jams is nothing more than footage of them walking to the beat, shoulder-to-shoulder, in the direction of a retreating Steadicam. Their most recent video, for “Don’t Wanna,” features them racing each other around the Great Western Forum parking lot:
Since discovering Haim’s superior walking skills, I’ve been listening to their new album, Women in Music Pt. III, on my bootleg AirPods while walking my dogs around L.A. in hopes of gaining some of their walking prowess, but it’s hopeless. The three of us have nowhere near the coordination, focus, or general walking talent to match Haim. Would Danielle doink her head on a tree branch trying to look at her phone and walk at the same time? Would Este get indecisive about whether to step off the curb to maintain social distancing with a jogger approaching? Would Alana hold the group up by spontaneously deciding she needed to loudly bark at a passing Shiba Inu? Of course not. When the Haim sisters walk, they are an unstoppable force, and everything else is a movable object. They walk, and the rest of the world parts before them. Haim is not a Marching Band, but they’re a marching band.
Here is every video in the Haim Walking Anthology, ranked by how good the sisters are at walking in the video:
7. “Now I’m in It”
Time spent walking: 110 seconds (61 seconds of solo walking by Danielle, 19 seconds of Este and Alana carrying Danielle in a stretcher, 6 seconds of individual walking by Este and Alana each, and 18 seconds of coordinated trio walking)
Estimated distance walked: N/A
Walking location: Various spots in Silver Lake
Walking highlights: Danielle walks through a car wash, demonstrating Haim’s dedication to turn spaces usually meant for vehicles into pedestrian experiences
Walking lowlights: Danielle stumbles quite a bit, requires a stretcher, and may actually be using a conveyor belt inside of the car wash
“Now I’m in It” is meant to be an exploration of battling through depression, and the video walks us through that process—literally, walks us through it. At the beginning, Danielle is shaky on her feet, stumbling down a street, ruining some diner customers’ mornings by clumsily dousing a counter with their coffee refills, and eventually collapsing. But her sisters pick her up in a stretcher, drop her off at a car wash, and she emerges to do a signature Haim trio walk toward a bar with her sisters.
It is the only video in which any Haim members struggle to walk. And while that’s an effective metaphor, unfortunately, I’m grading on the quality of walking.
Time spent walking: 73 seconds (41 seconds of solo walking by Danielle, 23 seconds of solo walking by Alana, and just 9 seconds of coordinated trio walking)
Estimated distance walked: N/A
Walking location: The Los Angeles Theatre
Walking highlights: Danielle and Este display some minor magical walking powers
Walking lowlights: A general lack of enthusiasm
This video features less walking and less inspired walking than other Haim videos. I’m sorry, but the sisters just don’t seem that thrilled about walking—they’re much more interested in their newfound ability to power lights and close curtains by simply pointing at them.
5. “Walking Away”
Time spent walking: N/A
Estimated distance walked: N/A
Walking location: N/A
Walking highlights: N/A
Walking lowlights: N/A
Haim didn’t release a music video for this song off Something to Tell You. But considering the chorus is just Danielle singing “walking away” 10 times in a row, I get the feeling that a music video would feature some good walking. (Then again, the video for “The Steps” turned out to have relatively little walking, considering the title.)
4. “Don’t Wanna”
Time spent walking: 2:15 of the 2:47 video, although it can be argued that some of the video is running, not walking, and Este stops walking after 1:50
Estimated distance walked: 1,600 feet (600 feet for Danielle and Alana, 400 feet for Este)
Walking location: The Forum
Walking strengths: A rare display of competitive walking from the three sisters, revealing their peak walking capabilities
Walking weaknesses: A lack of dedication to pure walking form
One of two “one take” walking vids by Haim, “Don’t Wanna” shows the sisters playing dirty when a friendly parking-lot walking contest gets out of hand. First the walking turns to running—a clear violation of any and all racewalking rules, which would get all three sisters eliminated from any international racewalking competition. Then Danielle gets the trio to stop as she deals with what appears to be an ankle injury—only to shove her concerned sisters backward and sprint ahead toward the finish line. Unfortunately, she loses to Este, who speeds into first place in her Porsche.
Quite frankly, this video should disappoint all Haim walking enthusiasts. Yes, the video shows the blinding speed and exceptional individual walking traits the sisters are capable of when forced to put their walking skills to the test—but it also shows Haim abandoning the basic precepts of walking. I mean, come on—Este rides in a car! In a walking battle! She gets the victory, but at what cost? There may be great walking in this video, but I’m sorry—it’s not a great walking video.
3. “IHOP Parking Lot”
Time spent walking: 35 seconds of walking (all coordinated with all three sisters, who are joined by Maya Rudolph, Stephanie Beatriz, and a host of other walkers)
Estimated distance walked: 300 feet (100 feet per sister)
Walking location: An IHOP parking lot
Walking highlights: The terrifying power of Haim’s walking, unleashed on professional baseball players
Walking lowlights: Weird steps
Technically, this isn’t a Haim song—it’s from Lonely Island’s The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience, an hourlong rap video where Andy Samberg and Akiva Schaffer play Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire in the midst of their steroid-aided prime. (I assume Haim appeared to repay the Lonely Island guys for Jorma’s aforementioned explosive weeping.) But the song certainly sounds like a Haim song, and their on-screen appearance is typical Haim walking at its finest.
Joined by Maya Rudolph and Stephanie Beatriz, the sisters draw Canseco and McGwire in with their catchy, up-beat harmonies—and then destroy them with the sheer power of their walking. Haim slowly march on the A’s, overpowering and separating them, leaving Mark and Jose to cry out each other’s names in an attempt to be reunited. But it’s hopeless—they are powerless against Haim’s walking. In most Haim videos, the band walks toward a camera that’s constantly pulling backward, so we never see what would actually happen if the sisters actually walked into something. In Bash Brothers, we finally see what happens when movable objects try to resist their unstoppable force. It’s a frightening display of sheer power that makes it clear Haim’s walking is not just for show.
2. “Summer Girl”
Time spent walking: 150 seconds (77 seconds of coordinated trio walking, 72 seconds of just Danielle walking, 5 seconds of Danielle and Alana walking without Este, and 2 seconds of Este walking by herself)
Estimated distance walked: Due to an unexplained location jump, an estimated 3.5 miles for the entire trio, although that would imply an average walking speed of roughly 60 mph
Walking location: Various locations in Fairfax District, plus Ventura Boulevard in Studio City
Walking highlights: Multitasking, effortlessly disrobing while on the move
Walking lowlights: An unexplained location jump
In this Paul Thomas Anderson–directed video, the sisters almost continuously walk while removing dozens of layers of clothing, transforming from winter women into summer girls. Followed by a man playing a baritone sax—perhaps the most difficult instrument to walk with, at least they make tubas that wrap around your body—Haim moves forward, with a quick break for lunch at Canter’s Deli (where the album cover was shot) and an extremely short shift working the box office at the New Beverly Cinema.
However, Danielle’s trip from Canter’s to the New Bev is troubling—in the video, she never breaks stride, stepping away from her unshown deli meal (I’ll presume pastrami), walking out the door, turning right, and heading straight into the movie theater. But the deli and the theater are almost a mile apart. I’d like to believe Danielle walked the whole way, but since this isn’t one of the one-take walking videos, we can’t be sure. (Damn you, Paul Thomas Anderson, and your movie magic!) Don’t tell me she teleported—if Haim has methods of moving besides walking, their whole mystique is ruined.
1. “Want You Back”
Time spent walking: Three minutes and 51 seconds of glorious, uninterrupted walking, almost all of it with all three singers striding side by side.
Estimated distance walked: 2,700 feet (900 feet per sister)
Walking location: Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks (the same place where Tom Petty shot the “Free Fallin’” video)
Walking highlights: Unprecedented levels of Walk Dancing
Walking lowlights: N/A
“Want You Back” is not only the best song in the Haim catalog; the one-take video shot in Haim’s own San Fernando Valley is their walking magnum opus. It features the most distance walked by Haim on camera; it features their longest uninterrupted walking stint. “Want You Back” showcases the unending versatility of the sisters’ walking abilities. They can walk in tightly coordinated lockstep; they can walk individually while looking aloof. It’s not just that Haim can walk and dance—they can dance while walking, not letting their moves get in the way of moving forward.
It’s clear that Haim filled out some paperwork to shut down Ventura Boulevard for a few hours on an overcast SoCal morning, but it feels like the power of their walking scattered any traffic that dared drive through the Valley that day. In the beginning of the video, the choreography is scant—just a few head bobs and mimed drum fills executed without breaking stride. (Sorry, none of us have ever looked as cool pretending to play the drums as Danielle does, casually riffing on her imaginary hi-hat.) But at the end, there’s an explosion of enthusiastic skips and shimmies, all executed while continuing to walk forward.
For Haim, walking is not simply a method of getting from place to place, a transition in between all the other things. Walking is the thing. They don’t stop walking to live; they live while walking. They can accomplish all things through walk, and “Want You Back” is their Walk de Force.