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Behind The Song: Jack White "Freedom At 21"

While the mention of Jack White typically elicits visions of blistering guitar lines and dusty blues, the Detroit-native also boasts a far less obvious influence: the band KISS.

Where KISS produced a myriad of products and promotional opportunities ranging from comic books to TV movies, White uses a similar approach to promoting music including his novel and inventive way of his launching solo single “Freedom at 21” -- literally. The song is nominated for Best Rock Song at the 55th GRAMMY Awards. That is just one of three GRAMMY nods White received for 2013. His solo debut full-length, Blunderbuss, up for both Best Rock Album and a coveted Album of the Year nomination.

On April 1, 2012, Jack White and the staff of his independent label, Third Man Records, attached 1000 copies of “Freedom at 21” flexi-disc records to helium balloons and sent them into the sky from the label’s Nashville headquarters. They used biodegradable latex balloons and all-natural twine.

Along with the record, the balloons were accompanied with instructive postcards to anyone finding the rock & roll cargo to submit photos, date and discovery location back to the label.

Courtesy Third Man Records

The balloon launch, however, was just the beginning. What really propelled “Freedom at 21” into public consciousness was the turbo-charged music video which was drenched in blue, the official “color palette” of Blunderbuss, and filmed by notorious hip-hop video director Hype Williams.

"Jack's been a fan of Hype's for a long time," said Ben Swank, promotions director for Third Man Records. "I think the vibe and feel of this song felt like the right one to try and work with Hype on and see what he came up with. There's a real percussive quality to Hype's videos that sits well with 'Freedom At 21'."


Featuring White behind the wheel of a 1970 HEMI Barracuda muscle car in a high-speed police chase, the sexy clip was also a star turn for female lead Brittany Columbo. She made headlines playing the comely cop who takes the guitar hero to the slammer. The video also boasts a cameo from Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme, who plays a cop.

"Josh Homme should be in every video," raved Swank.

With help from adoring program directors, the single, "Freedom at 21" quickly made its way to #21 on the Mediabase Alternative Rock radio chart. "The video was genius," explains Lisa Worden, Music Director at Los Angeles alternative rock behemoth KROQ-FM. "It was the first component, marketing-wise for that song. The label put the video out there and everyone flipped. It was already a good song, and the video just gave it a personality and a face and I just went 'wow,' I get it even more."

Worden continued, "There are some artists that have to work the system. They have to tweet.. Jack White doesn't tweet. They're all over social media and that's fine, God bless 'em, but Jack White doesn't need to do that. His art speaks for itself."

-Scott T. Sterling, CBS Local

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