Taking a close look at one of the best music videos of recent years.
Lana Del Rey – ‘Ride’ – 2012 – From her third EP, ‘Paradise’
From the opening shot of ‘Ride’, we are given a clear visual statement outlining both thirst for freedom and an underlying sense of hopelessness. the ‘Artist’ a character portrayed by Lana Del Rey herself, is seen swinging freely on a tyre on a rope, interestingly suspended by what can only be the sky, against the backdrop of a baron desert. This visual paradox gives the audience the premise for the rest of the video. The ‘Artist’ character is fleshed out by Del Rey’s narration up to the start of the song itself. Voicing her artistic journey she tells the audience of her dreams of “becoming a beautiful poet” accompanied by images of her in various locales, appearing ‘off in her own world’.
The narrative vehicle taking the ‘artist’ from scene to scene is the biker character. Droves of the archetypes all appear very much similar to each other in the video, as nonspeaking, lustful men. Physically intimidating, straddling 200kg motorcycles, they are objectively threatening in the context of a young woman roaming the streets alone. As an audience we are introduced to the idea of this beautiful young songstress being taken under the wing of these men entirely of her own accord, and very much for her own personal pleasure.
“I was in the winter of my life, and the men I met along the road were my only summer.”
These ‘men’ are primarily a scruffy biker who bends her over a pinball machine, a clean-cut older man who embraces her lovingly on a balcony and a different biker who slow dances with her in what could be a dressing room or just as easily a motel room. (Source:Wikipedia.org)
The bikers, perhaps best referred to as “the road doves” as sang in the song itself, are given no character development, most likely due to the choice of the film being void of any dialogue, however this leads to them being received as vapid, serving the sole purpose of facilitating the artist’s seemingly unwavering hedonism.
“I wanted to be part of a high-class scene of musicians. It was half-inspired because I didn’t have many friends and I was hoping that I would meet people and fall in love and start a community around me, the way they used to do in the ’60s.”
-Lana on entering the music industry
The ‘road doves’ are likely a visual metaphor for Del Rey’s approach to those people she encountered on the journey of her career, that journey itself being symbolized by the vast, winding roads seen throughout the video, coupled with the desperate, hopelessness that the deserts connotate. I interpret this as a retrospective expression of Del Rey’s attitude and ideals at the beginning of her career. The artist, appears to be a much younger and more naive runaway character, in contrast to how Del Rey is now portrayed as a figure of glamour and noir in terms of style and artistic prowess.
Any base level dissection of the video or the song lyrics can quickly dismiss critic’s accusations of prostitution being represented in any way other than by a product of a particularly insidious interpretation of the material. The artist states at the end of the piece “I am fucking crazy. But I am free.” The endeavor is not one for financial gain or shelter, the narrative is soul searching, and the aspect of seeking shelter points towards trust issues, perhaps parental, and the idea of resting her hopes for the future on many different suitors.
In my mind the project has a similar motive to that of Lady Gaga’s famous opening of the 2011 MTV music awards. The actions leading up to the performance of her single ‘You and I’ involved the singer performing a monologue as a male character named ‘Joe Calderone’. Lasting three minutes in total, the character critiques the singer as her ex-lover, outlining the flaws that their relationship had as a result of her ‘eccentricities’ she is so well known for. The stunt, labelled as performance art by many, shared the same sort of introspection and self deprecation (more explicit in Gaga’s performance) that ‘Ride’ contains in it’s dialogue, visuals and lyrics. The key difference in a historical context is that Gaga’s monologue reflected her current media persona, whilst Del Rey’s film looks back on the woman she used to be, and who she once wanted to become.