“I was always an unusual girl”.
Lana Del Rey may not be the greatest singer to have emerged in 2012, but she has managed to capture the attention of the collective cultural psyche. Whether she’s in character or not, the artist beneath the projection is set on performing a commentary on the American Dream and its darker undercurrents. Her lyrics are full of it, and her ‘National Anthem’ video took this to new levels. Now, with the same director (Anthony Mandler), and the same concept of accompanying the track with a confessional monologue, she presents the ten minute video clip for ‘Ride’.
The video manages to take the fullest meaning from the simple title of the song. It seems she’s playing a version of herself – someone she’d like us to imagine she might really be. A young girl who once had dreams, but now roams the American highways with bikers; her life spiralling out of control as she attempts to live a purely hedonistic existence, free from the ties of society. She claims her vagabond group desire nothing but ‘to make our lives into a work of art’, conjuring images of the Beats poets and Jack Kerouac’s masterpiece On The Road, which did just that. Allusions to murder and prostitution show that this doesn’t come without sacrifice, and gives strength to the eternal sadness that runs through her music. She seeks comfort in the various men she meets, but whether she’s wandering the city streets, or swinging slowly on a tire in the desert, the enduring tone of this video is loneliness.
The monologue sounds believable – like she’s reading the memoirs of a real person – and it breathes a bit more life into the Lana Del Rey we’ve hardly ever heard speak. ‘I believe in the kindness of strangers’, she confesses – quoting Blanche du Bois from A Streetcar Named Desire; a woman so wrapped up in old America that life in the modern world drives her insane. Lana pitches herself somewhere between this and Laura Palmer, the small town beauty queen gone bad from David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.
Overall, the speech is just as much a composite as the artist herself. Her entire act is a fusion of cultural references blended together into her own distinct brand of Americana. Largely, it’s nostalgic. She declares finally, ‘I believe in the country America used to be’. This refers to the concept of the frontier, constant exploration of place and thought, and crucially, the creation and recreation of one’s own identity – and that’s something the brains behind Lana Del Rey knows all about.
This piece originally appeared in So So Gay magazine.