Lana Del Rey- West Coast (M/V); Beautifully Brilliant02:47
If anyone knows me, they know that my heart and soul longs for anything Lana Del Rey. Today I'm going to be diving into the deep end...
Now any fan of Del Rey would've probably been up in arms when she revealed the teaser clip for her new music video, as it marked the return of her collaboration with model Bradley Soileau. Soileau has featured in her previous music videos, and his 'character' in their intertwined enchanted narratives are crucial symbols that have transferred to West Coast.
The musical video is predominantly black and white. There are three key scenes that are presented to us in a delineated fashion. Each scene transitions through the atmospheric shifts in the song, from the masculine and flighty warped synth to the echoey, hollow hook. This pastiche of imagery is nothing new for Del Rey's music videos- it blends the essence of memory and longing together in indescribable ways.
The first crucial image in the music video are the scenes of Del Rey and Soileau on the West Coast beaches. Here she is smiling, noticeably happy and enjoying the moment. Markers of the west coast such as the lined trees are spliced together with the couple in an embrace. The waves crash vividly, a motion that mimics the way her hair flows in the wind, the way the palm trees swoosh as they flash by, and even the way the seagulls are constantly in flight in the background. The palette is set at black and white, but noticeably grey and much lighter as the wind blows through the panning and tracking shots. Everything has movement, including the camera who traces the path of the couple almost like a mind clutching onto the memory.
Down on the West Coast,
I get this feeling like
It all could happen,
that's why I'm leaving
You for the moment
You for the moment,
Boy Blue, yeah you
The lyrics read 'you've got the music /You've got the music in you, don't you?' (in re: to her man). She sets her lover apart from the intoxicated West Coast lifestyle by likening him to the music. It compels her. Music is the rhythm of her life, the very thread that keeps her together and that itself becomes unnerving. This type of love is unstable in this sense, the motivation behind why she feels like she needs to leave it behind, 'I get this feeling like
/It all could happen, that's why I'm leaving/ You for the moment '.
Bradley, her young lover is referred to as Boy Blue. This becomes a recurring motif in the song. What I know of this is that Boy Blue was a character known as Little Boy Blue, from an English fable.
Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn. The sheep's in the meadow, the cow's in the corn. And where's the little boy who looks after the sheep? He's under the haystack, fast asleep.
The music is aromatic and warm with the guitar riffs as it eases into a moody and dark beat and the scene transforms.
Compare this to the second image that presents itself in an overlapping narrative. Lana is in a car with a much older man smoking a cigarette. The image itself is implying action yet it is captured in a way that is as still as can be. Their bodies barely move, she can barely lift herself to smoke the cigarette in her dainty fingers and everything seems to unfold in slow motion. The camera barely moves even though the car is speeding. It manages to tilt in a disorienting fashion. The shots are also cropped in an unusual way, as if the moment is incomplete. We are privilege to only fragments of this dark scene as compared to the sweeping shots of her young memories.
Now here's where it gets ambiguous. If we were to decontextualise the audio, it would read as one scene. But the images presented to us reveal two alternate forms of love. This leads me to believe that there are two separate discourses operating in the lyrics as well. It becomes evident she refers to the older man in these lines: 'I can see my baby swingin'/ His Parliament's on fire and his hands are up'.
Parliament symbolises power and strength. It is clearly ablaze in the older man who exudes wealth and power more so than her young lover. She refers to him and their relationship in the present, 'On the balcony and I'm singing Ooh baby, Ooh baby, I'm in love'. Now the following lines juxtapose this representation of a man as a 'sweet boy swayin' '. But she's pushing this relationship aside- 'I'm saying Move baby, move baby, I'm in love'.
What is interesting is the image of the balcony in both images of her love for two types of men. She's singing on the balcony, this almost becomes spiritual as the balcony becomes an interstitial and transformative space that she recalls and reflects on both forms of love.
Her memories of the West Coast resurface (literally) as both scenes blur together. We see so much more in those scenes, the friend in the background, the exposition, varied expressions. Yet as the night progresses in the alternate timeline, she's met with only shadows that overlap her face constantly. A hazy bokeh-ed background further disorients us.
We are swayed back into the light riffs as she presents us with an overload of imagery in the lyrics- 'they got their icons Their silver starlets, their Queens of Saigons'. The descriptives chosen to construct an image of her past is exactly that, purely images- 'Down on the West Coast, they love their movies Their golden gods and Rock n' Roll groupies'.
Yet she continues to refer to her young lover as the music, and having the music within. It repeated several times as if to reiterate that he brings life and rhythm to her memories.
Cut to the third scene- a particularly fascinating image of Lana in a red dress, swaying in flames. This could be hinting at the evolution of Lana: the red dress in her previous videos symbolised her youth and beauty. Her growing love. It's being burned to express the death of the past and the emphasise on the new. The sadness, the darkness and incoherence of love. The much older man provides her with a different kind of love, a much more complicated relationship as compared to the attached lustre of Born to Die. He rests his face into his hand for a moment, almost as if to acknowledge the nature of their entanglement. She has her heart in her memories.
What is even more perplexing is the ghostly shadow of Soileau that overlays Lana in flames. I can't say for sure but he looks almost unresponsive, maybe dead or unconscious. It is clear they are intoxicated on the beach which is why I'm thinking an overdose would be logical. It is a tragic way to lose someone, who was maybe just minutes before experiencing an extreme high. Despite this, the notion of the body violently shutting down comes to mind. Is this the end of her romance? The death of the old way of understand love and how it exists in her life?
This definitely explores the aftermath of the 'tragic youth' archetype. There's more to remembering someone fondly. Her memories do not exist at a metaphorical level. Her memories of her lover have transformed her into another state of being. She is not the woman in her memories.
To an extent, it challenges our modern way of thinking about the past and present. Lana's past memories are lively and expressive, they're vivid in her mind yet her present is groggy and disoriented. This state of now, her state of being with the older man, feels paralysed. These moments are almost presented in reverse, the past is clear and the present is incomplete. The past is immediate yet the present is almost comatose. It certainly seems to expose the way we bury our past and 'live in the moment', which is a very popular mode of thought in our contemporary society (carpe diem anyone?).