We love Lana Del Rey, but, sometimes, we wish she would stop getting in her own way with the excessive, hyper-stylized persona. Most of the time, it's possible to just listen to the music without paying too much attention to all that carefully engineered fluff, but the new video for "Ride" is a clear exception. There are some real problems in it that go much deeper than the oozing pretention of proclaiming oneself "always an unusual girl."
The video begins with a very Conor-Oberst-esque voice-over intro, during which Lana does her typical lolling around in next to nothing and says things like "I was in the winter of my life." FYI, she's 26 years old. She also proclaims that she — or rather, the character she's playing in this particular moment — "belonged to no one" and lives at a perpetual "nomadic point of madness that both dazzled and dizzied" her. Of course, this type of free spirit is a crucial part of the American dream, and there's no reason people shouldn't long for it, but Lana offers a confusing and potentially harmful portrayal of what that means.
The song repeats the phrase "I drive fast, I am alone in the night" while simultaneously contradicting that sentiment by engaging in countless, hyper-sexualized positions. While it's not exactly a surprise to see her playing the pouty daddy's girl, it's still disappointing that in an ode to a woman embracing her own capriciousness and come-what-may destiny can't (or won't?) take charge of her own body. Maybe that's the point. Maybe this character is an example of someone who's always lacking and longing, who is, in a sense, cursed by her own dreams. Unfortunately, it's not coming across that way. Instead of free, she's just free falling.
Let's be clear: This is not slut-shaming, though this video does on occasion appear to romanticize prostitution and adultery. If you want to get it on with a bunch of dudes from a ZZ Top cover band, that is absolutely fine, and more power to you. But, please, own it. A sexy, wild, and free young woman who coudn't give a darn about the rules is not and should not be synonymous with a knock-kneed, doe-eyed Lolita who likes to act out the scene from The Accused. For all her young fans (and you know they're watching), this just reinforces the idea that female sexuality is, in its purest and most primitive form, submissive to anyone and anything.
Lana Del Rey says she "believes in the country America used to be" (which is apparently a place where "Indian headgear" is still okay). There's nothing wrong with indulging in a bit of nostalgia, but it sure would be great if we could take the best moments of times past and reshape them with regards to the principles and ideals feminism has worked, and is still working, so hard to attain.
Watch the video and please, please share your thoughts. Is this a successful and moving portrayal of freedom in a repressed age? Or, is it a cheap, ill-executed shot to play into a nostalgic love of a Kerouac character gone wrong? Oh, and one more question: Where the heck is that rope swing coming from?
Photo: Courtesy of Interscope Records.