Midway through her new “Ride” music video, Lana Del Rey says (in a voiceover) that her mother told her “I had a chameleon soul. No moral compass pointing due north, no fixed personality.” Though it may be merely a line in a script, it plays as a stark admission by the artist herself. She knows full well she’s the shape-shifter that studious pop fans believe her to be: she’s Lizzy Grant. She’s May Jailer. A hip-hop muse. A soul chanteuse.
In the sweeping, ten-minute “Ride” video, which she premiered for hundreds of ecstatic fans in a Santa Monica, Calif. movie theater Wednesday night (October 10), she would have us believe her truest self is actually something else: she’s a nomadic biker chick who can only find real comfort, and real freedom, on the open road. In “Video Games”, she says she heard her lover liked the bad girls — now it turns out she’s the one who’s bad to the bone? Details below.
Del Rey and director Antony Mandler unveiled “Ride” to fans packed into Santa Monica’s Aero Theater, where they took the stage to a standing ovation. Del Rey, wearing a plain white t-shirt and dark jeans, told the crowd that “You make everything that was ever hard completely, completely worth it.” Mandler added that “it takes a lot of courage to do what we did here.” (It would’ve taken even more courage to snap a photo of the video in progress — viewers were warned that anyone attempting to nab a screen shot would have their camera or cell phone confiscated. Burly security guards were positioned all over the theater.)
The two eventually took their seats, the lights dimmed, and the movie screen lit up with the word RIDE.
The video opens with the now familiar image of Del Rey arching over a tire swing in the desert (first seen on the single’s cover art.) Del Rey’s voice narrates: “I was in the winter of my life — and the men I met along the road were my only summer.” (Full text below). From there, we see a shifting series of images of the singer, joyful on the back of a motorcycle as her gang rolls down the highway; alone on the sidewalk outside a city convenience store; composed in a pretty white dress before a performance; back in the desert, wearing a “Butt-wiser” t-shirt and wrapping herself in an American flag.
She appears to take shelter in a series of different men: a scruffy biker who bends her over a pinball machine, a clean-cut older man who embraces her on a balcony, a different biker who slow-dances with her in what appears to be her dressing room. (Near the end of the video, there is a succession of shots of Del Rey rolling around in the sand at different times with at least two of them — and she licks at least one on the ear). It ends where it began, with Del Rey alone on the tire swing.
Here’s audio of Del Rey’s “Ride” monologue:
The video certainly succeeds in crafting a wistful, ultimately lonely backdrop for “Ride”‘s melodrama. Indeed, it can also be seen as simply a continuation of the 1960s nostalgia trip that Del Rey began with “National Anthem”, also directed by Mandler. Where that video (which cast Del Rey as both Jackie Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe) drew upon the refinement and subtle sexuality of JFK’s Camelot era, then “Ride” is her Easy Rider-style walk on the decade’s wild side.
After the video ended, Del Rey and Mandler re-took the stage with microphones in hand to answer fan questions. Asked about the inspiration for the video, the singer said she had felt more excited at the start of her whirlwind journey than the middle, and that “I just decided to get back to my roots and do what was fun.”
How deep Del Rey’s enjoyment of road life really extends, though, is an open question. During the Q&A with fans, she mentioned that while “custom choppers are the coolest”, she views herself more as a “professional passenger”. When another fan inquired when she might play another show in Los Angeles, she replied, “How important is touring, really? What if we just met down at the boardwalk every Sunday and took walks on the beach?”
The full text of Lana’s “Ride” narration, heard via a voiceover that flows in and out of the song:
“I was in the winter of my life — and the men I met along the road were my only summer. At night I fell asleep with visions of myself dancing and laughing and crying with them. Three years down the line of being on an endless world tour and my memories of them were the only things that sustained me, and my only real happy times. I was a singer, not a very popular one, who once had dreams of becoming a beautiful poet — but upon an unfortunate series of events, saw those dreams dashed and divided like a million stars in the night sky that I wished on over and over again — sparkling and broken. But I didn’t really mind because I knew that it takes getting everything you ever wanted and then losing it to know what true freedom is.
When the people I used to kno found out what I had been doing, how I had been living — they asked me why. But there’s no use in talking to people who have a home, they have no idea what it’s like to seek safety in other people, for home to be wherever you lie your head.
I was always an unusual girl, my mother told me I had a chameleon soul. No moral compass pointing due north, no fixed personality. Just an inner indecisiveness that was as wide and as wavering as the ocean. And if I said that I didn’t plan for it to turn out this way, I’d be lying — because I was born to be the other woman. I belonged to no one — who belonged to everyone, who had nothing — who wanted everything with a fire for every experience and an obsession for freedom that terrified me to the point that I couldn’t even talk about — and pushed me to a nomadic point of madness that both dazzled and dizzied me.
Every night I used to pray that I’d find my people — and finally I did — on the open road. We had nothing to lose, nothing to gain, nothing we desired anymore — except to make our lives a work of art.
Live fast. Die Young. Be Wild. And Have Fun.
I believe in the country America used to be. I believe in the person I want to become.
I believe in the freedom of the open road. And my motto is the same as ever —
I believe in the kindness of strangers. And when I’m at war with myself — I ride. I just ride.
Who are you? Are you in touch with all of your darkest fantasies?
Have you created a life for yourself where you’re free to experience them?
I am fucking crazy. But I am free.
The “Ride” video is expected to be released this Friday (October 12).