Lawd, I WASN’T READY, when I pressed play and watched Lana Del Rey‘s video for “High by the Beach” from her upcoming album Honeymoon (I am counting the days. I am a self-confessed Stan for the LDR). The song is her usual nexus of calming, laid-back vocals, challenged by tragicomic music that always seems prepared for the worst while still (somehow) singing in longing (case in point: “Video Games” and “Ride”). But instantly the “High by the Beach” video captures your eyeballs and you cannot look away because it was filmed with the shaky camera mindset. So you literally follow Del Rey from the bedroom to the kitchen of a mostly empty Malibu home that looks straight out of the fake but still pretty to look at last season of MTV’s The Hills.
As if the clip wasn’t thrilling enough (your eyes almost get googly-eyed just trying to keep up), when she goes to the barrage of rocks plied on the beach–after being accosted by a shameless paparazzi jet outside her window–she comes back with a guitar case in tow. But no, no, no, homegirl didn’t have a Les Paul waiting for her. In the case contained was an unexpected big-ass, industrial firearm that Del Rey handles with composure and passion as she releases her unbridled Mad Max and gets at the jet that goes up in flames.
The clip is classically cinematic Del Rey because it’s Del Rey and the climax is alarmingly sudden and serene. Maybe, just maybe, it might also dispel those accusations that the Rolling Stone deemed “Vamp of Constant Sorrow” isn’t as anti-feminist as she seems. As Pitchfork pointed out, the song alone is an unforeseen contrast to the heartsick material she released on her mainstream debut Born to Die. And such a former bereaved sentiment only got worse on 2014’s way too somber Ultraviolence.
“Del Rey has always thrived on inconsistency, exemplified by her aesthetic as part-county fair beauty queen, part-Instragram celebrity, but there’s something unerring and decisive about the new direction she takes in “High by the Beach”. There’s no romanticism in her dismissal of this relationship as suffocating. When she decides in the song’s outro that “through the fire we’re born again”, any concept of “forever” that remained is torched.”
With Honeymoon upon us, we may be on the dawn of a reborn Del Rey that is over feeling the most valued by the confirmation of a relationship or enraptured by the destruction of one. (Well, we haven’t heard Honeymoon in full yet…) “High by the Beach” also comes at an exciting time for women in not just music, but in music videos.
In Glamour‘s August 2015 issue, their TV columnist pointed out the popularity of Taylor Swift‘s recently hubbed “Video of the Year” extravaganza “Bad Blood” and the still influential visual album of Beyonce from 2013 as huge moments in “Hell Yeah! Music Videos Are Back!” And that article was published before they could squeeze in Rihanna‘s insolent “Bitch Better Have My Money.” But it isn’t just the usual bellwethers of music’s most prominent female artists that are behaving as unique and groundbreaking as ever. Like LDR, other fantastic and smart artists that just happen to be female like FKA Twigs, Kelela, Dawn, Kehlani, Grimes and Tinashe are also dropping stunningly visual bombs. The influences are clear if you’re erudite in pop culture, but either way, the videos have been exhilarating, visionary, or beautiful in their simplicity. Like on the latter, Kehlani’s clip for “The Way” with Chance the Rapper was filmed in black and white, and features the tattooed talent in a crop top, baggy pants and boots gyrating and flirting with the camera. Again you’re reminded that this rebel, tough heart has an extremely likable soft touch too. And it’s a sexy mash-up of Janet Jackson’s “You Want This” relaxed with overt tones of Aaliyah.
In July, FKA Twigs unleashed her new M3LL155X (it’s supposed to be pronounced “Melissa.” Oh yeah.) along with a mega long-form music video that featured all five songs from the EP. It’s sixteen minutes and explores the evolution of independence from societal and gender expectations and creative freedom. The beginning is “Mothercreep” and features an elderly woman in a setting that recalls the underground electronica world of artists like Aphex Twin (think: “Come to Daddy”) and Prodigy. She eventually swallows a light bulb and the imagery of a computer animated girl child being born develops as “Figure 8” plays in the background. Then a ’90s lip ombre painted Twigs is seen with floor length braids and on a bed laying down in a disturbing blow up doll suit. The music by then has proceeded to “I’m Your Doll”, a song she wrote years ago about the selling and objectification of female sexuality. The ending is especially controversial and will leave you feeling kind of angry and definitely contemplative of how the world views a woman and sex. Then comes the double denim Girlfight feeling of “In Time” and it ends with her previously posted “Glass & Patron“, one of her most memorable visuals
As press time, Tinashe submitted her video for “Bet” that’s like Janet’s “Pleasure Principle” in a LA tunnel. Also, if you’ve missed Kelela‘s “A Message”, say it isn’t so. Her neon, anime video is a glorious tribute to the innovative and provocative Japanese form of animation, and the R&B alternative ballad is a welcomed audio hallucinogen.
The want to have this article published was not only in noticing the handful of great music videos by women or starring coming out, but in watching them all, I was reminded of something a male co-worker of mine had said once. As a part of Urban Outfitters’ soundtrack at the time, at that moment playing was a song sung by a female artist and this same guy had commented that it was one of the few songs by a girl he liked. When I asked what he meant by that, he admitted that he didn’t listen to female artists every much because he felt that he couldn’t relate to them. He additionally implied that he also didn’t care very much to listen to “them.” I was a tad offended, but more so disappointed. I could understand stand this bearded manager of mine not bumping some Ariana Grande. But even progressive artists like PJ Harvey he was giving the shoo-away too. I found it sexist and lame, especially my library contains artists from Brandy to the Black Keys. I know everyone has their tastes. But I still wonder to this day because of that quote, how many men also feel similarly. And conversely, how much amazingly great music, and sometimes videos, they are missing out on simply because a woman artist is at the forefront.