Lana Del Rey was all but unknown until last summer, when a little video for a song called “Video Games” quickly spread like wildfire across the web. In the subsequent year, Del Rey has managed to get into the public consciousness with catchy beats and lovelorn lyrics, often tying in audio clips from real events into her songs. Now, she’s taken a very famous tragedy and spun it on its head.
Playing characters inspired by both Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy, the singer tackles a love story so famous it was daunting to even imagine trying to recreate it. But Del Rey and the video’s director, Anthony Mandler, insist it wasn’t about trying to recreate it so much as it was portraying a deep, aching loss.
“It was never about re-creating a death scene, it was always about the person sitting next to him. It was always about seeing it through her eyes, seeing this kind of castle crumble in the moment, and that shot where she’s coming up out of the car, and the pain in her eyes, that destruction, it’s like the whole castle is crumbling around her. That’s what we were going for,” Mandler says.
The video gives us powerful images of a young couple in love, living a life of privilege with their three children; rapper A$AP Rocky plays the Kennedy role, which has some people concerned about the image of a black president being assassinated.
“There’s a kind of micro-commentary of ‘This is the new royalty,’ you know, A$AP and Lana, trying to pick two people to maybe represent the next generation of something,” he said. “I think even with an African American president, it’s still controversial to see him sitting and playing JFK, it’s still taboo, even if it shouldn’t be. You’re kind of like ‘Is this right or wrong? This feels very right, but also feels very wrong at the same time.’ And I think in all of Lana’s songs, and her image in general, and the person she is, it all fits in. It’s kind of like there are two sides of a mirror, and you’re not sure which side you’re looking at.”
The tale gets a retro-goes-modern spin, with Jackie and Kennedy throwing dice at a yacht party and dancing seductively with each other. When the end comes, it is beneath Del Rey’s spoken-word finale, which evokes a woman’s enormous grief at the loss of life as she knows it:
And I remember when I met him, it was so clear that he was the only one for me. We both knew it, right away. And as the years went on, things got more difficult – we were faced with more challenges. I begged him to stay. Try to remember what we had at the beginning.
He was charismatic, magnetic, electric and everybody knew it. When he walked in every woman’s head turned, everyone stood up to talk to him. He was like this hybrid, this mix of a man who couldn’t contain himself. I always got the sense that he became torn between being a good person and missing out on all of the opportunities that life could offer a man as magnificent as him. And in that way, I understood him and I loved him.
I loved him, I loved him, I loved him.
And I still love him. I love him.