From boppy pop song to mournful ballad, the condition of being in love has been equated with life fulfilment- to the point where one is so overwhelmed that they might actually feel like dying. It’s an edgy, romantic notion, resonating from male and female artists alike.
Lady Gaga’s So Happy I Could Die is hauntingly upbeat and delightfully conflicted. In a tale of homoerotic lust and self-love, she proclaims with incredible disconnect:
‘Up in the club and we’re higher than ever/ So happy I could die/ And it’s alright’
“I love that lavender blonde/ The way she moves, the way she walks/ I touch myself can’t get enough”
The sentiment is unsettling yet relatable- she has reached a state of vulnerable bliss where nothing in life has value except the morbid, drunken pleasure that she’s experiencing.
All too similarly, Third Eye Blind’s obnoxiously catchy ’90s hit “Semi-Charmed Life” includes the surprising yet touching line:
‘When I’m with you I feel like I could die and that’d be alright. Alright’
It’s hidden amongst a lyrical cacophony of other sentiments such as:
“How do I get back there to/ The place where I fell asleep inside you?”
“She comes round and she goes down on me”
“Doing crystal meth/ will lift you up until you break”
A discussion of love and death would be incomplete however without viewing not only Lana Del Rey’s Born to Die video clip (as discussed in a previous blogpost) but her recent Blue Jeans official video.
Her mournful affect and hopeless devotion (‘I will love you ’til the end of time’) culminate in her metaphorical death. The video, while not as complex and dynamic as Born To Die, revels in the same tragedy of overwhelming love. One moment she is swimming with the same tattooed lover that caused her previous blood-stained death, and the next moment the pool is infested with large scaly alligators, symbolising her peril.
We witness LDR in various stages of being submerged and re-surfacing, but most poignant is the final scene when she is slowly pulled underwater. With a blank face and open eyes, she surrenders to being consumed by her lover. The music distorts, as does their image, and the last we see of her is face upturned, with his firm grip around her neck.
This is a constant theme throughout her album Born to Die (go figure!), with lyrics such as:
This Is What Makes Us Girls: “We all look for heaven and we put love first/ Something that we’d die for, it’s a curse”
Summertime Sadness: “Got my bad baby by my heavenly side/ I know if I go, I’ll die happy tonight”
Romantic notion, or just plain sinister? Is it enjoying the simple, tender things in life, or just plain de-valuing everything else that there is to live for?
The one thing these songs, and many others, have in common is a fierce vulnerability with which many can identify. Lana Del Rey showcases this quality in a beautiful, compelling way, and I think the dedication to her grief and the female condition is what makes her so successful.
Tearing off your clothes in passionate misery while stumbling through a burning forest? Now that’s fierce!