Last Friday, as we were naively planning on two days to get our whole sleep situation in order, there came a burning question that wrecked all that by keeping us up in a cold sweat. Because on click one of the newly released video for Lana Del Rey's "Ride", as we listened to its mind-melting voice-over start and nervously eyed the 10-minute plus running time ticking away on the bottom, it was obvious that this was a serious statement, an instant classic that brought to mind some real cultural touchstones of pop cultural sleaze.
Perhaps this spring's rumors of an Axl Rose/L. Del R. tryst were just glimpses of our girl climbing the face of Ridiculously Scummy Americana Mountain, bypassing the caves of Kid Rock, The Valley of The Nuge, in order to meet with the wise old monk who lived atop it, in a hyperbaric chamber stocked with cocaine and Mountain Dew. Lana Del Rey had come to steal the secrets of the dirtbag-love video epic, from the man who made "November Rain"!
But has the student become the master??? To the tape!
For reference, both videos presented in their entirety:
Actual Song: "November Rain" is probably better, though not by as much as you think! Because it's kind of overblown and lousy! Its guitar coda is still pretty awesome, though, and it doesn't ever coo the word "daddy" at you. ADVANTAGE GUNS N' ROSES.
Title Card: The prominent title card is how you know you are about to see a work of video ART and not just some promo clip. Axl takes pills over his 90s cursive font, immersed in deeply symbolic, Tony Scott azure blue. Lana's RIDE pops up in silence, stark and important. While that sets a proper tone, for foreshadowing the emotional impact of the deeply vague tragedy that awaits him, The "November Rain" title wins. Not just for grave import, but for sly character development. ADVANTAGE GUNS N 'ROSES.
Storyline: Man, "November Rain" seems really sparse upon revisit. Is this the same video that topped numerous "Best Video of All Time" New Year's Eve countdowns on MTV??? (Oof, does that seem like four billion years ago.) Boy meets girl, boy marries girl in anti-demure wedding dress, reception is rained on, girl catches consumption and dies, like, immediately thereafter, possibly due to unbelievably short wedding skirt.
Who can describe the multitudes that "Ride" contains? Del Rey casts herself as an aspiring singer who falls into prostitution, implied murder, and then hits the open road to live among a pride of middle-aged lovers and outlaws, a rootless state which is the only freedom she's ever known. (Oh, OK, it wasn't that hard.) GNR have the more recognizable tragic arc, LDR is more evocative. Subjective. NO ADVANTAGE.
Performance Footage: Lana finds time out from sex work to perform in rowdy biker bars, bringing a hazy Instagram of glamour into their wretched, violent world. Axl plays piano with an orchestra conductor who looks like Yanni for a fancy concert hall filled with what look to be very excited hedge fund managers. The GNR show looks to be the better gig, sure, but which one better represents the sleazy freedom of rock n' roll, I ask you? In what is sure to be our most controversial decision...ADVANTAGE DEL REY.
Gratuitous Ass Shots: Given that wedding dress, you'd think this might be a walk for Axl and the Boys in a crucial dirt-bag category. But No. Lana bends over a railing, practically sitting on the camera, in a shot that is recycled, Tommy Wisseau in The Room style later in the video. LDR's genius for pre-emptively exploiting herself remains unequaled. ADVANTAGE DEL REY.
Scene in Which its Protagonist is Sexed on a Pinball Machine By a Man Who Uncannily Resembles Axl Rose Circa 2012: Lana wins again, but shit, how I wish it was a tie. ADVANTAGE DEL REY.
Doo Rag Count: 1 to 1. I thought both would have more, but it turns out that Axl wears one on stage, and a particularly beefy member of Lana' man-harem wears one at all times. I has blissfully misremembered that Axl wore a formal doo rag at his wedding, but it turns out he did not. (He does appear to wear a formal coke pinky ring, which the judging committee has duly noted.) NO ADVANTAGE IN THE CRUCIAL DOO RAG VOLUME METRIC.
Majestic Indian Headdress Count: 1 - 0. TIEBREAKER TO MS. DEL REY.
Bat Shit Crazy Spoken Monologue: In which Lana demonstrates how many points Axl left on the table, triumphantly running up the scoreboard. Not just:
I was in the winter of my life. And the men I met along the road were my only summer... I was a singer. Not a very popular one. I once had dreams of becoming a beautiful poet. But upon a series of unfortunate events I 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 it because I knew that it takes getting everything you ever wanted and then losing it to know what true freedom is.
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 into a work of art. Live fast. Die young. Be wild. 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 can experience them? I have. I am fucking crazy. But I am free.
DOMINATING ADVANTAGE DEL REY.
Visual Stand-In for the Magical Freeing Properties of the American Southwest:
Slash's desert guitar solo is too big to be confined by the weathered walls of a rural church house, but LDR swings from a tire swing that was hung by St. Peter himself! Her doe-eyed debauchery hath become a state of grace... ADVANTAGE DEL REY.
VERDICT: Listen, I did not expect this to happen, but the facts do not lie. Lana Del Rey has created the crazier, grosser, and MORE epic dirtbag-love video! Dear God, Lana Del Rey has defeated Guns N' Roses! "November Rain" goes down! "November Rain" goes down! "RIDE" IS OUR MASTER NOW.