Tom Petty’s Five Best Music Videos

On October 1st, 2017, heartland rock singer, Tom Petty, went into cardiac arrest, prompting a slew of media outlets to proclaim he’d flown to that great big stadium in the sky. While initial reports of his passing proved premature, Petty’s death was officially confirmed later that evening, igniting a groundswell of goodwill towards the legendary front man.

Petty and his band, The Heartbreakers, rose to prominence in the late ‘70s, thanks to their third LP, Damn the Torpedoes. The album contained rock staples, “Don’t Do Me Like That” and “Refugee,” sold over three million copies, and kickstarted an impressive run of hits that ran through the ’80s and into the early ’90s.

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Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers third album, Damn the Torpedoes, spent seven weeks at #2, stuck behind Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

In tandem with the band’s sustained success, Petty struck commercial gold when he went solo on 1989’s Full Moon Fever, and again with super-group, The Traveling Wilburys.

But for a certain generation of music fans, he’s best remembered for his music videos. Though not an obvious MTV superstar like Madonna or Michael Jackson, Petty was an early champion of the format, transitioning from rock star to video god with ease, and eventually winning the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard in 1994.

To celebrate his legacy, here’s a look back at five of Petty’s most iconic music videos.

Don’t Come Around Here No More: This Alice in Wonderland inspired video is frequently cited on all-time “best of” lists, and for good reason. Co-written by the Eurthymics’ Dave Stewart (who cameos in the video as the hookah-smoking Caterpillar), the song’s booming psychedelia perfectly matched Alice’s madcap adventure, with Petty expertly cast as the Mad Hatter. The minor (and ridiculous) controversy involving a scene where Petty and the band eat a cake version of Alice proved inconsequential, as the video scooped up Best Special Effects at the 1985 MTV Video Music Awards.

 

Running Down a Dream: Based on Little Nemo in Slumberland comics, this animated music video found Petty on the run, as he slid down staircases and dodged cliff-eating clowns in surreal, nightmarish scenes. The video’s frenetic pace complemented the song’s windows-down/radio-up vibe in a fun, irreverent, and perfectly Petty way.

 

Into the Great Wide Open: Although the song wasn’t a hit (it limped to #92 in the charts), the six-and-a-half-minute video was a treat. The song’s cautionary lyrics were brought to life thanks to Johnny Depp as Eddie Rebel and Faye Dunaway as his cougar-ish Svengali, plus cameos from Matt LeBlanc, Chynna Phillips, and err…Terence Trent D’Arby. But the real fun was spotting the various parts Petty played: narrator, tattoo artist, roadie, reporter. The video was nominated for Best Male Video in 1992 (losing to Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven”) and for Best Video That Should’ve Won a Moonman in 2009 (losing to Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage”).

 

Mary Jane’s Last Dance: Recorded for Petty’s first Greatest Hits collection, this somber, faux-drug-promoting rock ballad was showcased by its lush, sapphire-tinged video, with Petty playing a morgue assistant enamored by a beautiful corpse (Kim Basinger). The video walks a fine line between creepy (dressing Basinger in a wedding gown and seating her at a dinner table) and cool (the candle-lit, Great Expectations-inspired slow dance), and won Petty Best Male Video at the 1994 VMAs.

 

You Don’t Know How It Feels: Petty’s last top forty single is best remembered for its distinct harmonica solo and a censored lyric about rolling joints. But it was the music video—shot in one continuous take—that shined brightest, with Petty in performance mode as he slowly revolved around a microphone. The deceptively-simple, medium close-up focus blurred the ensuing chaos (a bank robbery, circus performances, a wrecking ball smashing through a couple’s bedroom) behind him, creating instantly memorable imagery that scored Petty his second consecutive Best Male Video trophy.

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Kygo Reaches for the Stars

Norwegian, tropical house DJ, Kygo, has released his Stargazing EP, which collects previous singles, “It Ain’t Me” (featuring Selena Gomez) and “First Time” (featuring Ellie Goulding), plus his remix of U2’s brand new single, “You’re the Best Thing About Me.” Rounding out the EP are two new songs, “Stargazing” and “This Town”; the latter is an adequate but forgettable ballad about escaping the trappings of small town life, but the former is a beautiful, shooting star of a single.

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The artwork to Kygo’s new EP

“Stargazing” starts deceptively as a plain ballad, with up-and-coming singer-songwriter, Justin Jesso, supplying crystal clear vocals about star-crossed love (“And I will still be here, stargazing / I’ll still look up, look up / look up for love”). But when the chorus hits, the song explodes into a supernova marriage of shimmering piano and Jesso’s impassioned, digitally-stuttered voice. It tugs at the heartstrings, allowing “Stargazing” to shine brighter than the sun.

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Justin Jesso provides the stunning vocal on Kygo’s new single, “Stargazing”

A heartbreaking music video—centering around a child’s quest to build a rocket to find his deceased father in the stars—further supplements the song’s evocative vibe.

EPs function as stop-gaps to sustain interest while an artist plots their next move. But with another excellent single in tow, Kygo’s Stargazing twinkles magnificently on its own.

A Stadium Full of Dreams

On Saturday, September 23rd, 2017, Coldplay’s marathon A Head Full of Dreams Tour finally hit Seattle. It was a triumphant return for the band who—as lead singer, Chris Martin, pointed out mid-set—played their first U.S. show in Seattle, back in 2001. While they headlined the tiny Showbox theater on that year’s Parachutes Tour, they’ve since graduated to the gargantuan CenturyLink Field.

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Coldplay are touring in support of seventh album, A Head Full of Dreams

Despite being over a hundred shows into their tour, Coldplay delivered an exhilarating, explosive, energetic performance. After entering the outdoor stadium to “O Mio Babbino Caro” (a century-old Italian aria), CenturyLink was suddenly awash with vibrant Xyloband colors, as fireworks and confetti explosions punctuated opening song, “A Head Full of Dreams.” The free Xyloband bracelet—an accessory the band first utilized on 2012’s Mylo Xyloto Tour—played a pivotal role throughout the show, illuminating the stadium in stunning rainbow diodes.

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The Xyloband decorates stadiums with colors

Similarly, the band shot enough fireworks into the clear Seattle night sky to give the Beijing Olympics a run for their money. Pyrotechnics, lasers, kaleidoscopic screen visuals, and giant bouncy balls that floated across the crowd further ensured even the most casual Coldplay fan remained visually stimulated.

Furthermore, Martin was a charismatic front man, sprinting, diving, and twirling across stage like a kid in a candy store. Indulging locals is a time-worn concert tradition, but Coldplay’s love of grunge meant Martin’s 12th Man references felt genuine (he even played a few bars of “Black Hole Sun” in homage to local hero, Chris Cornell). He stopped “Charlie Brown” mid-song to have the audience tuck their cell phones away, and he apologized when the audience request song was once again “Us Against the World.”

And in a hilariously unscripted moment, Martin bashed a tooth against his microphone before asking if there was a dentist in the house. This excellent between-song banter was the perfect lubricant to keep the well-oiled Coldplay machine running smoothly.

Of course, a band is only as strong as their songs, and Coldplay delivered a swath of aces across three separate stages. Naturally, the setlist skewed heavily towards the tour’s namesake LP (including “Hymn For the Weekend” and “Adventure of a Lifetime”), but the band played at least one song off each of their seven albums. And they didn’t skimp on hits, either: Coldplay classics like “Yellow,” “Paradise,” “Clocks,” and “Viva La Vida” were dispatched from the main A stage, while slower fare (“Magic,” “In My Place”) were saved for the B and C-stages.

Of course, their long, storied career meant many of their gems (“Speed of Sound,” “Violet Hill”) weren’t performed, but the two-hour, twenty-plus-song setlist kept everyone satisfied. By the time the band closed with euphoric, penultimate closing song, “Up&Up,” Coldplay had successfully reminded Seattle why they’re currently the biggest band in the world.

NOTE: The fan videos were found on YouTube; they are not mine.

America’s Original Idol Returns

Hard to believe, but it’s been fifteen years since Kelly Clarkson won the first season of American Idol, back in 2002. She rocketed to stardom when coronation single, “A Moment Like This” reached #1, but it wasn’t until 2004’s Max-Martin-penned “Since U Been Gone” that Clarkson became a chart mainstay, allowing parent album, Breakaway, to dominate pop radio for nearly two years. The album’s success legitimatized Clarkson’s career, as well as American Idol’s ability to nurture genuine talent.

Fast forward to 2017. American Idol has been put out to pasture after years of diminishing returns (although a premature reboot airs in 2018), with The Voice now reigning as television’s preeminent vocal talent competition. Despite these changes, Clarkson remains a national treasure. Now married and with four additional studio albums under her belt (plus a Christmas album, a remix collection, and a successful greatest hits package), Clarkson has completed her American Idol contract.

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Clarkson celebrated ten years in the biz with 2012’s Greatest Hits–Chapter One

Having jumped ship from RCA to Atlantic Records, she’s ready to start the next chapter in her storied career with seventh album, Meaning of Life. To launch the new LP, Clarkson has blessed us with not one, but TWO lead singles: “Love So Soft” and “Move You.”

“Love So Soft” is the sexier of the two singles, as it combines trap and soul for a stomping banger that splits the difference between DJ Snake’s “Get Low” and vintage Amy Winehouse. While it lacks the same immediate rush as previous high watermarks like “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You),” handclaps, soaring backing vocals, and sultry horns compliment Clarkson’s crystal-clear notes, allowing the song to swagger with confidence. It’s a quirky, brilliant lead single.

Meanwhile, “Move You” is aimed at traditionalists who’ll find her other single too sonically adventurous. While Clarkson’s vocal remains restrained in “Love So Soft,” she lets loose in this ballad, as she compares love to “a sunrise on a mountain,” and “the thrill of Christmas morning”. The lyrics are occasionally corny (is love really “like a symphony at sundown, in the middle of July”?), but the conviction of Clarkson’s commanding voice keeps this from descending into schmaltz; expect this to soundtrack weddings well into 2018.

Notably, each of Clarkson’s six studio albums have spun off at least one top ten single. With the expert one-two opening punch of “Love So Soft,” and “Move You,” Clarkson looks to keep her streak alive, and to once again remind us why she’s still our OG Idol.

George Michael’s Sexy “Fantasy”

Eight months after his untimely death on Christmas Day, George Michael returns with a posthumous new single…sort of. To promote an upcoming reissue of Michael’s early ‘90s opus, Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1, a remake of obscure B-side, “Fantasy,” has just been released.

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A deluxe reissue of Michael’s 1990 album, Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1, will be released on October 20th.

“Fantasy” is an odd candidate for a remake. Tacked onto his mission-statement-of-a-single, “Freedom ’90,” the glorified jam session found Michael crooning “if you ain’t got time for me / I’ll find another fantasy” against five minutes of wailing trumpets. The tune was serviceable but unspectacular, and was (rightly) reduced to a mere footnote in Michael’s storied career.

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The artwork to the “Freedom ’90” single, on which “Fantasy” first appeared

Enter Nile Rodgers. The legendary producer—whose five-decade-plus career encompasses everyone from David Bowie to Daft Punk—reduced “Fantasy” to its barest essentials, slashing a minute and a half from the running time, and stripping away the horns to thrust Michael’s blue-eyed-soul vocals to the forefront. Best of all, Rodgers infused the track with a sexy, bouncing groove that dares the listener to not tap their toes. The result brilliantly updates Michael’s classic sound for 2017.

Because of the original’s obscurity, the “Fantasy” remake will unfortunately preach only to the converted. But Rodgers has more than done his job, transforming an average B-side into an ass-shaking delight. George Michael would be proud.

The Power of Britney: I Wanna Go

Britney Spears is no ordinary musician. Though the racy, Catholic school girl-themed video to debut single, “…Baby One More Time” suggested she was a sexy flash-in-the-pan, a combination of seamless reinventions, tabloid-selling headlines, and a Phoenix-like resurrection from the deepest depths of personal despair have transformed her initial fifteen minutes of fame into fifteen-plus years in the biz. Her very essence enables Britney to hold hypnotic sway over a swath of gay men (myself included) who worship the ground she walks on.

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Britney cemented her comeback with three wins at the 2008 Video Music Awards

Of course, Britney would not be the unimpeachable pop princess she is today without an impressive catalogue of hits. Whether she’s confessing doe-eyed love to her boyfriend in 1999’s “Born to Make You Happy,”

or baiting the paparazzi in 2008’s “Piece of Me,”

there’s a Britney jam for every mood and moment. The pervasiveness of these hits means her songs come intrinsically bound with memories unique to each listener; to the faithful, Britney jams aren’t just songs, they’re mission statements, callings, and/or life lessons.

This series will explore the memories and lessons I’ve attached to Britney’s music, starting with how “I Wanna Go” delivered me from hell.

2:00 a.m. Sunday morning, Vancouver Pride, 2013. After dancing for hours to DJ Grind’s “happy house” music at the main Saturday party, my circuit-queen boyfriend and I defected to an after hours club. Queueing in the grimy, claustrophobic lobby, we were blissfully unaware of the rabbit hole we were about to descend. Instead, eager to dance, we paid the outrageous cover fee and stepped through the ominous black entrance.

Inside, it was hot as hell, and twice as debauched. Within minutes, the sweltering temperature sucked a gallon of sweat from my body, while horny men—hidden in the shadows and lost in the throes of animal lust—fucked on the dance floor. Circling the chaos, we observed limitless depravities: tweaked-out twinks snorted coke, a friend fell into a K-hole, some guy literally shit his pants. Unimpressed with such antics, my seasoned boyfriend suggested navigating through the crowd to find our friends. I was terrified. With the seriousness of a saint, I looked him in the eye and instructed him to not let go of my hand for any reason.

Punishing, vocal-less industrial music sound-tracked our voyage. Devoid of melody, the songs’ abrasive, jagged sounds echoed through the club like ricocheting metal; it sounded more like a factory than a dance club. We managed to find our friends in the sea of sin, but the party favors started short-circuiting my brain: one friend’s face glowed with neon green zig-zags, while another friend morphed into a werewolf right before my eyes. Telling myself these were merely hallucinations, I forced myself to sway to the music’s brutal beats. My friends and I muscled our way through two hours of hot, sticky drudgery, but having partied the night before, we were exhausted and on the verge of collapse…

…And then the DJ dropped “I Wanna Go”.

After hours of hard, sadistic tunes, Britney’s third Femme Fatale single was the ray of sunshine we craved. The effect was sweeping and immediate: couples stopped fucking, junkies tucked their drugs away, and my friend came out of his K-hole, allowing the dance floor to explode in unison. While my dance floor brethren’s depths of depravity had previously frightened me, we were now suddenly united under the track’s bouncy groove. My friends and I danced and twirled with renewed vigor, casually intermingling with strangers we’d maintained a healthy distance from before. Even the stifling heat seemed to briefly dissipate. Somehow, in this crazy carnal hellhole, Britney managed to merge the disparate dance floor factions into three-and-a-half glorious moments of unbridled harmony. We left shortly thereafter, Britney having once again saved the day and our souls.

Pretty in Pink

On Sunday, Pink will be awarded this year’s Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the MTV Video Music Awards. Despite not being an obvious choice, a look through her storied career shows why she’s a worthy recipient: aside from being a criminally-underrated vocalist, her defiant, take-no-prisoners attitude was a breath of fresh air in the post-millennium bubblegum-pop landscape. And while her career never scaled the same stratospheric heights as Britney Spears or reached the cultural ubiquity of Rihanna, she’s consistently delivered some of the catchiest and sassiest hits of the last twenty years.

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Pink has been a VMA mainstay for nearly two decades

In honor of Pink’s coronation, here’s a look back at five of her most eye-popping music videos:

Don’t Let Me Get Me: After some slick, R&B-influenced videos off her debut album, Pink kickstarted her pop-rock transformation with the feel-good video to “Get the Party Started.” But it was Missundaztood’s second single, “Don’t Let Me Get Me,” that showcased her vulnerability. Despite the unwieldly song title, the semi-autobiographical video played the lyrics straight, dealing with Pink’s nonconformity in high school and the record industry. Whether she was railing against her reflection in a school locker room, or scaring off overly-zealous hair and makeup crew during a photo shoot, Pink’s rebellious spirit spoke to a generation of disenfranchised teens.

 

Stupid Girls: Pink had dabbled with humor in her videos before, but she went for the comedic jugular on 2006’s celebrity-skewing, “Stupid Girls.” No vapid VIP was safe, as she mercilessly mocked Lindsay Lohan’s hit-and-run, Paris Hilton’s sex tape, and Jessica Simpson’s hypersexualized “These Boots Are Made For Walkin” video via hilarious reenactments. The effect is almost too obvious today, but back then it was a bold, genius move that enabled Pink to scoop Best Pop Video.

 

U + Ur Hand: Filmed in tandem with “Stupid Girls,” “U + Ur Hand” found Pink playing the role of Lady Delish, an unlucky-in-love renegade with a penchant for red lollipops and black lace. Despite numerous locales—an auto shop, a rooftop bar, a garden library—the video is light on plot, electing to shine with flawless makeup and perfectly-detailed splashes of color, instead. Telling an ex to fuck off had never looked or sounded so sweet.

 

Fuckin’ Perfect: On one of two new songs for her first Greatest Hits album, Pink tackled the serious subject of self-harm. Focusing on an artistic loner who struggles to find her way, the song stops dead in its tracks as the young woman, overwhelmed by the weight of the world, cuts the word “PERFECT” into her arm whilst lying in the bath. The visual chills without being exploitative, and when our protagonist survives, perseveres, and eventually flourishes, it hammers home an essential message of self-acceptance that every alienated, outcast soul needs to see. If you do not shed a tear while watching this video, you’re a soulless automaton.

 

Try: After wowing at the 2010 Grammys with her stunning aerial performance of “Glitter in the Air,” Pink upped the ante with the Technicolor explosion of dance that is “Try.” Set in a spartan shack, the video finds Pink and hunky, shirtless dancer, Colt Prattes, engaged in intricate, Apache dance-inspired choreography that highlights the song’s somber mood. Impressively, Pink performed all her own stunts in the video, proving once more she’s a legitimate badass.

Boys! Boys! Boys!

Welcome to the dog days of summer, where oppressive heat and Despacito’s sustained success zap your will to live. Thankfully, British wild child, Charli XCX, is back like a blast of air-conditioned bliss. Though best known for adding bratty, party-pop hooks to Icona Pop’s I Love It and Iggy Azalea’s Fancy, her new single, Boys, is perfect minimalist electropop. With deliciously-vacuous lyrics—“I was busy thinkin’ ‘bout boys, boys, boys”—and an excellent Super-Mario-coin-snatching hook, it’s a glorious late-summer jam.

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Give us a kiss! Charli XCX’s new video brings all the boys to the yard

But Boys’ music video is its true highlight. Employing a multitude of her famous male friends, the Charli XCX-directed video is a veritable conveyor belt of stunning men hamming it up for the camera.

Though far from the first video to flip the script by objectifying men instead of women (check out Janet Jackson’s Love Will Never Do Without You

and Shania Twain’s Man! I Feel Like a Woman),

Boys shines because of its admirable diversity: we get tattooed indie boys (Frank Carter), sensitive singer-songwriter boys (Charlie Puth), hip-hop boys (Wiz Khalifa), pancake-eating boys (Joe Jonas), superstar-producer boys (Mark Ronson), Asian boys (Jay Park), ripped boys (Cameron Dallas), more-to-love boys (The Fat Jew), and beautiful British boys (Tom Daley), to name just a few. This rainbow of men means there’s something for everybody, and because spotting all the cameos is half the fun, the video is sure to warrant repeated viewing. It’s a calculated and clever way for Charli XCX to make her late bid for song (and video) of the summer.

Five Forgotten Video Classics

MTV turns 36 today, but because the channel is the television equivalent of Peter Pan—refusing to ever grow up or even acknowledge their past—today’s programming remains an endless sea of Teen Mom and Catfish detritus. It’s a shame MTV won’t air music videos today, because the channel’s role in transforming the medium from a cheap touring alternative into a legitimate art form cannot be overstated.

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MTV debuted on August 1, 1981

I absolutely love music videos, and if MTV refuses to celebrate its success by playing any videos today, I’ll take the reins by spotlighting some excellent clips. I’ve forgone popular classics by Madonna and Michael Jackson to present five underrated gems, instead. Watch these and remember why MTV was once such a potent force.

 

The Sun Always Shines on TV—A-Ha: Sure, they’re mostly known as “that ‘80s one hit wonder with the cool, hand drawn video to ‘Take on Me’,” but Norwegian band, A-Ha, had another ace up their sleeve with the equally stunning video to “The Sun Always Shines on TV.” The introductory image of lead singer, Morten Harket, and video vixen, Bunty Bailey, continuing their cartoon love affair acts as a red herring; the black and white performance video really starts when the drums and guitar kick in, with the band playing to an audience of mannequins. The result could’ve been colossally cheesy, but expert, award-winning editing created haunting, chilling scenes of motionless mannequins singing, raising their hands aloft, and even playing violin, enabling this video to stand as the quintessential forgotten classic.

 

Karmacoma—Massive Attack: British collective, Massive Attack, made their name in the ‘90s by marrying inventive, iconic imagery to their trip-hop masterpieces. The tower-block terror of “Safe From Harm,” the singing fetus in “Teardrop,” and the creepy chase in “Angel” are all outstanding, but the surreal hotel visitors—including a paranoid gunman, a typist missing a “K” on his typewriter, and two crimson-clothed call girls—in “Karmacoma” are impossible to ignore. Despite knowing nods to The ShiningPulp Fiction, and American Psycho, the video manages to thrill on its own accord, with disturbing, vaguely sinister undertones that perfectly match the song’s trippy vibe.

 

Giving Up the Gun—Vampire Weekend: Early DIY videos for “A-Punk” and “Oxford Comma” marked New York indie band, Vampire Weekend, as a creative tour de force, but they upped the fun factor on their second album with the playful video for “Giving Up the Gun.” The video stars a precocious young redhead burning her way through a tennis tournament until she’s faced with her doppelganger in the dramatic finale. But it’s the hilarious cameos from Jake Gyllenhaal, Joe Jonas, Daft Punk, RZA, and Lil ‘Jon that make the video such a treat. Tennis has never looked so silly and fun.

 

We Come 1—Faithless: Riding a wave of big British ‘90s beats, Faithless burst onto the scene in 1996 with seminal dance track, “Insomnia.” Though hailed as an instant classic, the song’s simple, black and white promo left much to be desired; it wasn’t until 2001’s “We Come 1” that Faithless created a visual treat to match the music. The video starts with lead singer, Maxi Jazz, sitting on a sofa in Gandhi-like gear. Then, against the catchiest beats of Faithless’ career, the video ignites in a strange explosion of protest and club-dancing imagery. Rocks are tossed while couples kiss, ambulances are tilted while revelers shake their ass, and a full clash with armed police ignites while the dance floor loses their mind. By expertly walking a line we never knew existed, Faithless created an unforgettable video that still resonates today.

 

If I Had a Gun…—Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds: Because Britpop icons, Oasis, were not renowned for their music video prowess, not much was expected from Noel Gallagher’s post-Oasis project, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. However, the video to third single, “If I Had a Gun…” delivered in spades. It centers around Peyton List (Mad Men, Frequency) as a bride whose wedding is interrupted by a horse-riding cowboy from her past. Sparks immediately rekindle between the pair, leaving Gallagher (in a hilarious cameo as the wedding officiant) to shrug in confusion. Devoid of dialogue, perfectly executed details—a bridesmaid’s telling laugh, the best man preparing for fisticuffs by removing his cuff links—make this video the authoritative guide to wordlessly ruining a wedding.

 

Lana Del Rey’s Lust For Life

What a strange, enigmatic pop star Lana Del Rey is. Despite nearly torpedo-ing her career before it even started with that infamous SNL performance, she’s carved her niche as a YouTube-generation torch singer, thanks to the atmospheric “Video Games” off 2012’s Born to Die.

Subsequent releases have been rapturously received by both critics and her rabid fanbase, yet excepting a fluke remix of “Summertime Sadness,” her songs rarely grace top 40 radio. Unburdened with the need to generate huge singles, Del Rey’s albums instead function as masterclasses in evocative dream-pop.

Del Rey’s fifth LP, Lust For Life, continues this trend, with each track infused with her trademark lush, Wall-of-Sound production. Booming lead single, “Love” exemplifies this best, with the song’s nearly operatic grandiosity enveloping you like a warm embrace on a cold evening.

Likewise, the Max-Martin-penned title track shines, as Del Rey and the Weeknd trade surreal lines about “dancing on the H of the Hollywood sign” against the best production this side of a Phil Spector song. And as always, Del Rey’s vocals stun and enchant with effortless beauty, allowing her to glaze over some of the album’s so-so lyrics (“high tops in the summer/don’t be a bummer”).

Despite largely preaching to the choir, Lust For Life still manages some subtle surprises: the confident, hip-hop swagger of “Summer Bummer” recalls past Born to Die glories. The echo-y “In My Feelings” is a brilliant fuck-off, with Del Rey sneering, “get that cigarette smoke outta my face.” And while she normally sings solo, the album is sprinkled with surprising guest vocalists, including Sean Lennon on ‘60s-love-letter, “Tomorrow Never Came,” and a meeting-of-ethereal-minds duet with Stevie Nicks on “Beautiful People Beautiful Problems.”

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Lust For Life includes guest vocals from The Weeknd, ASAP Rocky, Sean Lennon, and Stevie Nicks

Also, while the album tackles familiar terrain (summer in “White Mustang,” love in “Groupie Love,” and America in “God Bless America—And All the Beautiful Women in It”), Del Rey struggles with an existential millennial dilemma in “Coachella—Woodstock on My Mind,” as she fails to reconcile a weekend of music festival bliss against mounting tensions with North Korea. This small, toe-dip into politics—along with her recent announcement that she’ll stop using American flag imagery because of President Trump—stands in stark contrast to Del Rey’s typically unrelenting Americana obsession, whilst expertly showcasing her growth as an artist.

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Del Rey won’t utilize her familiar American flag imagery in direct response to her disdain for Trump

Because so many of Lust For Life’s songs sound like silky smooth stoner anthems, the album lacks the dramatics peaks and valley associated with more traditionally-pop albums (and it’s about three songs too long). This relative uniformity won’t convert any newcomers, but to her slavishly devoted fans, Lust For Life perfectly encapsulates Del Rey’s enigmatic, singular brilliance.