Tuesday, June 1, 2010
All the Symbols in "All the Lovers".
The video for Kylie Minogue's anthemic All the Lovers has finally debuted and it might be one of the best things she's ever done.
Despite the fact that it's a too obvious reminder of her Body Language era and it overflows with the kind of cheesiness that has made her such a rare creature throughout her career, the video also features some of her most upfront commentaries about sex.
Unlike Lady Gaga who brings up her muffin, and her alleged penis, whenever she can and Madonna who (...do I really need to give an example?) Ms. Minogue has always been more romantic about the notions of sex.
At first glance the video might not seem overtly sexual (yes, it's a massive orgy but everyone looks so in love!) but through her use of symbols she's telling us a Calvin Klein ad version of Eyes Wide Shut filtered through Greek mythology.
The video begins with a falling cup of coffee, followed seconds later by a bottle of milk crashing against the pavement.
With this simple image begins a tale of frustration overcome by the power of love and understanding; for what can this spilling of milk mean if not an overtly anxious, male, sexual desire arriving before time?
The falling objects are followed by images of people taking their clothes off, surrendering to their most urgent affective needs and beginning an orgy of sorts in the middle of the street.
Those who aren't making out are pulled by a force that turns out to be none other than Ms. Minogue herself.
It hurts, when you get to close oh baby it hurts, when love is really good you just want more. Even if it throws you to the fire.
Like Aphrodite rising from the foam, she appears in a growing mountain of lovers who then divide the video into two storylines.
One devoted to the goddess' power of granting love and the other, that follows the song's lyrics, and tells the story of the unsatisfied lover trying to regain his status into Aphrodite's chamber.
What he doesn't seem to know though, is that the goddess has forgiven all in advance and his adventure is only meant to help him achieve the role of an adventurer and fulfill his mythical status.
A random shot of a screaming stranger (pictured above) gives us the only glimpse of anger in the entire video and might serve as a perfect way to exemplify the invisible hero's willingness to battle his way up to masculinity.
Kylie reminds him that this doesn't matter and sings the chorus,
All the lovers that have gone before, they don't compare to you. Don't be frightened just give me a little bit more. They don't compare, all the lovers...
Of course while the hero fights his way towards Olympus, Aphrodite has to keep herself busy.
So she creates a massive orgy, spreading love from where we can assume there was nothing before.
Using her magical hand to induce strangers into a complete state of ecstasy (and yet another more earthly symbol of the power of self stimulation) she starts piling up on the beautiful people under her.
Before anyone decides to make a big deal out of the fact that nobody in the video is what we could call "average looking", two things must be said in her defense.
First, our society has made us used to expect nothing more than tough standards of beauty to be represented in the media and the use of a multicultural United Colors of Benetton casting here simply fulfills that role.
Second, the use of extremely beautiful people also represents the idea of perfect aesthetics established by Greek culture.
For all we know, the tableaux presented to us by director Joseph Kahn could be modern interpretations of ancient paintings and sculptures.
Can't you see that this is getting higher, higher, higher?
The video also presents us with the fascinating visual motive of elevation.
All throughout we see birds and balloons fly up towards the sky, not to mention the growing mountain of lovers that forms around Kylie.
It's certainly no coincidence that we're first presented with objects falling to the floor and during the course of the song, they seem to achieve new life as they reach for the heavens.
More than a facile metaphor for male erections (which we all know are as essential in music videos as pretty people) they also continue telling the story of the shamed lover's realization that second opportunities exist.
But first he has to earn them.
Therefore as the song nears its bridge, Kylie is swallowed by the mountain.
The goddess descends to the underworld.
Dance it's all I wanna do so won't you dance?
I'm standing here with you why won't you move?
Even if it throws you to the fire...
As the bridge concludes, the cue is set for the hero to make his grand appearance.
And he does, in the shape of a majestic white horse.
We're in the presence of a symbol that has fascinated cultures for as long as time has existed.
The white horse has always been a mysterious creature, not only because of its color (which is quite rare genetically) but because of the qualities it's attributed with.
The white horse often represented the Greek god Poseidon (especially in the shape of Pegasus who sprung from the waves. Remember that Aphrodite was created from sea foam...) and were also associated with the hero's chariot and the end-of-times saviour.
But for All the Lovers its most obvious symbolism is that of the worshiped figure of fertility (where do you think all those stud and stallion jokes come from?).
Musically the horse is accompanied by one of the most rapturous instrumental bridges Kylie has ever created, making his appearance all the more glorious and enigmatic.
(Notice those three people right under the horse's mouth? I'm dying to know what their story is. They're the only menage a trois found in a video that highlights couples)
After being saved by the horse, Aphrodite rises from the underworld with even more power.
She has been able to create a structure made out of thousands of people, right in the middle of L.A. (if you're reminded of the movie Volcano I don't blame you).
In the last repetition of the chorus, the music has achieved an even more vibrant spirit. It goes from crying-on-the-dancefloor love song, to full out bliss anthem.
The volcano, and the lover's desire therefore have also been rekindled.
As she continues moving the lovers to her will, all of them having succumbed to the siren's chant, the video reaches its finale.
In the last seconds Kylie stands right in front of the camera, holding a single white dove in her hands.
The dove here has two meanings: first and foremost it represents the male lover's achievement, because for as long as language has existed, birds have been used as metaphors of the penis.
In the goddess' look we know that her lover has fulfilled his role and under the more widespread symbolism of the single white dove, they both have found peace.
To watch the video go here.