So I stumbled across something that I’m having a little bit of trouble parsing. It’s a music video by a bloke called Oren Lavie. Because I live almost full-time in a dimension of screaming and loud guitars, it’s the first I’m hearing of him. The track that the video is for is called ‘Second Hand Lovers’, and it’s not really my thing. Don’t get me wrong, I love a melancholy singer-songwriter as much as the next ennui-assaulted white dude, but I’m just not convinced by the execution here. It’s a bit safe, his vocals drag, and the instrumentation could use an inspired interjection here and there. The video, on the other hand, is much more successful. It’s a quite effective evocation of what Lavie is exploring in his lyrics: The transient nature of relationships. In it, a generically tousled white man potters around his spacious, empty flat, followed everywhere by the ghosts of his (slim, mostly fair-skinned) past romantic partners. They are ever-present, greeting him, anticipating him, and shadowing his every step. As the video progresses, he meets someone new, and through time jumps we see the life cycle of a relationship unfold in a minute or so. The ghosts, meanwhile, never leave. They are a presence even while this new partnership is developing, while it’s going steady, and when it shows the first signs of turning. Eventually, this fresh romance, too, lives out its life, fades, and ends, and as the now-ex partner says her final goodbyes to Tousled Bloke, she turns around and leaves, and her ghost joins the others in the flat.
Now, that’s a pretty cool concept, I think. We all of us have these ghosts. Every human being is the sum total of their memories and experiences, and as some of the strongest experiences that we live through take the shape of other people and some of the heaviest memories we carry are as a result of those people, one could make the argument that we, as individuals, are creatures molded by the hands of those we let shape us. In other words: We are not the only scribes responsible for the writing of our story. We choose who else gets to contribute along the way. We don’t get to decide whether or not to keep their contributions though—that’s decided for us; and therein lies the rub of it all. Everyone’s mark stays. I know for a fact that I would love to erase one or two contributions to my story, but that’s not how it works. So I think that’s what this video for ‘Second Hand Lovers’ is going for, and I think it succeeds to an extent, but I can’t help but be put off by something that I can’t quite place. Maybe it’s the womens’ desultory manners, their listless movements and neutral faces. I know they’re like that on purpose, but still. Something feels a bit off. A bit exploitative, maybe. I dunno. Maybe it’s their muteness. That definitely freaks me out. Judge for yourselves: