Have you ever truly longed for something you didn’t know existed?
OK, OK, easy—I’m not gonna get too philosophical on you. But the above sentence should act as a sort of warning post, so you know what you’re getting yourself into with veteran director David Lynch and Swedish pop-singer Lykke Li’s new collaboration, the boundlessly enigmatic “I’m Waiting Here.”
The video itself is simple. A highway—empty; gorgeous. A view out of the windshield as the unseen car begins its journey. Dusk sets in, and finally night. The car eventually pulls into the parking lot of a motel. End of video. But it’s the music that makes the video something special. A slow, dream-like atmosphere builds as Lykke Li’s voice echoes over the desert road, in easy harmony with the unhurried sound of Lynch’s layered guitars and drumbeat.
David Lynch—you know David Lynch, right? If you haven’t seen any of his iconic films, like Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks, or The Elephant Man, you’ve at least HEARD of them, probably surrounded with an air of mystery and awe (at least if I was the one discussing them). Loved by many, hated by more and understood by few, David Lynch is probably the second most divisive film director still working (the #1 spot goes to the incredibly gifted but painfully media-shy Terrence Malick). Lynch’s films have an air of intense stylization, but aren’t accompanied by the Robert Rodriguez–esque showiness that usually goes hand-in-hand with a great eye for aesthetics. Understatement is key in David Lynch’s world. A shot of soft, warmly lit curtains is enough; no need to see what lies behind them.
With his latest music video, Lynch continues to explore the themes which have haunted him since the beginning of his career. Loneliness; isolation; the American dream (or the American lie, if you listen to most critical analysis of Blue Velvet); deep, insatiable longing. The video pulls you, the viewer, into itself; with nothing but a view from the front seat it’s as though each of us is going on our own little five-minute road trip every time we watch the video. And by putting you front and center, it makes you the main character in a story of self-discovery and inexpressible yearning, as narrated by Lykke Li. Li’s voice aches with loneliness as she sings the title words over and over for most of the song. No fancy lyricism; no more needs to be said. This empty longing is a universal feeling, one we all connect with on a personal level. We all have our loneliness; our unattainable dreams and our unquenchable thirsts.
Since the 1969 cult hit Easy Rider hit the theaters (helmed by future Lynch collaborator Dennis Hopper), the highway has been an icon of American culture. Generally speaking, the road is a symbol of a never-ending search for something. And like all the masters before him, Lynch isn’t particularly concerned with what that something is. It’s truly ineffable; finding out what’s at the end of the road would be about as useful or satisfying as finding out what kind of poison killed you after you were already dead. No, Lynch is only interested in the search ITSELF. Thinking about it now, I might even go so far as to call the music video for “I’m Waiting Here” the greatest American road movie I’ve seen since Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas (1984). OK, maybe Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) tops it, but still, it’s the best five-minute road movie I’ve EVER seen. This music video is miles beyond the trashy-flashy pop videos you’ll see on top-40 lists, which heavily feature the likes of Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, and Ke$ha (I’m wrapping it up now, painfully; I should’ve typed the last paragraph BEFORE I enticed an angry elephant to stomp on my hands as penance for writing that dollar sign up there).
I could talk more about the music by itself, but truthfully, without the video there’s not much there. It’s nice, engrossing, good music; but by itself it’s only half a piece of art. David Lynch and Lykke Li’s “I’m Waiting Here” shines with a delicate beauty, so fragile it almost seems you could destroy the trance-like atmosphere it creates with the merest cough. Lynch offers no clues as to where your mind should go for closure, instead leaving the hopes, dreams and longings that the music and video stir up entirely with the individual, but the emotional impact of this beautiful work of art is undeniable.