As the band’s first song release since 2008, The White Stripes’ “City Lights” proved to be a more mellow and emotional track than is characteristic of the band. Originally intended for its 2005 album, Get Behind Me Satan, Jack White, lead guitarist and vocalist, recently finished the song and released its music video, created by filmmaker Michel Gondry. Supported by a simple and wistful aesthetic, “City Lights” attains a degree of simplicity that enhances the concrete aspects of the song’s lyrics.
The video centers on drawings made on a steamed-over shower glass door, which complement the lyrics of the song. The compelling aspect of the video, however, is that the steam keeps fading and erasing the drawings made on the door, so new ones are simply drawn over the old ones, building upon each other just long enough to be taken over by the steam. When one considers the lyrical content that accompanies these drawings, the song takes on a melancholy tone.
The video starts with a pair of holding hands, matched with the lyric “I want to grab a stranger’s hand,” which is followed up with, “If our miles have added up to a giant pile of distance that we cannot reach past, climb, or conquer / Will you dig a tunnel to me?” This idea highlights the estrangement and uncertainty between the singer and the song’s addressee, while the steam taking over these images brings into question whether they will be able to work things out as the singer might hope. To further this idea of being so close yet so far away from each other, the video draws an airplane and a car going in different directions, serving as an even more glaring example of the two of them being on different paths.
At one point, there is a wandering and peaceful guitar section, where the tree that the song’s addressee sits watching the singer is drawn. This is accompanied by the lyric, “but will always be above me?” Thus, even though the singer says in the end that he “will arrive by your side,” the viewer understands that this might only be in their memories of each other and not in reality. On the whole, the music video was a lovely interpretation of the lyrical and sentimental qualities of “City Lights,” and served as a beautifully done contrast between the usual upbeat and edgy music that has defined the White Stripes in the past.
Featured Image By Third Man Records