Ghost- Music Video by Ella Henderson
One of my favorite songs on the radio right now is Ghost by Ella Henderson. The lyrics instantly caught my attention as well as the catchy upbeat tune and every time the song comes on I find myself putting it on full blast. When I found out there was a music video, I instantly looked it up on YouTube. However, after watching the four minute video I found myself incredibly confused. A song that seemed to be about love and empowerment was represented through a dark, chaotic and seemingly satanic video.
Ella Henderson is a new name in the music industry. She finished sixth in The 2012 X Factor, a musical talent show. She is a young, bubbly singer-songwriter British singer and Ghost is her lead single from her debut studio album titled Chapter One. The song was released on June 8th 2014.
The video is attached below:
The music video begins with a young man pursued through a dark forest by police with Ella singing in a motel. The video makes constant flashbacks to the young man happy with his girlfriend, at the motel and then a trip where he takes her up river. It continues with a bearded older man in a motel who peels the photo of the girl off the mirror. After that, the bearded man drops the dead girl into the river. The lyrics “give up the ghost” repeat and with it, the young man switches from beside the river in a jean jacket to running in convict clothes. The final scene consists of the young man running from the police cars with Ella replacing the police occasionally in a bright red dress. Eventually the young man breaks into the motel room to find the bearded man, a crucifix and the photo of the dead girl on the mirror.
There are many interpretations of the video on the web. The young man and the old man can be seen as being the same person as the actors look ironically alike and in this manner, about letting go of the past and confronting these harmful memories. The song also probably has little to do with murder or death, but instead talking about a past which has to be forgotten.
What is questionable about this video is the use of Christian symbols. At the climax of the song, Ella is walking outside in a bold red dress and there is a lot of bright light and fire in the video, creating a satanic imagery.
The last few moments of the video are unclear, as the young man breaks into the motel room where the shirtless older man with long dark hair and a beard- possibly resembling Jesus- is standing by a crucifix placed on a dark red wall and the image of the young girl. Though there is a direct Christian reference, the dark room, intimidating presence of the older man and the bright red wall as well as the pictures of the little girl, the “victim” in the video, creates a strong satanic image contradicting the large cross and Jesus-like appearance of the older man.
The lyrics of the song also make many religious references. The chorus contains lyrics that state “going to the river to pray”, and is present numerous times in the video. The young girl evidently is thrown into the water and as she drowns spreads her arms.
Water is also present during the relationship, when the couple goes out into the river to boat and when the young man is running from the cops within the dark forest and river. Water symbolizes purity or purification and can have a religious context.
Ella sings, “had to go through hell to prove I’m not insane, had to meet the devil just to know his name” and “sleeping all the demons away”. Though she is singing about love, these religious references are used within the lyrics to create connections between the pain and suffering she is enduring, as well as the importance of letting go of the past.
Regardless of the message of the song being about break ups, haunting pasts or moving on, the medium is presented as the message, using familiar religious symbols of purification, pain, evil and suffering in the video to create a symbolic representation of these themes in the song. Using words and images to create a deeper meaning reflects Richard Schechner’s performance theory. Though these religions icons and references are symbolic in the video and lyrics, there is a chance that they are being used to simply create connections with the spiritual and religious which the audience is supposedly familiar with.