Is this a masterpiece of a confession?
Let us assume for a moment, that we do not know Selena Gomez. Let us turn off the sound of “Lose You To Love Me” and only look at the video. This woman could well be Lana Del Rey in blue jeans, or Amy Winehouse back to black, couldn’t she?
But there is more. This woman is apparently on the run, nervous and insecure, when she starts making her confession. Her grave sin was hatred (“I needed to hate you to love me”).
The music video goes well beyond the lyrics, because it sets the whole story specifically up in a confessional. It could as well be staged in Jaymes Young’s bathtub, in Usher’s piano room or anywhere else, but in this form, it puts us into the special role of the priest. We must listen to the confession of a chased sinner.
The video is #minimalistic, as it shows only a curtain, a frame, a woman, and a Victorian wallpaper, everything in black and white. The #close-up forces the spectator to focus on the performer’s face and her gestures. She goes through a lot of emotions until minute 2:57 to 3:00 in the video where we suddenly understand the journey she has made, what she has gone through and what she has achieved.
During this confession she speaks about it for the first time, and that gradually calms her down.
Can we believe her (although she is a “bad liar”)? Can we forgive her? She does not know, but at least she starts to accept what she has done, and she starts to live with it.
Eventually it becomes clear, that this is about the grand, archaic story of a person trying to find themselves. In contrast to the first impression of this video it is not a filmed selfie, it is a whole narration on a highly simplistic level.
What place has this unusual video in the overall work of Selena Gomez so far? Her former works used to present her as a singer, dancer, musical star, and hyper-attractive beauty, often stretching herself on a couch, on the floor or in the backseat of a car, dressed in beautiful robes.
Now “Lose You To Love Me” features a stark contrast to all of that. Selena Gomez is not an innocent painting of herself anymore, playing Selena Gomez. This time she plays a character, a sinner. This time she takes a role, a person with a fate.
Yes, we know, it is Selena Gomez’ profession as an actor to make us believe that she really is the character and feels like the character she plays. Only this time, the director Sophie Muller made her forget all her other professions and herself. This time Selena Gomez does not (really) sing the song, does not dance, does not stretch herself in a long flowing robe, is not a musical star. This time she re-lives an exceptional story including the emotional drama and the personal growth in it, directly in front of us, without any distractions. She could as well be Hamlet on a stage in London.
This time she really moves us. Probably for the first time in any of her music videos so far.
The whole video is an extraordinary, very important milestone in the artistic development of Selena Gomez.
Now, what about the place of this work in the overwhelming oeuvre of British director Sophie Muller?
Sophie Muller soon became a successful director. And over the past four decades she has not only directed around 230 music videos, but she has also developed a very distinctive style. To keep it short: we are still going through her works, but nothing so far seems to compare to “Lose You To Love Me”. Yes, there are certain elements, e.g. the central perspective, the narration, the intense emotion, the drama, the intimacy, or even the close-up.
And of course, there is this remarkable video with Rihanna in the bathtub.
But this time it seems as if a fresh, fearless and rebellious director had studied all the works of Sophie Muller, distilled and purified everything to the minimum and merged it into this outstanding work. A statement.
Only that it was Sophie Muller herself who took her own work ten levels further with this music video. The usual pomp reduced to a dark Victorian wallpaper, the actor reduced to their face and hands, the confessional reduced to a black frame, the group of dancers reduced to rhythmic cross fadings, all filmed with only a smartphone. And by that, at the same time, the story maximised to one of the grandest stories of mankind: Who am I? And what have I done?
Muller’s previous works present all kinds of show, glamour, surface, disguise, masks, fiction, temptation, confusion and imagination. This time she serves us none of that. This time she shows us the truth.
Sophie Muller started her intensive search with Annie Lennox having long, black hair walking through a fantasy, and now, after all the years, she has found something marvellous: Selena Gomez, also having long, black hair, but confronting us with reality.
And let us add a short remark: while Selena Gomez was mostly presented as a cute girl and later as an exceptional beauty in so many of her previous videos, this time we face the unvarnished Selena Gomez - by far the most beautiful Selena Gomez we have ever seen.
This music video is Sophie Muller’s Mona Lisa.
Trying to compare it with the works of other musicians and music video directors, e.g. ”Happy Now” comes to mind, played by actress Pyper America, or maybe ”Behind Blue Eyes” starring Halle Berry, or ”ÜBerlin” with Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Even Jimmy Sommerville in ”Smalltown Boy” could be an example, reflecting his own experiences when he moved from Glasgow to London in 1980. Or Idris Elba in ”Lover Of The Light”, playing a dramatic phase in the life of a blind man, turning Mumford & Sons’ song into a completely different story.
Sophie Muller simplified and intensified all that. In “Lose You To Love Me” the musician is the actress, and nothing supports her: she must convince us with her bare hands and her bare face.
And if you do not agree with our analysis so far, you can easily compare this music video with another one, also with Selena Gomez, also directed by Sophie Muller, also released in October 2019: ”Look At Her Now”. What an incredible difference.
Finally, what does “Lose You To Love Me” really want to say? Does it contain a message, maybe a piece of universal wisdom? One could be tempted to see the song and the video as a personal episode in Selena Gomez’ life which she is now prepared to share with us. It could well be, that she talks about a very important relationship, and that on the one hand she feels guilty for the mistakes she has made in it, while on the other hand she slowly starts to regain her self-confidence after all.
But that would be a relatively naive interpretation. In general, there is an important difference between the private life of an artist and their public artworks. An artwork will certainly be influenced by the artist’s experiences, but these experiences are usually transformed into something new. Therefore, we can try to find Selena Gomez in her works, but that will lead to all sorts of speculations. Instead, we should ask ourselves a much more fruitful question: what about us do we find in this music video?
The key to the answer goes back to the beginning of civilization. We can only be successful together, in functioning co-operations and relationships, but most of all, in a functioning relationship with ourselves. This human wisdom is part of all cultures, also well known in the Western world as a sentence in an ancient book, saying, ”Love your neighbour as yourself.”
The woman in the video just found out that she must love herself before she can love anybody else. This culminates in the four truly touching seconds from 2:57 to 3:00 in her confession. And this simple wisdom is not only true for her. It is also true for Justin Bieber (“Love Yourself”). And it is true for everybody else.
Our verdict: “Lose You To Love Me” is a milestone in Selena Gomez’ career so far, it is the accumulation of nearly four decades of Sophie Muller’s work, and it reflects a universal truth. It is a masterpiece.
If you want to make your confession, send it to confessions(at)lmvf.org.