The waifish, strung out musician in disheveled, yet carefully considered clothing looking disinterested with a limp cigarette hanging loosely at his lips; the quintessential rockstar archetype. Pete Doherty, frontman of iconic British rock bands The Libertines and Babyshambles, is the modern poster child for this timelessly styled attitude. Famously addicted to a laundry list of nasty narcotics (heroin, crack, cocaine, etc.) Doherty essentially walks around with a neon sign reading "I don't give a fuck what you think" hanging from his neck. That being said, he happens to be a talented — and now allegedly sober — musician and writer. He recently shared the video for his new single "Flags Of The Old Regime," a heartfelt tribute to the late Amy Winehouse. And it's hard to know how to receive it.
It's a beautiful song, and a beautiful sentiment. The cinematography of the visuals are striking, but the video feels contradictory. It glamorizes addiction. Doherty is the sole subject, donning a suit and tie, and adopting the role of the afflicted author. He sits at his typewriter with a burning cigarette in mouth, and laments over the untimely drug-related death of his friend Amy Winehouse. Writers, especially those of canonized literature, are known for being Libertines (no pun intended), spending days on end toiling over their word-processors under the influence of narcotics and alcohol. I understand that this is a tribute, but there's something uncomfortable about the romanticizing of such painful turmoil.
It's a tough situation, because this is how people want their rockstars: looking fucked up and devil-may-care, but it sort of seems like a perpetuation of the deeper issue. If Doherty is ever going to truly get clean, at what point should he trash this poisonous persona? I mean, the dude looks like he's about to nod off for the duration of the video, which could be interpreted as a symptom of his grief, but it looks more symptomatic of opiate abuse.
That being said, the visuals are effective and faithfully convey the intense grief the viewer is meant to feel. The sequences in which Pete stands covered in an unnamed white powder are powerful, albeit awkwardly blunt. And when he looks mournfully to the sky and says, "You won't be comin' down tonight," I admittedly got chills. In and of itself, this is a good music video, but the intention seems lost in the romance of young dead friends.
All profits generated by the single go to The Amy Winehouse Foundation. If it takes a sickly, drugged-up looking Pete Doherty on YouTube to generate financial interest in a good cause, well, it isn't in vain. I'm not suggesting his feelings are wrong, and I don't intend to tell someone else how to grieve. I'm trying to point out the disconnect between intention and perception. It's the kind of romance that inspired Lana Del Rey to say she wishes she were already dead. You're wrong if you think Del Rey is the only wide eyed, disaffected youth out there has never seen the romantic notion translated into it's cold dead reality.