On the surface Raleigh Ritchie and I live very different lives. He’s an actor on one of the most successful shows on television, a recording artist who has amassed millions of views on YouTube, and he’s British. Me? I’m from the suburbs of D.C. and I don't put on pants until 5 PM.
Still, when you get past the resume and the pants and focus on his music, I feel a bond with Ritchie. He’s 25, I’m 27, but we both seem to be stumbling through life, trying to fit a wardrobe that feels too constraining and at the same time too big to dig your way out of. Trying to “make it” is hard and Ritchie’s music helps. It’s a respite, an oasis in the desert. Hearing his music, watching his videos, it’s nice to know I’m not alone in the quest to be "The Greatest". That’s why I look forward to his new music so much, because there’s always a secret message to be discovered below the surface, dig a little deeper and you'll hear him speaking an unspoken language I understand perfectly.
That’s what I was expecting when I pressed play on his "Bloodsport '15 (Pt. 2)" video, but instead of an ephemeral sense of inner peace, I was left with more questions than ever. Like the end of the Red Wedding episode I was left jarred, scared, and a little confused.
What. The. Actual. Fuck. Baby dolls shooting guns, trigger-happy mimes and cowboys? Seriously, what the hell is going on?
First, let’s break down what I do know. I know I really, thoroughly enjoyed this video, even though I’m not quite set on its meaning. Like all of Ritchie's videos it’s so well done and the attention to detail, the small things, are what make it great.
Case in point, that little smile he flashes when he’s going down the elevator, it’s such a small accent but fits so perfectly. We’ve all had that sheepish, blushing little smile after locking eyes with a crush. But other than knowing this video is really good, other than being convinced Raleigh makes some of the best videos today, I'm not sure what to make of this "Bloodsport Pt. 2." Without exaggeration, it's both one of the most confusing and impactful videos I've seen in the past 12 months, and I can't help but try to solve the puzzle. Maybe if I watched the video a scene at a time, broke it down into bite size chunks, it'll help?
Scene 1: The Bench
Pretty self explanatory here. In a continuation from his previous video, Raleigh is sitting on a bench (which seems to be a theme in his videos) and getting more and more enraged. The dude fucking hates mimes. He storms off with his guitar case.
Scene 2: The Elevator
Ritchie slips on a pink ski mask and rides in an elevator next to a little girl holding her doll. Pay attention to them, they matter later.
Scene 3: The Rooftop
Here’s where things start to get interesting. Ritchie opens his guitar case but instead of killing them softly with his song, he assembles a pink rifle to match his ski mask. He begins taking aim at every couple walking through the park. It was right around this point of the video where I thought I got it. He’s the anti-cupid, destroying love all around him. The people down below, falling in love, are ultimately done in by that love. But then RR starts opening fire on cowboys, mimes and soccer stretcher guys and that is where things start to get confusing. I get killing the couples, but the others? The mime? Is it anything that represents joy? Packing up his gun, the cowboy hating protagonist hears more gunfire and looks up to see, on the rooftop, someone in a green mask finishing a dog. A green mask? Is she envy? Is he love? Is he saying love and envy will ultimately kill us all? Am I overthinking this? Once she takes off the mask and they lock eyes it’s on. It’s clear Raleigh has already fallen madly in love with someone who can relate to his rage.
Scene 4: Bae
Raleigh rushes to the elevator (here’s where that smile comes in). He’s clearly swooning, but still takes the time to smash that little girl's doll. This is an increasingly difficult character to relate to or sympathize with. He runs to the other building, climbs the stairs, and around the 15th floor he stops to take a break and shit turns into the middle of a boxing match. A splash of water, a pep talk and he’s off again. The whole video is left-of-center but this adds another surrealist element to it. I’m not sure if this is supposed to mean something deeper or is just a quirky, interesting addition. He bursts open the door expecting to be met by his new, equally depraved lady friend but nothing. She appears behind him with Raleigh directly in the crosshairs and he delivers his big speech and my interpretation of the video promptly changes.
I've got your back, and though it's stacked against us / I've got your hand, it's us against consensus, and I will burn, / The people who hurt you the worst and I will not learn / Cause I am too young and too dumb to consider the terms / Of breaking the law and I'll curse the day that they return / With a smile on my face as their heads hit the floor / And their done now it's curtains the bloodlust's a clusterfuck it hurts but it's working / And even if you ask me to stop it's too late because I've already decided their fate / It's not a distaste it's pure hate and it pulsates and it works it's way around my brain / Anyway what I'm trying to say is I'll protect you til the day I meet my maker / So don't fight me now cause you might need me later
This changes my interpretation. Was all the killing for her? He talks about loving her so much he wants to destroy anyone and anything that ever slighted her; I’d think some flowers and Build-A-Bear would have sufficed, but to each their own. Is the whole video centered around the idea that fighting and killing are necessary so that their love can exist? Loving someone so much you hate everything else? If he was doing it all for love in the first place it puts a damper on my anti-cupid theory. But then it makes that whole scene where he sees her face seemingly for the first time kind of pointless, right? He wasn’t killing for her then, right? (Spoiler: regardless, as we see, falling in love with her ends up killing him.)
Scene 5: The Relationship
Romantic dinners, chocolates, trains entering tunnels (wink wink), all of it being blown up. To me this part represents their relationship progressing. They are slowly but surely heading down the path to weekend trips to IKEA and falling asleep at 10 PM in the middle of their favorite Friday CBS crime drama.
Scene 6: The Wedding
Rice, wedding bells and Uzi shells. Here we see our power couple getting hitched and celebrating by interlocking arms and shooting up the church. Talk about a shotgun wedding.
Scene 7: What. The. Actual. Fuck
Ok, here’s where shit gets totally FUBAR. As they are celebrating, his new wife’s head gets shot off. Raleigh looks horrified right up to the point where he gets capped too. I kind of saw it coming, but I didn't expect that the damn doll from the elevator would be the one staring down the sights. Before I can even wrap my head around the fact that a doll just shot him, the doll gets killed too. The girl looks horrified until, yep, you guessed it, her head gets blasted off. The culprit? Another mime. Or was that the same mime someone brought back to life? And scene.
Was that last scene just kind of a bonus and had nothing to do with the story? How does a doll even pull the trigger? Was the mime’s gun real? Where did the second mime even come from? Why would anyone want to be a mime in the first place? Do you mind if I write in only questions? Seriously I’m lost. I’m just going to give my pitch and hope it’s right...
I’m sticking with my anti-cupid story. He’s so sick and tired of seeing love, happiness and joy, that he sets out to destroy it. In the process he falls in love and then becomes a victim of that love. The rest, the doll, the mimes, is all to add a surreleast vibe to the scenes (perhaps to soften the blow of the violence), but the main message is that falling in love is a losing fight...or as some would call it…“Bloodsport.”
I wish there was a music video Genius I could go to that would explain this all. Or maybe it’s better that there isn’t. Genius has spoiled me now, when I want to know a lyric or the meaning behind it, I have it in three seconds. It’s almost too easy, too clean. Part of the joy of music is trying to interpret meaning and unpack themes. It can mean one thing to you and a completely different thing to someone else. Even better, the artist can have intention, a message they are trying to convey, but often, like a game of telephone, we understand it in a completely different way. We make our own meanings.
I’m not sure what Raleigh Ritchie meant, I’d love to ask him (and hopefully will), but it doesn't matter. I’ve crafted my own meaning. Am I right? Probably not, but I’m not exactly wrong either. Is there even a "right"? I may not know exactly what he meant, but I know that great pieces of art aren’t easily understood. It takes dissecting them, frame by frame, searching for hidden clues or meanings to really understand and even then there’s no way to be 100% sure.
In that sense Raleigh Ritchie's "Bloodsport" video is a great piece of art.
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favortie album is College Dropout but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth]