Just a Dream – by Nelly

. . . every musical style has its share of songs that reach out across all boundaries. This is one of them.

In this haunting video of loss and regret, rap singer Nelly uses metaphoric dream sequences with background sounds punctuating deep, gut-wrenching pain. He also uses his surprising ability to show all these emotions in his face and body language. Even the word “dream” has a double meaning, for she was his.

The video opens with a scene of watery turmoil. Chaotic waves, like a curtain, obscure whatever lies behind them. Then, the curtain is pulled away to reveal a car suspended in air. The scene switches from a flicker of her in the car to him alone in the car on the beach, with a view of the ocean beyond the window. His eyes are not focused on the present, but on the past, as the dream goes on to “travel back down that road”, and on what might have been if he had been a better man. Background singers begin their rap-style dirge of deep pain, like a fist punch to the stomach. But just because the word “rap” is the musical genre here, doesn’t mean you have to throw out the baby with the bath water. Believe it or not, every musical style has its share of songs that reach out across all boundaries. This is one of them.

In the dream sequence, the woman he loves appears beside him in the car. Her eyes are caught in rays of light, sad with regret that she couldn’t save him, couldn’t last any longer in his life. As she looks at him, he looks toward the sunset. His hand reaches over to engulf hers as he sings:

I was thinking about her.
I was thinking about me.
I was thinking about us;
What was going to be.
Open my eyes. Yeah.
It was only just a dream.

As he looks backward, all the wealth and fame and the things that come with it — possessions, women, the high life — crumble to dust and ashes. They are nothing compared to what he has lost. The imagery in this video is stunning. In some places the video quality looks slightly off, until you realize he is looking out at himself through his own eyes.

She is now on the shore, distancing herself. As other images of his life appear in the air above him — a wedding band burning, an unfinished home, the car — she moves further away, running down the beach. He is caught between commitment and his lifestyle.

She had stayed until nothing was left but ruin. He had not taken his marriage (or marriage to be – he calls her his wife at one point) seriously enough. It all starts burning down around him. He reaches out in desperation. As he looks up at his wonderful dream in flames, the ashes fall like dark snow upon his face. Now he is drowning in despair and nothing can save him. When, in the imagery, the vision in his eyes shatters, and the woman flows out with his tears, followed by the wedding band, you know the dream is lost forever.

The ending is wrenching. They are both in an ocean of deep water, sinking. She rises upward toward light and life, letting go of his outstretched hand. As he sinks, his eyes are still open, still looking at her – his life.

(Of course, you’ll have to get through the advertisement to get to the video. But be patient. It’s worth it. I’m also issuing a strong warning about any other of Nelly’s songs and videos. Most have the amoral rap message. This is not to say all rap music has amoral messages. As with any music, you get the good and the bad).

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