Being an entertaining activity, gambling is depicted across all entertainment mediums. Music videos are no exception. Here are four examples.
Live Your Life – T.I. featuring Rihanna, 2008
The music video for Live Your Life, directed by Anthony Mandler, mixes hip-hop music with dice games. The video portrays T.I.’s character relaxing and shooting dice with his friends before things start to take a turn for the worse.
There are multiple examples of the use of gambling-related imagery as metaphors for the instability of life.
The Gambler – Kenny Rogers, 1978
Many people agree that Kenny Rogers was the artist that started the trend of addressing gambling in songs and music videos.
Back in 1978, it was kind of a big deal. That’s because the options when it came to music videos were pretty much limited to the artists singing, dancing and playing in front of a camera. But The Gambler was a video with a specific theme and a full storyline.
Rogers sits at an empty poker table and sips on his whisky as he goes through what is almost like a tutorial on how to play poker.
Out of Touch – Uniting Nations, 2004
15 years ago, the British dance act United Nations enjoyed modest success with this cover of a Hall & Oates original.
Even though the video never fully becomes explicit, it depicts a young man playing strip poker at a table with four attractive female gamblers. It is meant to be fun and entertaining, although it actually features a storyline that evolves throughout.
Waking Up in Vegas – Katy Perry, 2009
The music video for Waking Up in Vegas, directed by Joseph Kahn, is a full-on visual gambling extravaganza.
Perry and her romantic partner engage in an over-the-top lifestyle after scooping a huge jackpot in a slot machine. They use most of the money to continue betting on high stake games.
But here is where things get interesting. The video starts with the couple inserting their only remaining coin in a slot after going broke the night before.
They hit the jackpot and enjoy a winning streaks throughout the video. Towards the end, though, their luck starts to change and they lose everything. It perfectly exemplifies the main line of the song: “that’s what you get for waking up in Vegas”.
The video finishes with them getting a jackpot at the same room and the same slot of the beginning scene. Do the beginning and the end of the video depict the exact same moment, meaning that the couple ends up with nothing?
Or do they win an entirely new jackpot at the end? If so, does it signify that they are trapped in a cycle of wins and losses in Vegas?
Or does it mean that, after hitting rock bottom, they will get a chance of making things right with the money from the jackpot? It is actually a smart and entertaining way of portraying the uncertainty of the gambling life.
In the digital era, it will not be a surprise if more and more songs and music videos start addressing the theme of online gambling.