“L.A. Devotee”: An Unusual Critique of Hollywood

Panic! at the Disco isn’t my kind of band, but their video for “L.A. Devotee” caught my attention. It’s a song about a boy being tortured and brainwashed by the band’s lead singer, and it seems to be a critique of Hollywood and how the media brainwashes kids into worshiping their favorite stars. And what a coup to use Noah Schnapp from Stranger Things. It’s rather appropriate since the character of Will Byers was also abducted (by the Demogorgon) and imprisoned (in the Upside Down).

In this video his captivity is more reminiscent of the Hostel films. He’s strapped to a chair in what looks like a torture cellar, with a video camera recording him. He sings the lyrics to the song — one moment like an automaton, the next hysterical — while the band’s singer is projected on a screen in front of him looking perversely gleeful. At the end, the kid gets treated to brutal doses of electroshock therapy, with the final frame hinting at… what, exactly? What does the singer intend to do to him?

Click on the image to watch.

L.A. Devotee (Click for Video)

There is a good analysis of the video over at Vigilant Citizen: “While the song ‘L.A. Devotee’ is your typical uptempo-radio-friendly tune with a catchy chorus, the video is a dark, troubling experience. Indeed, the lead singer Brendon Urie is seen taking pleasure in torturing a child in an all-out, satanic brainwashing session. Preying on children, taking pleasure in making them suffer, brainwashing them, black magic rituals: All of the occult elite’s favorite things are crammed in.”

The chorus paints its damning description of Los Angeles.

The black magic of Mulholland Drive
Swimming pools under desert skies
Drinking white wine in the blushing light
Just another LA Devotee
Sunsets on the evil eye
Invisible to the Hollywood shrine
Always on the hunt for a little more time
Just another LA Devotee

Not surprisingly, it evokes Mulholland Drive, a nod to David Lynch’s film in which the lead character is tormented by wish-fulfillment fantasies while strapped in a prison of guilt and self-loathing. As for “white wine”, it could be what the girl makes the boy drink — probably drugged to facilitate hallucinations and trauma. L.A. devotees seem to be those who succumb to the warped reality of the city, depicted in this video as a thoroughly sick environment. Kudos, Noah, for giving the Upside Down a run for its money.

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