Jean Ryden

Jean Ryden Doesn't Mind Being 'Bittersweet'

By Erica CampbellDec 12, 2023

The visuals for Jean Ryden's slow-burning single "Bittersweet" features waves of dark imagery, showing the singer submerged in in bodies of water, decked out in designer while standing beside a towering horse and singing sweetly as depictions of an ominous game of chess plays out between her verses. The track itself mirrors that same energy as her voice trickles out over subdued, sinister sonics and she admits, "I find it a relief if it isn't up to me," over distorted strings.

Ryden along with Silken Weinberg and Angela Ricciardi (who've collaborated closely with acts like Ethel Cain), led creative direction on the visuals, with Ricciardi taking on the role of director. Each vignette of the video "represents memories from my childhood and upbringing" Ryden tells PAPER. "I wanted to blur the lines between my former reality and the present. The relationship between what was, what could’ve been and what is. The essence of the American dream, but one that never came to fruition."

The Los Angeles-based singer was raised on the coast of Long Island. Her parents tragically passed away when she was still young, throwing her charmed upbringing into chaos, and forcing her to spend her early days of adulthood piecing her life back together. That struggle is ever-present in Ryden's music, as she swims in the undertow of loss, overwhelm and longing, all themes present in her latest album Parallel Universe.

Below, the burgeoning star talks to PAPER about the inspiration behind "Bittersweet", wearing archival Alexander McQueen, Ann Demuelemeester, Margiela, Vivienne Westwood and Helmut Lang as "a type of glamorous armor" and bringing vivid dreams to into reality.

What was it like to work with Weinberg and Ricciardi on "Bittersweet"? How did they help you fulfill the vision you had for the video?

I have vivid dreams that are premonitions from time to time. I actually had a dream we were working together on this project the night prior to meeting them. Ever since there has been an unspoken deep understanding and bond between us that felt almost cosmic. They immediately understood the world I wanted to build around these songs and took great care in representing my experience beautifully and meaningfully. Angela directed this video and I feel like she sees me the way I want to see myself and want to be seen. When we were working on this video, I would think one thing and she would say it or vice versa…that kind of connection is once in a blue moon. I feel very lucky to work alongside people that I feel that way about.

Jean Ryden

Let's talk about the archival designer looks you wear in the video. Would you say that fashion is a major form of expression for you?

Fashion and music go hand in hand. For me, it’s a type of glamorous armor integral to the storytelling in the music and visual world we’ve constructed. Angela and I share similar tastes and worked with Kat Typaldos to pull from brands that historically, and in essence, align with my identity and story. We wanted to fuse the androgynous minimalism of the ’90s (Ann Demeulemeester, Maison Margiela, Helmut Lang) with the dark glamour of the '20s to create a sort of deconstructed elegance.

One of my favorite fashion moments from the video is wearing Vivienne Westwood underwater. That scene is an homage to my mother’s death. There is a sense of submergence and surrender, floating and sinking at the same time. Beautiful and weightless, there is a dark romanticism and armor-like quality similarly found in Vivienne’s clothing. It felt punk by nature, much like the origins of the brand itself.

Jean Ryden

How has it been to have your debut album, Parallel Universe, out in the world? How have fans been interacting with and interpreting the album?

It feels surreal. I spent so long perfecting these songs and holding them so close to my chest that finally having them out in the world has been extremely cathartic. Now that they are out in the ether, I can write about different, more current experiences, which I’m really excited about. I think people are slowly catching on and making sense of the symbolism and meanings behind the songs. When people reach out and tell me how a song has impacted them, that’s really the most special part of it all. It reminds me of why it’s important for me to share my story and push myself to be vulnerable and honest in my art.

Jean Ryden