When Lana del Rey’s new single Love dropped, I stopped whatever I was doing (probably nothing) to listen to it. Where had I been? How was it that I didn’t even know Lana was going to release a new single? How had I missed news about her new album when I’d been prepping for it for months?
I’m not even exaggerating. As soon as the hype for Honeymoon died down, I was online looking for leaks and hints as to Lana’s next album. Every few weeks, I would do a Google News search to see what the word was. I kept an eye on her Instagram accounts for hints.
I know. It’s a little much. But when it comes to Lana – talking about her, listening to her, thinking about her – I naturally gravitate towards extra. Not since the Spice Girls have I been so obsessed with a musical act. So I need to self-analyze: why am I so obsessed with her?
Bear with me while I track this infatuation.
The first time I heard about Lana Del Rey was when she was dragged online for her performance on SNL. So I watched the “Video Games” music video. It was a little weird, a little inaccessible, a little bit like an art project someone in an alternative film class would make in first year. There were tabloid culture references a la the clips of Paz de la Huerta drunk at the Golden Globes (I thought I was the only one who watched the clips). Then I listened to Born to Die and was immediately hooked. It finally felt like there was music that represented everything I liked – layered vocals reminiscent of a Phil Spector production, hip-hop beats mixed with lush string orchestration, Americana references galore, Hollywood glam, the sad girl persona. Where had she been my whole life?
There may have been dedicated fans online, but I couldn’t find interest in her among my peers. Her music was too slow, too boring. Her lips were too big. She was all style no substance. She was a rich kid whose Daddy bought her record contact. Music critics had even less time for her. Think pieces cropped up online that called her inauthentic and anti-feminist. Even other artists joined the chorus that accused her of being a bad role model and for promoting dating violence. It all seemed a bit much to me then (still does, actually). I wasn’t quite sure what she had done, but the push-back against her only made me like her more. I like people who no one else likes and who people like to hate online. Who the fuck wants to be liked by the masses anyway, right? It’s just much more interesting to me for something or someone to jar other people. I could just chock it up to a need to be contrarian, different, and polarizing. But there’s also more to it. It’s like having a secret about yourself. It’s sacred, inspiring.
Finding something new that I come to love hard and fast always makes me feel like my most authentic self. It reminds me of my childhood when I used to spend entire days in my bedroom drawing, reading or writing, getting lost in my head and imagination. The quiet was liberating too – to finally be completely alone with just your thoughts, without social constructs and pretenses and the pressure of having to say something. To enjoy what you like without judgment, without having to explain what it is and why you like it.
It’s not always enough, for me, to just like something. I want to know it almost as well as I know myself. What I like is so fascinating to me that I want to know everything there is to know about it. So, using Lana as an example obviously, why does she sing the way she does? Why are her tracks arranged the way they are? What do her lyrics mean? What does her look mean? What do her albums mean?
Lana’s second album Ultraviolence came out and received critical acclaim. It felt more mature, had a more cohesive sound, and when she sang, she sounded more confident. I’m sure the fact that Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys produced it helped her musical street cred – funny how her shtick was “inauthentic” before, but music critics were coming around to the idea of her persona now that a very popular and “authentic” male musician had thrown his support behind her. But that’s an entirely separate conversation. Honeymoon came out next and it was, again, more mature, more creative, and with a different sound. I listened to every album until I knew every track, every note, every lilt, every key change, by heart. And now, I sit and wait for her fifth studio album to be released while listening to her new track over and over.
Lana sounds different again, which is great. Artists need to evolve and having the same vision for every album would be boring. Love is lighter and sweeter, but it still has that touch of melancholy. But other than that, it also feels so different.
Lana said that she created the song for her fans. “I made my first 4 albums for me, but this one is for my fans and about where I hope we are all headed” she stated in a press release. Lana also said in a BBC radio interview that the album was more inspired by the current political climate and that’s it’s less personal. I’ve noticed for a while now that Lana was getting more politically present. On her Instagram account, Lana posted about the presidential debates. She shared a photo of herself with Joan Baez. She posted her support for the Women’s March, which was amazing considering the push back she receives for not being enough of a feminist for some circles. I barely believed her “I’m not interested in feminism” statement to be an anti-feminist cry. How can a woman so in tune with what she wants and how she wants to express herself be a woman who doesn’t believe in feminism? Now she’s expressing her solidarity with other women and trying to inspire a younger generation to be better.
I wish I could be the first person to break a story about Lana Del Rey’s shift to a more political perspective, but that’s what happens when you procrastinate. This new shift may be surprising for some and some may think it’s a marketing ploy for attention. But I believe her. To me, it looks like Lana is going to be our intergalactic flower child. She’s a singer-songwriter crooning about the millennial plight and experience. And while pop songs don’t directly address the very serious issues that we’re facing in this political climate, the solidarity is nice. It’s nice to have a shining voice in the darkness. It gives me something to look forward to.
Image source: Vulture