Well-honed weltschmerz and mesmerizing monotony
July 11, 2014 9:16 PM   Subscribe

Lana Del Rey: Why a Death-Obsessed Pop Siren Is Perfect for Late-Stage Capitalist America (mirrored at Salon.com)
Lana Del Rey is pushing the envelope, and here's her message, delivered with a languid pout: 21st-century America is a rotting corpse, deadlocked culturally, economically, and politically. Since there's nothing we can do about it, let's enjoy ourselves as the body-politic disintegrates, perhaps by savoring some toothsome bites of the past: candy-colored Super 8 films, juicy jazz tunes and clips of sultry screen sirens. The future is a retrospective.

All of this echoes the ancient danse macabre, the dance of death, the motif that sprang out of the medieval horrors of war and the plague. It's a plea for fevered amusement while you've still got time.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (58 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
No doubt that American culture is in the doldrums, trying desperately to figure what's next, post-capitalism. There is a lot of angst and upset; expectations that were automatically fulfilled just 2 generations ago now seem a distant dream. Americans have been steeped in the "I can have it all" meme, to the point where when one doesn't "get it all", there is little to fall back on except the moroseness of people like Del Ray.

In all, I don't think things are bad enough in America, yet. Listening to this Del Ray's depressing schtick is just another way for self-indulgent Americans, feasting on their own disappointment, to encourage that little voice in their head that says "what's the use".

What I think is going to happen in this country is that things are going to become quite a bit more depressing than most can imagine, today - to the point where some significant tipping point of our population is going to say "that's enough", roll up their sleeves, and get busy.

We only have so many years on the good, sweet earth - we need to use them well. Sure, it's OK to be sad and feel disappointment, but lets not make a fetish of it.
posted by Vibrissae at 9:49 PM on July 11, 2014 [6 favorites]

I'm writing a scene that's supposed to make the reader cry, and I've been listening to Summertime Sadness and nearly crying myself for two days.

I dunno - I like her stuff for what it does. It allows me to move emotion by the truckload.
posted by Mooski at 9:57 PM on July 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

posted by borges at 10:12 PM on July 11, 2014

Fin de siecle, same as it ever was.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 10:33 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hmmm.. I find late 80s despair just as valid. Try Leonard Cohen's "The Future" instead.
posted by temancl at 10:36 PM on July 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

What I think is going to happen in this country is that things are going to become quite a bit more depressing than most can imagine, today - to the point where some significant tipping point of our population is going to say "that's enough", roll up their sleeves, and get busy.

Here's the deal tho, you want a revolution, but you're gonna get a rebellion.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 10:53 PM on July 11, 2014 [7 favorites]

There is nothing that makes me want to punch someone in the hooter for smug privileged bullshit like existential ennui.
posted by gingerest at 11:51 PM on July 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

She's kind of the musical equivalent of that particular kind of woman who will only talk to men and will literally ignore any woman who tries to engage her in conversation.
posted by ostro at 12:01 AM on July 12, 2014 [10 favorites]

I'm not her intended audience -- way too old -- but if I had to choose between her languorous ennui and admittedly pretentious wallowing over the desperately peppy shiny spend-spend-spend happy-happy Britney/Bieber glamor and flash and cockiness of a lot of pop music over the past 15 years, I'd sign up for her. Her stuff at least has the patina of what made the world-weariness of the best 1980s pop music so great.
posted by blucevalo at 12:15 AM on July 12, 2014 [6 favorites]

One of her choruses from the new album:

I'm a sad girl
I'm a sad girl
I'm a sad girl
I'm a sad girl
I'm a bad girl
I'm a bad girl

I don't know how anyone can listen to this cringingly vapid stuff and find anything at all to engage with, but I guess I'm not the target demographic.
posted by naju at 12:51 AM on July 12, 2014 [8 favorites]

Wow, there are some harsh comments happening in this thread.

For my part, I really like her music, and most of her lyrics. They're the perfect kind of poignancy I look for in art-pop.
posted by NoahTheDuke at 12:57 AM on July 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

Was going to comment that I've seen this somewhere before but why bother?
posted by hal9k at 1:32 AM on July 12, 2014

I'm also bored by ennui, but every generation seems to do it.

What strikes me about Del Rey is that she looks smart, like she should be the sexiest girl in the science club, but comes across as kind of dim. I start to wonder if there's less there than meets the eye, and if the weariness with it all isn't just a well-paid style she's settled into.

I can't stand the breathless and gushing interpretations of what her emptiness means, though.
posted by kanewai at 2:47 AM on July 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

a box and a stick and a string and a bear: "Fin de siecle, same as it ever was."

Is it just me, or does the fin de siecle come earlier and earlier every century? I mean, it's only 2014 and we're already putting the angsty teen death crooner angel up on the tree.
posted by chavenet at 3:00 AM on July 12, 2014 [7 favorites]

I think she's a really good song-writer with a great voice. I don't really think people need to get all political over it.
posted by empath at 3:36 AM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is it just me, or does the fin de siecle come earlier and earlier every century?

Apparently this century has been conducted in Internet Time, so Moore's law, yadda yadda, carry the exponent, and it'll probably be the year 3000 by about next February. So that should be exciting.
posted by hap_hazard at 3:52 AM on July 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

I like the melodies of her songs and the things she does with her voice and a lot of the production but she needs a better songwriter. There's nothing wrong with catharthis but some of her lyrics are idiotic. This "sad girl" persona is at least better than "pretty young girl in sick relationships with questionable men".
posted by bleep at 4:36 AM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm also bored by ennui...

That's a perfect recursive definition of ennui.
posted by ennui.bz at 5:06 AM on July 12, 2014 [10 favorites]

I feel weird being meh on her, since I really like Julee Cruise (the Lana of the late '80s). For all of Lana's problems -- and lo, they are many -- she seems to have some...agency? over her subject matter and presentation. In the interviews I've read, Julee has a great self-awareness about her, but she also was "just" a voice recording Angelo Badalamenti's work. This gets into the integrity wars of my generation, though....
posted by pxe2000 at 5:07 AM on July 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't know how anyone can listen to this cringingly vapid stuff and find anything at all to engage with

Did you know there's a song whose chorus goes

She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

and it's great?
posted by escabeche at 5:23 AM on July 12, 2014 [30 favorites]

I don't want to like her music, but some of it's okay. Teens gonna angst.

As far as time differences go, Lana del Rey drawing from 50s iconography is the rough equivalent of 80s goth/industrial acts drawing from Aleister Crowley and Austin Osman Spare.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:25 AM on July 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

Is it just me, or does the fin de siecle come earlier and earlier every century?

Nah, its just that the scorched-earth, generation-destroying world war is a little late this cycle.
posted by Chrischris at 5:39 AM on July 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

I thought we were all supposed to dislike her on account of she's an opportunistic poseur, having made a record or two as Elizabeth Grant that didn't dent the charts, then pupating and eclosing as this contralto coolkid crooner.

Since I actually liked "Video Games," I reconciled myself to the fact that authenticity itself, esp. in entertainment, is a fraudulent metanarrative. And anyway, I thought the small series of gaffes earlier in Lana's (not Elizabeth's) career showed what an empty shell her persona was.

If that's not art-pop in a tidy metaphor, I don't know what is.
posted by adoarns at 5:56 AM on July 12, 2014

How is anything in the article news to anyone over 13?
posted by signal at 6:10 AM on July 12, 2014

I don't know how anyone can listen to this cringingly vapid stuff and find anything at all to engage with, but I guess I'm not the target demographic.

Vapid choruses are pretty much par-for-the-course for pop music.
posted by empath at 6:22 AM on July 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

I thought Iggy was pop music's It girl at the moment. Or Miley.

St. Vincent is pop music's Alt girl.
posted by postcommunism at 7:01 AM on July 12, 2014

I can't shake the impression that Lana Del Rey was not actually born, but spontaneously generated from inside an Urban Outfitters one night.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:04 AM on July 12, 2014 [18 favorites]

I'm also bored by ennui...

That's a perfect recursive definition of ennui.
ba dum ba dum.
posted by MartinWisse at 7:11 AM on July 12, 2014

If you ever find yourself commenting on the internet that this or that pop star has vapid lyrics or seems manufactured or inauthentically marketed etc. you should probably just go pick out a retirement home or something.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:29 AM on July 12, 2014 [13 favorites]

Or get back to work on your college applications. It's kind of a U-shaped curve.
posted by escabeche at 7:42 AM on July 12, 2014 [14 favorites]

and it's great?

Yeah but if a teenage/20something group of girls had written it it would automatically be laughably vapid, obviously.
posted by elizardbits at 7:55 AM on July 12, 2014 [13 favorites]

LDR's Born To Die is an extraordinary song. I was introduced to her on SNL and was happy that finally, something different and interesting was being aired. I normally just ffwd past the music act.
posted by uraniumwilly at 8:02 AM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that's real

I have a feeling many MeFiers, like me,are of the generation that Trent Reznor seemed really profound and meaningful at the time. Boy it's tough to listen to now, so pretentious, so thin. Although "Hurt" redeems itself in the later amazing Johnny Cash version, which happily has crowded out the NIN oiginal.

My youthful indulgences were even worse than NIN though. My name is Nelson and I thought Diamanda Galas was brilliant. At least she was singing about AIDS, which I still think makes it worth something.

I kind of like this Lana Del Rey stuff so far. Here's the full Ultraviolence album on Google's Youtube, aka "the new Napster".
posted by Nelson at 8:18 AM on July 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

Young and Beautiful gives me goosebumps. I wouldn't say it's extraordinary, but her voice sparkles in it. The thing I like about her songwriting is that with a different arrangement, the lyrics could come across as shallow and regressive, but the overall feeling of the song comes across as so desperate and sad -- she's kind of documenting genuine feelings without celebrating them, which is a tough line to walk on (and I think she doesn't always succeed).
posted by empath at 8:19 AM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

It wasn't so long ago that everyone was writing think-pieces about the critical, world-changing importance of Lady Gaga. The whole thing always seems like it's patterned on Camille Paglia's popular success in writing about Madonna, in the same way that most rock critics inevitably try to become Lester Bangs.

I think it's less interesting that Lana Del Ray is doing what she's doing than that the cycle for this sort of reflection on pop, and the cycle of stardom, has accelerated as it has. Lady Gaga seems to have become just part of the landscape faster than Madonna did, for example, and I'd predict that Lana Del Ray will be a similarly short-lived phenomenon. I am utterly unconvinced by the author's assertion that Del Ray has displaced Beyoncé, however; my sense is that Beyoncé's audience is broader than Del Ray's and that her career will have substantial longevity.

This doesn't mean there's no there there with Madonna, Lana, or Gaga, but rather that in the 21st century the terrain being mapped through pop is volatile and diverse. Del Ray has a top album right now, but hers won't be the only big-selling pop album, let alone album, of the summer of 2014, let alone the year 2014.

Trying to claim her sales success makes her the chanteuse of the zeitgeist is rather tunnel-visioned, and this piece -- like so many pop/rock music think-pieces over the last five decades -- seems more like a theory looking for a phenomenon than a phenomenon demanding a theory.
posted by kewb at 8:58 AM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Speaking of 90s precedents, this music was praised to the skies back then. Ennui? Check. Banal chorus? Check. World-weary attitude? Check, check, check.

However: when Lana Del Rey does pretty much the same thing, it's "cringingly vapid."
posted by blucevalo at 9:00 AM on July 12, 2014

Indie music writers complain of her gimmicky transformation from under-the-radar Brooklyn songstress Lizzy Grant to pop phenom Lana Del Rey. (Do they feel similarly peeved with Bob Dylan, once known as Bob Zimmerman?)
Or David Bowie, or Elton John?

Lady Gaga and before her Madonna also draw this "she's so manufactured" criticism because they use a stage name -- and by implication a staged persona. It feels a bit gendered to me: men who use stage names and theatricalilty rarely draw the same criticism.

(Maybe Marilyn Manson as a counter-example? although a messy one because he notably chose a feminine stage name...)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 9:05 AM on July 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

I saw her at Coachella and having never listened to her or followed her since Video Games, the adoration she was getting from her younger fans was quite amazing to see. I had assumed she was some kind of a sex symbol, not a hero for a younger demographic. A bunch of them had flowers for her and she walked down, got those flowers, gave those girls kisses and one extremely happy and disbelieving guy a kiss on his lips and by this time the girls and guy were reduced to tears.

So, much respect to her for doing that, it was a slightly rambling set and she looked a little high, but it ended up being a memorable set for this reason. I was going to leave after a couple of songs but stuck around, because the crowd was too dense to fight my way out of and the level of devotion she seemed to inspire in her younger fans was quite simply amazing to see.

The downside was that there were a lot of disinterested young people next to me during the Neutral Hotel Set who had staked out a good spot for Lana. They couldn't have been more bored - there was a lot of texting and sighing going on during their set. :-)

This thread puts it all into context now. Got to love metafilter.
posted by viramamunivar at 9:10 AM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

For the record, if Trent Reznor or John Lennon penned a chorus that had them disenchantedly half-moaning "I'm a sad boy, I'm a sad boy, I'm a sad boy, I'm a bad boy, I'm a bad boy" in the middle of a song that's bored with itself, I'd call them cringingly vapid too. There's no shortage in this world of sad teens who act like they want to die; there's your market and all the explanation you need, probably.
posted by naju at 9:12 AM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

There's no shortage in this world of sad teens who act like they want to die; there's your market and all the explanation you need, probably.

I tend to agree that the post-WWII pop scene has always had a thing for adolescent world-weariness, which claims exhaustion with the world but actually proceeds from an incompleteness in one's personal "worlding."

However, I think the presentation and the format are worth looking at. Like, there's a reason the delivery system for this sort of adolescent fatalism/exhaustion changes. It was "teen angel" songs in the 1950s, the fantastical and overelaborated backdrops of Blue Öyster Cult in the 1970s in the U.S., certain strains of punk in Britian in the 70s, Morrissey's half-comic irony in the 1980s in Britain, Trent Reznor's deliberately abrasive and caustic nihilism in the 1990s in the U.S., and now Lana Del Ray.

Each of these acts is presenting it in a different way, and that probably does permit some critical work on the times. Like, does it matter that with Del Ray the whole thing is presented as a kind of tired, delicate affective labor rather than as painfully self-conscious irony or earnestly passionate melodrama as in the past? I don't think the answer will support the sweeping and rather overdetermined claims of TFA, but it could be interesting.
posted by kewb at 9:21 AM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

For the record, if Trent Reznor or John Lennon penned a chorus that had them disenchantedly half-moaning "I'm a sad boy, I'm a sad boy, I'm a sad boy, I'm a bad boy, I'm a bad boy" in the middle of a song that's bored with itself, I'd call them cringingly vapid too.

Holy shit have you actually read Trent Reznor's lyrics?
posted by empath at 9:52 AM on July 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

I listened to Ultraviolence (YouTube) all the way through it and I like it. The music has depth and a nice vibe. She's drawing from all sorts of interesting sources, I hear some Julie Cruise and some Dolly Parton and who knows what else. Also some of the lyrics are great, I'm really struck by this part of the chorus in Cruel World.
Get a little bit of bourbon in ya
Get a little bit suburban and go crazy
Because you're young, you're wild, you're free
The internal rhyme of bourbon/suburban is lovely, particularly as she sings it, and it strikes just the right tone of euphoria along with something slightly cheesy and lame. Eyerolling teenager at the water park who is too cool to admit she's enjoying herself.

I think Metafilter is getting older.
posted by Nelson at 10:07 AM on July 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Trent Reznor's lyrics are cheesy and cringeworthy as hell, yes. So are Lana's. Glad we've established this.
posted by naju at 10:30 AM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

naju I'm super sorry you got dragged into this thread when you were just minding your own business
posted by shakespeherian at 10:42 AM on July 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't even care *pouts and puts on headphones during the family trip*
posted by naju at 10:56 AM on July 12, 2014 [12 favorites]

I love Lana Del Rey. Really do. Might surprise some. I'll take world-weary, ennui-laden Lana Del Rey pop over something like 'happy' or some four on the floor dancey dance any day of the week. Yeah yeah teens gonna teen, but I think sort of indulging the sad a bit in pop music is kind of refreshing. So many pop stars these days are very rainbows and glitter, life is wonderful, full of possibilities. So inane and bored. Of course, when I was a teen I was obsessed with Conor Oberst (still am to be honest), and my teenaged existential ennui/anomie developed into a sort of general and deep very adult weltschmerz.

Plus, her voice is very interesting, and the production on the two records has been really quite superb.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:25 AM on July 12, 2014 [5 favorites]

I first heard Lana Del Rey's music about six months ago and didn't have any information about her or her target audience going in; I don't read music journalism and don't hang out with any teenagers. After a few sessions listening to her, I reached the conclusion that she (or her studio) must be targeting the younger teen crowd, maybe 12-15 years old. Her sound struck me as very cinematic and even epic, giving the sense of momentousness and grandeur, which reminded me of my adolescent/early teen years - everything mattered so very much and everything was cause for ecstasy! (not the drug, the emotion) the agony! Even the most minute events just carried this tremendous emotional import.

So then I started paying attention to the lyrics. I like "Born to Die" so I listened to it a few times, and the chorus "You and I, we were born to die" made me first think: "Hey, that's kind of edgy," and then my second thought, regulated by my 30-something brain, was: "Well, yeah. We are all literally born to die. What's your point, hon?" But then I remembered that at 12-15, realizing my mortality and the generally ephemeral nature of life, the universe, and everything was kind of mind-blowing. And caused me to be like: "But don't you understand? We're all BORN TO DIE!" [insert embarrassing adolescent/teen angst here] to everyone.

Revisiting my adolescent emotional states was a bit like (hilarious and cringey) time travel, but I am now very confident that I know Lana's exact target age group.
posted by Atrahasis at 12:15 PM on July 12, 2014 [5 favorites]

It might go back to at least 1774.
posted by bukvich at 1:39 PM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

What I like about Lana Del Rey is she has her own weird little musical aesthetic and runs with it. I wouldn't say it's deep-- I think she's thrown a bunch of signifiers into a basket rather than really, like, constructing a cohesive artistic project-- but it's consistent, original, and works on a gut level.
posted by threeants at 2:51 PM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I didn't realize before reading TFA and this thread that Lana Del Rey signified ennui or anything really, because all I ever hear are the remixes where her voice stands out for being richer than more typical wispy/ethereal singing in electronic dance music, and it's simply a nice variation on the norm, e.g. Young and Beautiful (Kaskade Remix), Blue Jeans (RAC Remix), or Video Games (Jamie Woon Remix).
posted by Monsieur Caution at 4:34 AM on July 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

It occurs to me that most people with a critical interest in pop only seem to ask about the "meaning" of contemporary female, black, or Hispanic pop acts when they become successful. Cultural critics seem to demand significance from anyone who's not the default white male, and even those who are ostensibly left-leaning seem to apply extra scrutiny to certain acts and not others. Critics do construct retrospective explanations for the erstwhile or ongoing cultural significance of white-guy musical acts like the Beatles or whomever, but these critiques usually take for granted that they have that cultural significance.

I see lots of discussion of what Lana Del Rey, or Kanye West, or Lady Gaga "stand for" or "mean;" I don't recall this kind of thing coming up with regard to Justin Bieber, and even Robin Thicke didn't get this kind of scrutiny until his duet performance with Miley Cyrus. guess it's nice that no one tries to claim that they're the zeitgeist, but the other side of it is that their personae and styles aren't interrogated for cultural politics so much as for the old rockist standard of "edgy and authentic vs. vacuous and fake."
posted by kewb at 6:21 AM on July 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

The thing that really caught my attention was the music video for Video Games, which she apparently directed and edited herself.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:13 PM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

The New Inquiry: Ms. America
For those who came of age during the war on terror, for whom adolescence was announced by 9/11 and for whom failed wars, a massive recession, and a total surveillance apparatus were the paranoid gifts of our adulthood, Lana Del Rey gives us a patriotism we can act out. Hers isn’t a love song to America; it’s a how-to manual.

As in: how to avoid facing the country’s ongoing crimes, against its own and its others, which are only made more severe by its many declarations of goodness. How to cleave to a history whose most famous actors at best resemble bloated props. How to reconcile the decades spent trying to convince us a looming threat is targeting something more fundamental to us than the policies dispatched from Washington—something shot in Super 8, not by a drone. Something that threatened friday night football games and would renew the xenophobia of those that pronounced it “Merica”. That was the America that existed on T.V. and in movies, one seemingly only populated by white Christians. For those of us that had never been included in such a vision the story was a hard sell.
Run, Boy, Run
WE WANT IT IN CASH, RETROAC­TIVE AND IM­ME­DIA­TELY, AND WE WANT ALL OF IT. This demand, made in a flyer by the New York Wages for Housework Campaign, finds a curious echo in Lana Del Rey’s recent “Money, Power, Glory,” despite her protestation that she finds feminism “boring.” Here she too demands “money, power, glory,” swearing that she’ll alternately take “you” and “them” for “all that they got.” You motherfuckers have everything, and you did nothing to get it but steal from the people who did all the work but got nothing in return. This track, ostensibly about a hypocritical religious figure, could just as easily be read as a feminist or reparations revenge anthem.
Full-Time Daughter
Lana Del Rey uses the imagery of American nationalism to construct the kind of iconic girlhood that white America goes crazy for. But her relation to this history feels complicated. She aims to be “classic,” an aesthetic throwback to a bygone time when music was music and men were men and so on. But something is wrong with the picture. Ostensibly, she gives white America what it wants—an image of itself as lethal but beautiful, guilty but forgiven, an image of violence as indistinguishable from romance. If a straight white man hits you, it means he wants to kiss you—get it? The albums sell, but it’s not enough; critics berate her for not being convincing. But maybe it’s not Del Rey’s fault that this gloomwashing of whiteness (“Okay, we suck, but look how much we hate ourselves!”) doesn’t work. Maybe the material can no longer be made convincing.
Once Upon A Dream
Maleficent became Jolie’s highest grossing movie the same week that Del Rey’s Ultraviolence took the number 1 spot on the Billboard 200. It’s the sophomore triumph to disprove the smoke-and-mirrors theory that Del Rey’s “Video Games” buzz was pure hype and Born to Die marked the official exhaustion of a one-trick persona. In her new songs, the sardonic, aggressive edge to her impressionistic lyrics is sharper, and there’s something like anger in her relentless sexy posturing. The press emphasized that Jolie herself—megastar, businesswoman, Special Envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, mother of six, and once-upon-a-time cutter—tapped Del Rey to perform the fairy tale cover, and I’d like to think it’s because she gets it, why her cinematic aura of loss and longing belongs with the origin story of Maleficent’s “evil.” In the trailer, Del Rey’s voice—what it sounds like, what cultural anxieties it provokes—sets up the horror of Maleficent’s traumatic past. And when the credits roll, it’s a haunting postscript to the Disney resolution. Del Rey represents the real possibility of an unhappy ending.
Esquire : Lana Del Rey Is Her Own Feminist Hero
Instead of retreating from the difficult subject matter that got her pegged as "anti-feminist," Lana Del Rey has doubled down on it. She has created an album both more gorgeous and more uncomfortable than anyone could've expected. And she will be worshipped for it for many years to come. She has taken listeners to the places you're not supposed to go, which is exactly where Lana Del Rey likes to be. She's a feminist. She does whatever the fuck she wants.
3am Magazine: lana del rey’s lynchian noir
Under certain pressures the mind escapes from the usual limitations. In David Lynch’s ‘Mulholland Drive’ Diane Selwyn is abandoned by her lover Camilla and at the moment of shooting herself fantasises she is Betty Elms, a young Hollywood hopeful in a mysterious plot involving Camilla’s shadow double, Rita. It is only when the fantasy takes Diane to a surreal magic show and she listens to a song that she is ejected from the fantasy and back into the reality of her suicide. In Lynch’s ‘Inland Empire’ Nikki Grace is stabbed by a woman with a screwdriver after an affair and at the moment of death she fantasises about being a successful movie star in a haunted movie project where infidelity, retribution and violence continue to multiply an interior world. Throughout she is being watched by her terrifying double. Lana del Rey sings songs out of the dark shapes of such fantasies. There is a sense of performative action in all this. Her sound draws attention to itself as a performance so each song claims fidelity to their escapist hopes and leaves us with the same sense of dread that pervades Lynch’s worlds.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:07 PM on July 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've been listening to this album as well as her self-titled "Lana del Ray" obsessively since this post and really like the music. I'm way outside the supposed target demographic, but for me this is pop music that's got a bit of edge and reminds me of when I was young in the mid-80s. So thanks for the post!

Some of her music videos are quite good. National Anthem is this confusing mix of patriotism and miscegnation and Jackie Kennedy and is really quite brilliant. Sounds of Cool has the Lynch vibe mentioned above (not to mention the Julie Cruise sound). West Coast is a sweet summer song mixed with some creepy channelling of Terry Richardson. And Born to Die is really nicely directed by Yoann Lemoine.

(OTOH I found her short film Tropico pretentious unwatchable drivel. Only made it through about 7 minutes, though, so maybe I missed something.)

We could do worse than an emo pop chanteuse who name checks Lou Reed, Jackie Kennedy, and John Wayne.
posted by Nelson at 4:42 PM on July 18, 2014

1000 years from now, when we're all uploads running on a q-bit network in a Dyson cloud made out of the pulverized remains of the Solar System, people will still be arguing about whether the latest post-synth-punk-acid-garage-revival band is 'fake' or not.
posted by signal at 9:30 PM on July 19, 2014

The Fake As More
Because she seems not to take care of herself (that unfairest of modern mandates), Lana’s beauty is both laborious and ad hoc. It’s fake nails, false eyelashes, and lashings of powder and kohl. Her hair, which has always looked dyed from a box, is now the nightshade hue of Secret nylons. Just as her reply to “trying too hard” on “Video Games” was to try a lot harder—her colors more and more saturated over the course of Born to Die—so too, now that she’s famous enough to get her makeup done for a bodega trip, does she refuse the kind of Beyoncé-level mask that looks (but isn’t) effortless, or even good, up close (see: her Fader cover shoot, in which the cameras get hi-def and the makeup stays lo-def). The message is clear: stay your distance. Or maybe: I can’t bear my skin, but also: Who the fuck are you to think you’re entitled to the “real” me? She looks suprareal. She looks…exhausting.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:32 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Kiss me in the boring rain: nine poems about Lana Del Rey.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 4:28 AM on July 23, 2014

Wifey Status
Then again, it’s only a little bit. For the wild, directionless, and adamantly free—as Lana proclaimed herself in “Ride”—a nice married life can be something to aspire to, an idée fixe. Just as something out of your reach is all you want to go after. While feminism has been fighting against the confines of the mother and the wife, Lana revels in it. Through wifedom she finds her own resistance and mechanisms for survival under patriarchy. She passes as the devoted wife figure, doing anything for love, but in the same breath she lets us know what she’s really after: money, power, and glory. And she’ll take it from you. It’s a sleight of hand trick, a seduction that’s actually a power grab.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:21 AM on August 6, 2014

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