I’ve been so nervous to sit down and write about Lana Del Rey. I’ve loved her music during sad times, during happy times, while in a partying mood, while getting dressed in the mornings… And I’m pretty sure her music is one of the big reasons that my fiancé and I started dating in the first place. Her new album, Norman Fucking Rockwell, releases on 30 August 2019 and I couldn’t be more excited.
Wait a sec, Lana who?!
One of the most fascinating things about Lana Del Rey is her backstory. Previously known as Lizzy Grant, the once shy blonde performer transformed herself into who we know today as Lana Del Rey. According to all reports, Lizzy Grant’s efforts were not received too well by the cut-throat Hollywood scene and she disappeared off the map.
The Lana Del Rey we know today is a provocative, sleek, sexy lyricist and performer. Her persona can most definitely be described as eccentric and over-the-top. Another fascinating thing about Lana del Rey is that she does not fit into any one genre. While her initial efforts as Lana del Rey had a more indie-pop feel, she has tried her hand (and succeeded) at hip hop, rock and even (as she describes it) a gangster Nancy Sinatra type of sound.
Over the years Lana has received a lot of attention for not only her persona but also her performances (the controversial SNL one) and her comments that some describe as ‘anti-feminist’. Critics felt cheated or lied to because of her produced persona, as opposed to an organic transformation from Grant to Del Rey. Comments like “She’s putting on a show. She’s here to entertain us”, from Steven Horowitz of Billboard magazine became commonplace.
Following her career since 2012, I’ve more or less come to love Lana for exactly this reason. Yes, she is putting on a show. Yes, she is here to entertain us. Lana Del Rey is at her core a performer. When questioned about her anti-feminist comments she answers; “The luxury we have as a younger generation is being able to figure out where we want to go from here, which is why I’ve said things like, ‘I don’t focus on feminism, I focus on the future.’” This is something I definitely resonate with.
So, we’ve probably all listened to Kirby Ferguson’s TED Talk on creativity, where he explains that the concept is by no means a new idea, but plays on the fact that nothing is new and that everything is a remake of that which has come before. And that, at the core, is what Lana Del Rey is all about. She’s about interlacing the dirty, the feminine, the sultry of pop-culture and weaving it all into a sound and a feel and a performance. Lana Del Rey is a mix of Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg, Eminem, Nancy Sinatra, Leonard Cohen, The Eagles and more.
Some of my favourites
With all of this in mind, I’ve made a list of my favourite Lana Del Rey songs that one can listen to, to prepare for the new album’s release. I’ve got to tell you that it’s a bit of a Sophie’s Choice, but also a great journey through her discography.
Off to the races
Album: Born To Die
“Who else is gonna put up with me this way?
I need you, I breathe you, I’ll never leave you
They would rue the day, I was alone without you”
The song is a subtle homage to the Lolita personality often found in Lana’s canon. Released as the first single of the Born to Die album, this mix of hip-hop beats with pop culture references and features a sultry, if not somewhat disturbing, co-dependency.
Gods and Monsters
Album: Born to Die (Paradise Edition)
“When you talk it’s like a movie and you’re making me crazy
‘Cause life imitates art
If I get a little prettier, can I be your baby?
You tell me life isn’t that hard”
This song, together with Body Electric and Bel Air, was featured in Lana’s short film Tropico. This 27-minute feature is set in the Garden of Eden where Lana takes a bite of the apple and is transported into the corrupted guns, drugs and violent world of Gods and Monsters.
Album: Lust for Life
“White lies and black beaches
And blood red sangrias
We traveled for weeks, just to escape your demons”
Often described as the unofficial follow-up to Summertime Sadness, this song also features A$AP Rocky and Playboi Carti. The red, white and black theme established in Off to the Races is continued in this song and as usual, it is a highly stylized soundtrack for a glossy life of violence, drugs and co-dependency.
Mariners Apartment Complex
Album: Norman Fucking Rockwell
“You lose your way, just take my hand
You’re lost at sea, then I’ll command your boat to me again
Don’t look too far, right where you are, that’s where I am”
This song, written and produced by Lana Del Rey and the amazing Jack Antonoff (of Bleachers fame), is their first collaboration. It’s a beautiful rock style-ballad and the lyrics, in a very Del La Rey-like fashion, references both pop culture and Greek mythology. She whispers the lyrics more than she sings it, and together with the piano, acoustic guitar, and strings, it is a beautiful sultry combination.
Young And Beautiful
Album: Young And Beautiful EP
“Hot summer nights, mid July
When you and I were forever wild
The crazy days, city lights
The way you’d play with me like a child”
A very dear friend of mine got married a few years back. It was a beautiful late afternoon just outside of Pretoria and the gorgeous golden light of the sunset caught her dress as Lana’s Young and Beautiful lyrics rang out. It was one of the most beautiful and most romantic moments of my entire life and since then (coupled with the fact that I am a massive Great Gatsby fan) I’ve loved this song.