A student was recently surprised to hear of my taste for Lana del Rey, given the stark feminism I spew out on a regular basis. The contradiction is not easily explained away, other than the acknowledgment that sometimes we live within contradiction. At a certain level, you might recognize female objectification in lyrics, and on another level, you might still shake your rump to it. Why? Maybe because to completely annex yourself from mainstream pop culture is a lonely gesture. Or maybe you don’t want to become that friend–the pedantic one no one wants to go to a movie with because they’ll deconstruct every plot line and character (I have to seriously restrain myself with Nicholas Sparks movies, or any blockbuster action film that’s not Batman).
But let’s get back to my girl Lana. I’d like to believe that there’s intentionality behind her self-portrayal. She willingly fashions herself into a caricature: the glamorously drug-addled, domestic violence glorifying, deadbeat former beauty queen. Her music is described by Ian Daly from Maxim (December 2015 Issue) as “moody and lush songs about the intersection of sex and violence and money,” (61) securing her position as the “anti-pop pop star” (61). He goes on to describe her trademark style as very much in line with such a label: “The videos with which she made her name traffic in the faded imagery of American nostalgia and decline. She combines a classic, sultry beauty with a heavy dose of all-American alienation–the head cheerleader gone desperately wrong.” What make her songs so magnetic is not just their ability to envelop you in a mood, but also a character study. Daly likens her songs to dioramas: “tiny, insular worlds where the atmosphere is more important than the facts. Much like her life.”
As though in corroboration with such a claim, Lana says, “there’s a lot to be said for pretending, you know?” (61).Yes, I do know. As the French novelist Andre Gide said, “Believe those who are seeking the truth.. Doubt those who find it.” A “truth” is always relative, sometimes irrelevant, and oftentimes boring.