As I wrote a couple of months ago when she and Sean Larkin broke up, I was never a Lana Del Rey believer until Norman F-cking Rockwell. That album is her masterpiece and it ruled the back half of 2019 for me. So I’m excited that Lana’s just announced that she’s releasing another album in September. I’m amused that she chose to make the announcement in signature LDR glam-dram fashion – by comparing herself to Doja Cat, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj, Kehlani, Cardi B, Camila Cabello, and Beyoncé for singing about problematic relationships but not being criticised for it like she does. Here’s her Instagram essay:
I mean, she’s right…and she’s also wrong. Nicki, Cardi, and definitely Beyoncé are criticised all the time. They are, after all, black women. And they’ve all been read for glamourising the provocative elements of their relationships. LDR for sure has been called out for her “messy” messaging, when in fact she’s not so much tried to send a message as tell her own stories. At the same time, that’s also the point of storytelling – to provoke debate, conversation, and idea exchange. Lana’s work has inspired a lot of scholarship about women’s desire and the complicated push-pull between what we feel, think, and believe, and what we WANT to feel, think, and believe. Helen Brown wrote a great essay about wrestling with her connection to LDR’s music last year around the time Norman F-cking Rockwell came out. And there are many insightful, honest, and challenging pieces out there that meditate on the nuances and conflicts that Lana confronts in her storytelling. Isn’t that what art is for?
Female artists are constantly being scrutinised and debated – Madonna might be the most commercially well-known performer in the 80s and 90s who was the source of much consternation and concern but one could argue that every female country music artist has been there. Loretta Lynn for example. Of course there’s no conversation about women’s artistic exploration of trauma without mentioning Nina Simone.
Other artists who came to mind when I read Lana’s post were Lucinda Williams and Dusty Springfield. I love Dusty’s “Breakfast in Bed”, about comforting a lover who belongs to someone else. Lana, then, is in outstanding community and I don’t know if it’s accurate for her to say that women now “are finally allowed to explore” layered and multi-dimensional, sometimes harmful subjects. At the same time, of course Lana should continue to do so in her perpetual glam-dram way. She is, as she says, “a glamorous person”. Which is why she chose her name. She lives up to her name. Lana Del Rey lives and writes and sings exactly the way someone called Lana Del Rey should live, write, and sing.