I cringed when I read Lana Del Rey’s Instagram post from May. From calling out female artists of color for finding their empowerment in being sexual to saying “I’m fed up with female writers and alt singers saying that I glamorize abuse when in reality I’m just a glamorous person singing about the realities…,” she’s always been a semi-controversial figure in the industry. Particularly for being disinterested in feminism at the beginning of her career.
No matter how much I like her songs there is no way for me to justify her, and I can’t deny that many of her songs are centered around the idea of men being her reason to live. You can see this in her debut single “Video Games,” when she sings “it’s you, it’s you, it’s all for you. Everything I do, I tell you all the time, heaven is a place on earth with you.” However, I think it’s important to note that Lana’s style is a mixture of her putting on a character as well as some aspects of her own experiences.
In one of her most critiqued songs, “Ultraviolence”, she sings about an abusive relationship that she was in. “I can hear sirens, sirens. He hit me and it felt like a kiss. I can hear violins, violins. Give me all of that ultraviolence.” Lana has called herself a ‘delicate’ woman who is more submissive in relationships. If that’s who she is and those are her experiences, who am I to invalidate them?
Her songs are filled with satire, hyperbole and sprinkles of her life thus, I don’t want to dismiss her music altogether as being anti-feminist because that’s not the message she is trying to convey. Her music doesn’t put down other women; she just sings about her often dysfunctional relationships, putting the men she’s dating in the spotlight.
This satire is seen in her critiques of a collective culture of greed and money obsession in her song, “National Anthem” that opens with “Money is the anthem of success. So before we go out, what’s your address?”
I got hooked on her music in the middle of my angsty pre-teen years, feeding on their melodramatic tone and lyrics that I was too young to understand. Her complex themes helped me form my own opinions on different topics. Despite being criticized for glamorizing drugs and toxic relationships Lana’s music helped me understand how much I didn’t want to have that in my life. She writes in “Gods & Monsters”, “You got that medicine I need. Dope, shoot it up straight to the heart please.”
Most importantly though, her music showed me that it’s okay to be vulnerable. I grew up feeling like I could never be sentimental but listening to Lana helped me become more in tune with myself and my emotions. Her last album, Norman F*ck*ng Rockwell!, was one of her most raw works with some of her best songs.
I still have yet to read her poetry book that she published this summer called “Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass.” The proceeds of which are going to charities and support groups for Native Americans. I’m most excited for her soon to be released album and I hope I see more of the Lana I saw on Norman F*ck*ng Rockwell.