Today marks the 35th birthday of Elizabeth Woolridge Grant, better known as Lana Del Rey. Over the past decade, this artist has managed to establish herself as one of the most popular pop singers in the world. But more important than popularity is the image that Lana Del Rey personifies and which she successfully transfers into her songs full of secrets. Correspondent "Lenta.ru" Oleg Sobolev tried to figure out what is hidden in the life and work of the singer.
For her anniversary, Lana Del Rey was supposed to come up in a triumphant role. The commercial success of her last year's album Norman Fucking Rockwell! was not something out of the ordinary: any record of this singer is guaranteed to be listened to by tens of millions of people, and there is no getting away from this fact. Another thing is that with the release of Norman Fucking Rockwell! Del Rey everywhere - both by listeners interested in pop music and by the press - began to be perceived as a truly serious artist, creating great art.
She was definitely going to this status consciously. Born to Die, Lizzie Grant's first album under the pseudonym that made her famous, seemed like a concentration of toy music full of deliberate hypersexuality and bad taste. Video Games and Blue Jeans, two sumptuous ballads that became the main singles from the record, revealed Lana Del Rey as the new goddess of languid song - but almost all the other tracks on Born to Die were not exactly the exact opposite, but definitely significantly different from their sustained beauty and specific charm. In the same Video Games, Lana Del Rey's voice in the chorus was framed by luxurious strings, to which the phrase "I heard that you love bad girls, is it true?" did not seem to flirt on the forehead, but gave the impression of a fatal phrase of an equally fatal beauty from Hollywood neo-noir. But to the fast hip-hop beats of producer Emil Haney, sounding in the rest of the songs on the album, the artist seemed to play the role of a silly cutie who strives to flirt with every man she meets - and prefers to use the address “daddy”.
Combined with her looks - Lana Del Rey looked like a hypertrophied unmarried beauty from the fifties, but with an obviously inflated degree of vulgarity under the 2010s - the artist was doomed. Since 2012, when Born to Die was released, for many years Del Rey has not ceased to be accused of glorifying stereotypes that have nothing to do with the era of the fourth wave of feminism: her image, songs, texts, videos - that is, she herself - seemed to a huge number of people ideologically outdated, unnecessary, harmful. No matter how much with each subsequent career step, the work and image of Lana Del Rey become more complex, dialectical, ironic and at the same time more serious, no matter how confusing the artist with her new albums the audience, transforming from a dummy on Born to Die into a natural femme fatale on Ultraviolence, and then the grand dame on Honeymoon and the quintessentially American girl next door on Lust For Life - all the same, claims were made against her about the criminal outdatedness of the aesthetics that Del Rey chose as fundamental. Despite the growing talk of women's emancipation and emancipation, critics said, Lana Del Rey rehabilitates the days when women were practically things, when they had no other desires but to be needed by men, when the world began and ended on the issue of personal relationships.
Norman Fucking Rockwell! was Del Rey's project to distance himself from the danger of completely not coinciding with the mood of the era. It would seem why the English-speaking press unanimously declared the singer's album a masterpiece, or at best, not hesitating to ironically scold her past records, where there are no hints, no flirting, no flirting, but the line “You ***** * [fucked] me so cool that I almost confessed my love to you "? Firstly, in his imagery, Del Rey is exactly on Norman Fucking Rockwell! moved away from the use of very American iconography: instead of the same "girl next door" or Lynch's famm fatal, the songs on the album now sounded as if directly from Lizzie Grant herself.Secondly, the skilled priest of the charts, Jack Antonoff, who was involved as a producer, together with the singer herself, came up with a musical accompaniment that simultaneously deepened the languid beauty of Del Rey's best ballads and suggested exemplary "complexity". It was not for nothing that the first thing that the artist decided to show to the public was the nine-minute Venice Bitch, which was completely lost in the long instrumental code.
This was enough for the questions of the legitimacy of the use of the aesthetics of hardened patriarchy to finally disappear from the mainstream discourse about Lana Del Rey. The picky public now understood - or rather, the artist herself explained it to her - that the singer does not play a rich housewife with addictions to substances and men, but in fact feels that way. And if the measurement of feelings is used, then it remains to give up. The logic of cultural neoliberalism, according to the patterns of which the perception of Lana Del Rey was constructed, even if it consists in declaring certain values, but always leaves an exception for those who are not on the way with these values.
It is enough to show a rich inner world - preferably, sick, problematic and unhealthy. It is even more desirable to do it beautifully and extremely artistic.
It is significant that Del Rey's next step should be a book of poetry - and a supporting album in the genre of melodic advertising. The artist, always fond of provocations, nevertheless, was never seen in special career risks - and she simply could not afford to release such work without having a proper reputation. Probably, the poems would have collected their share of applause - if the singer herself had not ruined everything. In late May, announcing on Instagram that her next full-length music album was due in September, Del Rey posted an emotional message in which she paradoxically accused critics of denying her as a woman. Probably she just had some accumulation over all the previous years: to associate with the reception of Norman Fucking Rockwell! and the reputation he has built up these few emotional paragraphs does not work in any way. In them, Del Rey accused the public of glorifying "sex and body selling" artists like Beyoncé or Doji Cat and said that she did not feel as if she was given the opportunity to be herself.
Dominic Favre / Reuters
And it was then that everything collapsed. Not only is the multiple record holder of the Billboard charts (Born to Die, for example, lasted longer than the release of Adele) and one of the most famous singers on the planet made the absurd assumption that she was not given enough attention - so also the list of artists whom Del Rey opposed herself, almost entirely (except for Ariana Grande) consisted of black singers who, as you know, are forced to play according to completely different historical and cultural rules. Lana Del Rey was immediately "canceled" in social networks - to the point that at last a large-scale subject of discussion around her personality became a frankly Hispanic pseudonym, which was previously used by a 100% white native of New York without any scandals or unwanted attention. Despite subsequent explanations and excuses - also, of course, in the form of Instagram posts - Del Rey's reputation suffered severely. Especially against the backdrop of protests by African Americans against police brutality, at the same time sweeping the entire country.
But this is temporary. Let Lana Del Rey's birthday have to go through not in the most suitable status for such an artist - and for such conceit - status, but she will definitely be all right. First, no matter what structural or non-structural changes would come to the United States after the protests, there is no doubt that the wealthy white class of Americans will not let go of the powerful tools of cultural capital that Lana Del Rey has always used - and thanks to which her career has not wilted after Born to Die, but, on the contrary, blossomed.Secondly, after all, Lana Del Rey herself is a bachelor of philosophy, who studied metaphysics at the university (which is well understandable from how cleverly she weaves her Catholic upbringing into creativity, which is immensely far from the values of traditional Catholicism by superficial characteristics). From such a woman it is necessary, in an amicable way, to expect a masterful game of public opinion - and she will demonstrate it more than once. 35 years is nothing. Lana Del Rey is with us for a long time.