I had the pleasure of seeing Lana Del Rey in concert last week, along with Courtney Love (who I worshipped as a teenager and whose showmanship I still greatly admire). We arrived at the concert on a chilly Phoenix night. The first time I realized I was super old was in the ladies’ restroom when a girl in an atrocious 80s throwback outfit said, “My mom gave me ten bucks for tonight!”
Then, I really looked around. Teenage girls were everywhere, and despite the chill, they were dressed like whores. Am I now officially old? Apparently yes, as even I was distraught by some of the costuming. Thank God Courtney Love picked on them: the girls with their high-waisted, white-washed shorts; flower headbands; and see-through shirts.
I didn’t understand Lana Del Rey had a cult, not until she came onstage and some teeny bopper behind me said, dreamily, “She’s an angel!” She does have an image. Her videos are very glam, as are her clothes. I learned from a friend that she doesn’t allow professional photographers at her concerts because she wants full creative control over how people see her. Even the big screens on the side of the stage showed only her singing face, heavily filtered to look like footage from a 1950s Oscar film.
I shouldn’t be surprised that she’s weird. Her music is weird. Well, I mean, her lyrics are weird … and superbly dark. Some that stick out:
“I am f***ing crazy, but I am free.”
“I f***ed my way up to the top.”
“You and I … we were born to die.”
“In the land of gods and monsters, I was an angel looking to get f***ed hard.”
“I know if I go, I’ll die happy tonight.”
“My p***y taste likes Pepsi Cola.” (That censored word is not “puppy.”)
Lana Del Rey might be sick and twisted, but she sings about depression and infidelity and drug addiction with honesty. She also does so with a heavy dose of satire. My concern? These teeny boppers don’t know the difference. In fact, they might not even know what “satire” means.
I won’t start attacking the parents who sat in front of us with their five-year-old. I’m not attacking Lana Del Rey, either. I enjoy her lyrics. Her voice is pretty cool, but it’s nothing special. I could sing most of her songs. She’s like a Bob Dylan: voice is all right; lyrics are pure poetry.
But these “kids?” They see this heavenly creature on stage and want to look like her and move like her and live like her, but they have no idea what she’s actually saying. She’s not proudly proclaiming, “I f***ed my way up to the top!” She’s making fun of people who do. Does her cult of young followers understand this, or are they, too, ready to hit the casting couch because Lana said it was okay?
I’m not sure how Del Rey feels about her own music. I’m sure she’s happy she’s playing sold out arenas and making tons of money doing what she loves. Is she happy with the teenagers who think she’s God incarnate? Or is she distraught that her cult of followers don’t “get it” at all? They embrace an image but not a message. They learn nothing. Her lyrics become empty shells filled with glitz and glamour.
I don’t call for censorship. If my parents had pulled everything controversial from my CD collection, I never would have found Courtney Love, Nirvana, or Nine Inch Nails. (And hell yeah, Courtney can still wail.) I just hope young people take Lana Del Rey’s music at more than face value. They owe her that respect, because she might be rich, but she’s still sad or she wouldn’t write the way she does.
She reaches out to the sad, insecure depressive who just wants to be loved. For that, I’m thankful, because her lyrics hold the power to save troubled kids, if only they’ll listen.