It’s Time to Argue About Lana Del Rey Again, Just Like the Last Five Years Never Happened


So, my question for Lana Del Rey — or whoever is behind “Lana Del Rey” as a concept/persona/whatever — is this: how seriously are we supposed to take this shit? It seems clear these days that everyone who took her completely seriously, thus sparking the Great Lana Del Rey Tumblr War of 2012 — a dark time that still sends shudders down the spine of music bloggers who were caught up in its bloody battles — may have given their sanity in vain, because there’s clearly an element of performative silliness about Lana’s entire schtick. (Whether that silliness has been retrofitted onto something that was meant to be serious at one time or another is another question, and one that threatens to reignite the Great Lana Del Rey Tumblr War of 2012, so I’m going to leave it well alone.)

Nevertheless, the just-released trailer for Del Rey’s just-announced new album Lust for Life falls into a weird demilitarized zone between straight-up satire, affectionate “pastiche”, and campy but serious ’50s revivalism. If nothing else, the film’s aesthetic is pretty great; its black-and-white-with-a-splash-of-color cinematography recalls Sin City, a film that — ultraviolence aside — also inhabits a sort of imagined 1950s noir America of private dicks, trench coats, non-Reddit fedoras, and gorgeous chanteuses with dark secrets. It presents itself as a message from Del Rey to “the kids,” and while some of it is legitimately funny — especially the quip about her “living in the middle of the ‘H’ of the Hollywood sign” — some of it still sounds weirdly, naïvely earnest.

So is it all just a big ol’ joke? Is there meant to be any soul in what Lana is doing, or is it all just a bunch of arched-eyebrow reference points? Is it the latest installment of the Lana-as-self-referential-ironic-philosopher persona we saw in the “Ride” video? And five years after the carnage of the Great Lana Del Rey Tumblr War of 2012, does anyone care? I dunno; if nothing else, this has catalyzed an urge to listen to the real “Lust for Life” instead of the post-modern, post-millennial one. That’s something, I guess.