“Calling Out” Lana Del Rey: Controversy and Contemplation

Lana Del Rey and controversy are two words that walk hand in hand. The evolution of Lana Del Rey into one of the biggest pop stars of the current day is marred by scathing criticism. Between soul-touching music and questionable actions, the dilemma intensifies.


Will you still love when I am not young and beautiful? – Young & Beautiful

You don’t ever have to act stronger than you really are. – California 


As the night progressively deepens, I look out of the window staring at the Moon. With my earphones plugged in, I lay there motionless. A million thoughts cloud my mind. In the background, the gentle tunes of Lana Del Rey soothe me. “Happiness is a Butterfly, Try to catch it like every night” Existential thoughts dawn in. By the time Blue Jeans comes on, I am already deeply asleep. And then comes the dreaded morning with my neck tangled in earphones and a constant hungover feeling – an eerily heavy heart. 


Lana Del Rey is inarguably one of the biggest faces of the music industry of our time. From Ultraviolence to Norman Fucking Rockwell, she is not just commercially successful but has a cult following. Along the way, there has been significant criticism of her work too. Lana del Rey and “controversy” go hand-in-hand. From being accused of “glorifying abuse” to lashing out at critics to wearing mesh masks, Lana Del Rey’s associated with controversy. To be completely honest, she did deserve a lot of the backlash she got; her comments and moves aren’t the most well thought out, to say the least. Despite all the stupidity, there is so much more to Lana that is rarely spoken of. 


When Lana entered the industry and took the stage name Lana Del Rey, it didn’t go well with the critics. In 2012, the Observer wrote a scathing piece on Lana: “She’s a failed pop singer who got lip injections, changed her name, and now has a great backstory about living in a trailer that makes her New Jersey Chanteuse schtick as Urban Outfitters-ready as a pair of tight Levi’s.” Cut to the year 2019, on the launch of Norman Fucking Rockwell, critics now are all praise for her and called her “a fully-realized artist who has remained true to her obsessions — aesthetic, cultural, and personal — outlasting the misogynist criticisms that could have derailed her early career.”


Lana’s music has an authentic rawness and it pierces your heart and hits right in. Inspired by Slyvia Plath, Lana’s ‘hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but I have it’ reveals a deep sense of angst and fear that grips her. “Monsters still under my bed that I could never fight off, A gatekeeper carelessly dropping the keys on my nights off” The beauty of her work is that it is relatable so universally. It calls out the darkness within each of us; insecurity and uncertainty. 


Love remains a constant theme across her work. Lana’s perception of love breaks the traditional norms of mushy fairytale utopia. She refuses to conform. Her work constantly contains a grey undertone and dismisses black and white. Love isn’t always comforting and accommodative. Losing oneself for someone else is difficult; a lot of Lana’s music speaks directly to it. Agony is personified by her work. There is an eerie sense of comfort in the darkness – a sense of solidarity. There is synchrony that strings together the pain and suffering with a sense of longevity and purpose. 


So here is the deal. Nothing absolves Lana Del Rey of accountability for her actions, words and work but what is unfair is to sever one’s bond with her. Separation of art from the artist will remain an eternal debate. Over the years, there has been increasing acceptance for the expression of trauma and angst in popular media. Though Lana Del Rey and controversy might still be joint at the hip, her work is a celebration of that darkness within all of us. 


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Mehul Joshi


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