Lana Del Rey is one of the biggest female names in the music industry, but behind all the smoky haze and Old Hollywood glam, her lyrics provide a less than stunning image of womanhood.
During a show in Ridgefield, Washington last week, Lana slipped in an announcement that her new album “Honeymoon” will drop this September.
In order to see what kind of subject matter we can expect in the new release, it might be wise to see what sort of messages Lana has threaded throughout her work so far.
In her debut album, “Born to Die,” Lana describes a number of unhealthy relationships and reckless behavior sung in a sultry voice over moody, romantic beats.
In “Off to the Races,” the second track off the album, Lana sets the tone with the line, “My old man is a bad man,” while proceeding to sing of her undying affection for him.
The song goes on to depict a relationship of male-dominance, with Lana singing out lines like “Tell me you own me,” and willingly painting herself as entirely submissive to her male counterpart.
One might be able to write this off as a mere bedroom preference if it weren’t for lines throughout the album like “I’m not afraid to say that I’d die without him. Who else is going to put up with me this way?” and “It’s all for you, everything I do,” that convey a clear sense of unhealthy dependency and a need for male-validation.
Lana’s received criticism for this in the past from fellow chart-topping singer, Lorde, who described this kind of “shirt-tugging, desperate, ‘don’t leave me’ stuff” as unhealthy for teenagers to listen to.
For the most part, the album maintains the same kind of underlying themes, and the extended “Paradise” addition follows suit with lines like “I’m nothing without you” and “I need you like a baby.”
The most disturbing thing about this is the way Lana paints these unbalanced relationships with “cons,” “liars” and “no good” men in such an affectionate tone.
Not only does she fail to condemn this outdated male-female power dynamic of inequality, but she willingly portrays herself as being valued almost solely in her sexuality, with lines like “I’m your little harlot,” and “If I get a little prettier, can I be your baby?”
The themes in Lana’s more recent work, “Ultraviolence,” only get darker.
In the title track, Lana repeats the lyrics “He hit me and it felt like a kiss,” as well as “He hurt me but it felt like true love,” in what you’d expect to be a painful remembrance of an abusive relationship. But in actuality, she asks for more of this “ultraviolence” and affirms her willingness to do anything for this man, calling their relationship a “blessed union.”
Whether it was her intention or not, romanticizing domestic abuse is dangerous territory when you have an audience of young, impressionable listeners, or any listeners at all for that matter.
All the struggle for gender equality needs is a powerful, chart-topping advocate for the battery of women.
Lana seems quite willing to put up with a fair amount of emotional abuse as well.
The premise of the song “Pretty When You Cry,” is essentially her willingness to be in a relationship with a man who cares nothing for her.
Ironically, she comes strikingly close to making a statement of female empowerment in this song with the lyric, “I’m stronger than all my men,” but quickly follows up with, “except for you.” Classic Lana.
“Sad Girl” has a similar theme, involving her willingness to tolerate heartache to be with a man of questionable character.
That may be just what to expect from a woman who doesn’t think feminism is an "interesting concept," but her ability to stay afloat in a society that is ever pressing for more gender equality is really quite astounding.
Old gender notions die hard, I suppose.
Admittedly, I myself enjoy Lana’s music. I find her chilly, vintage sound relatively unique despite its mainstream appeal.
I am not suggesting that we all boycott the new album in a grand show of bra-burning feminism, but only that we’d all be more conscious, informed listeners.
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