One of the many beautiful things about being a fan is that you can reconstruct your entire life and its “evolution” (or vice versa) based on the album releases of those you love. I discovered Lana Del Rey by watching the “Born to Die” video on YouTube. It was 2012 and I was living in London, I had just made up (remotely, via Skype) with my boyfriend, an ex drug addict (like me) known in the community, and that melancholy but also so intense whining, and those scenes of passion between she and the tattooed hottie were the perfect soundtrack and visual for my long lonely walks in East London, watching the planes take off and land and thinking about our immense and desperate love. I smoked staring at my hands – I had gotten myself some very long fake nails, like hers in the video – and, back in the cubicle that I called home, I spent hours watching and watching the “Video Game” video and listening to the old album again, the one from before the mainstream success, then withdrawn from the market, which I had managed to download illegally, Lana Del Ray AKA Lizzy Grant (2010) with on the cover a fillerless version of Lana with tremendous platinum blonde short hair, short and very brittle. I had also found a video in which she sang badly at a loser evening and I watched it again and again, imagining for myself a glow up like hers (especially of hair: it took me years to understand that they were wigs), what had transformed her from a pretty girl to a femme fatale, that aesthetic that the Americans, quite skeptical of her (new) debut, had defined as “constructed at the table”, as if it were a defect. She said it too vox in 2019: to understand how the way pop stars are judged has changed over the years, just look at Lana Del Rey’s career. In the article she recalls how she was defined in 2012, including a «fake» and «a failed pop singer who got lip injections and changed her name».
It’s been 10 years, we’ve gone from the famous interview of the Guardian with the title the quotation mark “I wish I was dead already” to her who at the Billboard Awards a few weeks ago, visibly moved, in a speech that has gone viral, declares she is very happy: it was finally understood. We went from SNL parodies (one of her first live performances had become a meme, her filled lips mocked almost like Pamela Anderson’s fake boobs) to her veneration (Gucci muse, undisputed genius, great artist). In between, nine albums, all perfectly successful (a few days ago a journalist from variety he sorted them out according to quality, and he agrees with me in judging Ultraviolence the best). At one point we used it to define the type of music that characterized the pre-Covid years, associating it with Billie Eilish (her huge fan of hers, who in fact interviewed her in the March issue of Interviewsconfessing to her that her photo with the bee on her mouth was the wallpaper of her first iPhone), bringing Xanax into play: in 2017 an article in the Washington Post circulated a lot spoke of “pill-pop”, quoting Lana Del Rey in the third line.
But the definitive consecration has taken place in recent years, on TikTok. Because if on Instagram Lana doesn’t give great satisfaction and reveals all of her belonging to the unfortunate Millennial generation (her private account, honeymoon, 3.5 million followers, is a trivial collection of photos of family and friends), on TikTok its music, its lyrics, its aesthetics have taken on an autonomous life. Gen Z has created tons of trends, from the filter that tells you which verse, album or song you are, to the one where teenagers share their reactions to songs they heard too soon. Many share the before and after the discovery of Lana Del Rey, which corresponds to an early sexualization: first they put their photos of carefree tomboys in overalls, then a succession of photos of sexy lolitas, set for the “male gaze”. There are also various look-alikes who dress, write and talk like her, even if they’re like 16 years old. Yet no one dreams anymore, as happened years ago, of defining Lana Del Rey as an anti-feminist. The insistence with which, despite her criticisms, she continued to be true to herself, celebrating her toxic relationships and her desperate loves and her literary and musical name-dropping, today appears as a show of strength and consistency.
Despite this illustrious journey, it was by no means obvious that the ninth album, Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd, it would have been the masterpiece that it is. There is a video on TikTok made after the release of the single of the same name that perfectly expresses the feeling: a boy says «what a bummer yet another song by Lana Del Rey, they are all the same». Then the song starts and Lana sings: «Open me up, tell me you like it, fuck me to death, love me until I love myself», and during the last verse the boy pretends to faint, as if he had been hit with a blow. That’s right: we didn’t think we needed the ninth dose, especially after the bombing of recent years (to which was added the book of poems, Violet bent backwards over the grass), yet we are already obsessed with the new album. Among the most beautiful and accurate reviews, for now, are that of variety, which defines it as «an emotional tour de force», and that of Pitch fork which speaks of «self-mythology» and «psycho-Americana».
The excellent marketing that preceded it – a single billboard installed in the country of her ex, photos with bare breasts, a new softer, more natural and relaxed look – has nothing to do with it: it’s 77 minutes of wonderful music, duets (the one with Father John Misty is wonderful), pastors who preach like in a Kanye West album, poems that, as usual, talk about death, desperate love, beauty, sex, God, various quotes from pop culture, but also, for the first time, concerns aligned with the 37 years that Lana Del Rey has now reached, such as the idea (or rather, the fear) of becoming a mother. From what came out I listened to it several times, during my long walks on the dry Martesana canal, thinking about my latest, yet another toxic relationship, and how my glow up never happened (“I want a life like Lana Del Rey», I wrote in 2015, and instead, 8 years later, I’m still here writing articles about Lana Del Rey), but at least I’ve always had, and still have, the perfect soundtrack for my yearning.