Lana Del Rey’s new single “Love” is both a return to, and an improvement upon her earliest work. For the first time in a few years, Lana Del Rey has released a song that fully embraces her absurdist approach to pop music, while also adding things that are ironically insightful. “Love” is Lana Del Rey at her finest.
To be a fan of Lana Del Rey is in itself a sort of joke, because either you fully realize and embrace her absurdity, or you are oblivious to it. In both cases, you can fully enjoy her music, which is fascinating in and of itself. You can listen to a song like “F**ked my Way to the Top” (a song in which she suggests exactly what the title says), a parody of the music industry and the image given to her by the media, and appreciate the outrageousness of what she is saying. Or you can hear that same song and say to yourself, “this is pretty catchy” disregarding the hilarity of the lyrics, and in both cases you are enjoying yourself.
If Beyonce is the queen of pop, the most authentic, inspiring voice in the mainstream right now, then Lana Del Rey is the queen of irony and trash. Yet, like the best Robert Frost poems, the complicated irony of Lana Del Rey, often misinterpreted, gives her work a touch of genius.
When I remember the absolutely idiotic lyrics to a song like National Anthem, “Money is the reason we exist / Everybody knows it, it’s a fact / Kiss Kiss” I can’t help but laugh and applaud Lana Del Rey’s style. Her complete and unashamed embrace of everything stupid about pop music forces you to look at the industry and groan, realizing how absurd actual, mainstream pop music is. Through the exaggerated absurdity of Lana Del Rey’s music, we see the all too visible absurdity of the pop-industry. Essentially, Lana Del Rey uses pop music to critique pop music, in a similar manner to how Jane Austen parodies gothic novels with a gothic novel (Northanger Abbey).
The pop world has had maybe three major ironists in the last thirty years. The Smiths’ Morrissey, Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, and Kelis.
In the case of the last person listed, Kelis, she bears the closest resemblance to Lana Del Rey.
Kelis’ hit song, “Milkshake,” widely thought to be a song about lurid sexuality and objectification, underneath its Frostian irony, is actually a song about Kelis’ sexual dominance and control over the men around her. When the song released back in 2003, the pop-scene was dominated by misogynistic hip-hop and pop, and although the song sounds like a dance banger to grind to, it is actually a socially conscious critique of the music it sounds like.
Likewise, Lana Del Rey trashes the internet and fame obsessed pop-scene of today. On “Love,” she cooly disses hipsters “Look at you kids with your vintage music / Coming through Satellites while cruising / You’re part of the past, but now you’re the future / Signals crossing can get confusing.” Our nostalgia-obsessed generation is dissed in a song that ironically sounds like it came out of a 1982 Depeche Mode demo.
She goes on to be more direct, “You get ready, you get all dressed up / To go nowhere in particular / Back to work or the coffee shop / Doesn't matter cause it's enough.” Despite this clear criticism and bemoaning of the perceived inauthenticity of our current nostalgic generation, she embraces the same imagery with the single-album cover for “Love,” which looks like an absurdist nightmare’s attempt at an 80s film poster.
The minimalist production and the lyrical content of “Love” are reminiscent of Lana Del Rey’s first album Born to Die. The song works as a party song, and something you would bump in the whip after your senior year prom while heading back to your house in the dark.
On the surface, “Love” is a fun love song. Underneath, however, is a song with plenty to say about the music industry and our generation.