why lana del ray's 'love' is the anthem we all need
Lana Del Rey’s new single 'Love' and its accompanying music video are a significant departure from the usual stylized narcissism we idolize in the singer. But with her new direction, Lana has blessed us with an outward-looking ode to her young fandom...
Lana Del Rey's entire brand is founded on a mixture of narcissism and nostalgia. Every song she produces is a plunge into a pool of hazy indulgence, self-pity and melancholy - and we all lap it up. Lana represents an Amaro-filtered permissiveness that we all crave, and turns the inward-looking narcissism of the Instagram generation into its iconography.
She explores the shallow desire for fame that permeates all of our lives in an environment where we are now all capable of constructing our own fame - and our own cult of personality - through social media. In a world where we are constantly tagged on Instagram and checking in online, she offers a form of escapism (into the bejeweled past of Old Hollywood, or the open plains of midwest America on the back of a motorcycle) that we can never realize in our own lives.
In this way, Lana has always served her fans. She has acted as a symbol of our secret desires, our excesses, and our failings, simply by exploring her own character.
But with "Love", Lana has given up on narcissism and stretched out her hands to us more directly than she has ever dared to before. She has abandoned the self-examining character she has maintained for five years, and stepped out of the hazy fantasy world of her own construction. In "Love," Lana discards her favorite subject (herself), and instead talks about us, the audience, and the real world.
"Love" speaks with uncharacteristic directness: "Look you kids, you know you're the coolest. The world is yours and you can't refuse it."
Lana is looking directly into our eyes and addressing us. Throughout her work, Lana has maintained the Del Rey character fastidiously, never breaking out of her solemn, brooding persona for fear of ruining the magic of her image. In "Love," she grins openly at the screen, exuding warmth and winking knowingly. She seems to be whispering: "Let's stop playing games for a minute. This one's for you."
The lyrics are full of sympathy for the struggle of young people trying to find identity in this world. They acknowledge the burden upon the youth to fix a world that seems broken - a sentiment that has special significance in the Trump era.
The lyrics are full of sympathy for the struggle of young people trying to find identity in this world. "You're part of the past but now, you're the future," she sings lovingly. "Signals crossing can get confusing. It's enough just to make you go crazy sometimes."
They acknowledge the burden upon the youth to fix a world that seems broken - a sentiment that has special significance in the Trump era: "The world is yours and you can't refuse it. Seems so much you could get the blues but, that don't mean that you should abuse it." Lana - who has always preached emotional self-indulgence and a safe (and slightly chaste) vision of nihilism, and parodied herself to the point of absurdism - is suddenly getting deadly serious. She is stepping out of her character and through our screen in a rare break from performance, to implore us not to give in to apathy and hatred. She reminds us that while it's fun to play dress up and dance around our room to her music, this is the real world, and we need to care. She knows it's hard, and that escapism is important, but even "though it's enough to make you go crazy" running away completely and abdicating responsibility just isn't good enough - "that don't mean that you should abuse it".
Lana's chosen song title is significant, too. "Love" seems like a simplistic cop out but it refers to many things - the love she has for her young fans and our generation as a whole, the tough love she wants to dole out to us, and the love she hopes we will fight to maintain in the world through all the odds.
Lana softens this tough love by reminding us how beautiful our generation is to her. She croons fondly about how we find ways to lift ourselves out of the darkness and mundaneness of our everyday lives: "You get ready, you get all dressed up, to go nowhere in particular, back to work or the coffee shop, it don't matter because it's enough."
If "Love" is an ode to us, then its most important message is that line: "it don't matter because it's enough." We are enough. We are good enough. Whatever we are is good enough. The young characters she features in her video end up spiraling through space in their cars, and Lana believes we can reach those heights - she gifts us the moon and stars, telling us we're worth it.
As the video closes, the golden glow of a sunrise illuminates the moon's surface and the faces of her youthful protagonists. The future is bright for us. All of Lana's videos to date have featured her as the protagonist, but here she is simply a bystander.
"Don't worry, baby" Lana beams, and her soothing reverb floods us with warmth - ultimately, she wants this song to comfort us. Yes, to a degree, she wants to shake us out of apathy, and remind us that the apathy she exudes in her character is merely an act at the end of the day, but she also wants us to know we're doing a damn good job of coping with the world we're living through.
Lana's "Love" it seems is all about navigating the harsh, unforgiving landscape we find ourselves, and if it's a pointer in the direction she's heading in, maybe her new era will be all about lifting us up.
Thanks for coming to save the day, Lana!
Text Brian O'Flynn
Photography Scott Trindle
Styling Caroline Newell
[i-D The Winter Warm Up Issue, No. 316, 2011]
- lana del rey