Enigma. It’s a word that means someone or something that is difficult to explain (according to Merriam-Webster Online). When I was in middle school we had a word study class to help prepare us for SAT’s. We had a new word list every week and we would do exercises to help us become familiar with the words and their meanings. This was my first exposure to the word enigma. But only in recent times can I think of someone to perfectly fit the description: Lana Del Rey…or if you want to get technical, Elizabeth Grant.
Maybe a name change is the first clue to the perplexing modern day singer, Lana Del Rey. In fact she started to get bigger once she made the change (she released an album under the name Lana Del Ray called A.K.A. Lizzy Grant). The world’s first exposure to LDR, mine included, came in 2011 when she released the single “Video Games” and shortly after made a highly criticized appearance performing it on SNL.
I must admit I downloaded the song prior to seeing her SNL appearance, but the song never stood out to me. It was one I would skip while listening to my most recently added songs on iTunes during that time period. Up until the following summer I didn’t really hear much about her but as the record states, she released her “debut” album in January 2012, Born to Die (she bought back the rights from that 2010 A.K.A. Lizzy Grant one and pulled it from the shelves hence the quotations around debut). The summer of 2012 is when she hit me though, like a ton of bricks near the end of June. I watched her video for “National Anthem” and I was hooked.
See the thing is the 4th of July is my favorite holiday. Years prior to hearing “National Anthem” I created a playlist for the 4th of July of songs that referred to or mentioned the holiday, fireworks, or anything else that had to do with Independence Day. For instance, I’m in no way a Katy Perry fan, but I listen to her song “Fireworks” around the 4th every year just cause it has something to do with the holiday. So you can understand why I found an instant attraction to “National Anthem”. Not only that, but it was/is a pretty good song (believe me…I have songs on that playlist that aren’t that great but they made the cut cause there are limited 4th of July songs). After listening to “National Anthem” repetitively for weeks, even after the 4th holiday, I bought Born to Die. It was about a month after I first heard “National Anthem”. I fell in love with the album and loved Lana Del Rey ever since.
But let’s get back to enigma. Why is Lana an enigma? If you have ever read an article about her or listened to an interview with her, you’d understand why. She’s made some interesting decisions in her life. Her life also always seemed to be filled with controversy. She spent time living in a trailer park (not because she had to for lack of resources). Her song lyrics glorify violence, sex, money, and degradation of women. She’s made statements that disregard feminism. There’s even questions about how she or whoever came up with name Lana Del Rey. She’s just an entire mystery. But maybe it’s just the case that she’s entirely misunderstood.
I love Lana Del Rey, but I disagree with a lot of the meaning behind her lyrics. I disagree with her views on feminism and I probably wouldn’t engage in the same questionable behavior she does/did (I have my own fair share of strangeness anyway). Yet I still love her. I’ll buy a new record if she releases one. I’d go to see her again if she had a show near me (saw her last spring…it was amazing and she was amazing). Why? Because I don’t take her statements/lyrics/decisions/etc. too seriously. I honestly don’t think she takes her words or behavior seriously either (I could be wrong but it’s just an opinion). At least not as seriously as most of her critics do. She’s an artist. She’s trying to make and create art with and through her music. Instead of over-analyzing her songs and videos about what they represent, I just take them for what they are. Artwork. She bases her music/videos on what she feels and what inspires her and that’s something we can’t take away from anyone. Sure sometimes her lyrics can seem pretty ridiculous, but her music is deep, alluring, and hypnotizing. It has an old school vibe to it too. It creates a nostalgic sensation like you could have heard something similar in the 60’s or 70’s. So despite any negative views associated with her, you still have to credit her for the way she sounds and the artistry she demonstrates. I think that’s the sure way to fully appreciate the enigma that is Lana Del Rey.
(As a side note, Lana Del Rey released an EP and another album since Born to Die. In the fall of 2012 she released the EP Paradise along with Born to Die: Paradise Edition which contained all the songs on Born to Die as well as the Paradise EP and a few additional songs. In June 2014 she released the full length album Ultraviolence. She also wrote and starred in her own short film in 2013, Tropico. This summer she’ll embark on The Endless Summer Tour.)
Lana Del Rey Song Recommendations:
1. “National Anthem”
2. “Diet Mountain Dew”
4. “Money, Power, Glory”
6. “West Coast”
7. “Brooklyn Baby”
9. “Blue Jeans”
10. “Young & Beautiful” (Song from The Great Gatsby Soundtrack)