no. 41 — Norman fucking Rockwell by Lana Del Rey

I won’t lie, I have absolutely disliked Lana Del Rey for the entirety of her career. I don’t like the way she glamorizes abusive relationships in her songs. I don’t like that she changed her name to sound more “ethnically ambiguous.” I don’t like that she does not call herself a feminist and then goes on an unprompted Instagram rant saying that feminism “must have a place for women” like her. I think she appropriates cultures that aren’t hers to her own benefit. I don’t like that she dates cops. I think she is the epitome of a delusional white woman who thinks she’s changing the world with her opinions. Which is why I was PISSED when I actually liked Normal fucking Rockwell.

I still think this album has those same themes of idolizing abusive, shitty men. I feel like she’s the type of person who still likes Woody Allen, even though he groomed his own adopted daughter into becoming his wife. I also think that most of the songs on this album are boring and forgettable. But you know what, I still listened to the whole thing start to finish for at least two months straight. I remember listening to it when I drove from Maryland to Maine in September. I remember listening to it on the beach, walking up the coast for the full duration of the album. I remember being thrilled when my friend Morgan (of Mothpuppy) posted a cover of “Happiness is a butterfly” on Instagram, and I begged them to send me a full version[1]. I remember thinking, “damn, maybe I was wrong about Lana Del Rey. I’ve been so pretentious in my opinions on her, really sitting on my high horse thinking she was a bad musician and even worse person. I should revise my thoughts about her, maybe she’s changed.” And then this past summer happened!

The moral of the story is that she just shouldn’t be allowed to have Instagram. She, unprompted, digs her own grave deeper and deeper with every post. When I saw her most recent comment on her own album announcement about how she’s dated rappers and therefore isn’t racist, I actually laughed out loud. I was truly shocked that someone who has been called out for this kind of racial blindness before would, in the year of our lord 2020, post something so deeply stupid as what she said. And here’s the thing- my initial thoughts on her were right! I wavered in my ideas and that’s ok. I overplayed most of the songs on that album- past the point of enjoyment, but I still like “Happiness is a butterfly” and listen to it occasionally, but I don’t get the same joy out of the album as I did when it first came out.

So why is this album on my list? Mainly because a massive part of my music journey has been about ditching the pretentious, gate-keeping way of consuming art that I have historically held. The other part of my music journey has been trusting my instincts of what I do and don’t like. This album sits in the convergence of these ideas and remains a kind of talisman within that intersection. When Lana Del Rey first got popular, I didn’t have the vocabulary to describe why I didn’t like her. I stuck to that opinion, even without listening to any more of her music, up until this album. I simultaneously wrote her off and was right in writing her off, though I’m glad I gave her a second chance so I could be sure of my decision. I’ve come out of this experienced with a more nuanced understanding of her as a person and an artist, but nuance doesn’t always mean respect or admiration. There are plenty of Lana controversies, which I don’t have the energy or desire to go into, especially seeing as how this is not a tabloid blog. Anyway, (re)listen if you want while you read up on all her drama.

[1] They did. Still my favorite version of this song.

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non-binary writer and gardener. I'm stressed out.

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Jenna Sylvester

Jenna Sylvester

non-binary writer and gardener. I'm stressed out.

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