Lana Del Rey’s Murder Ballad
It’s been a week since Lana Del Rey’s performance on SNL sparked an internet furor. That’s a career on the web! Anyone who hasn’t been on a desert island for the last six months and with half an eye pointed at the entertainment blogs will be aware of Lana Del Rey by now. For some it’s been a fascinating example of the ‘old model’ music biz and their wicked old ways. Interscope – which even sounds like a James Bond Evil Empire type of deal to me – has manufactured a classic pop princess, albeit a darker and moodier one. Imagine Justin Bieber with longer hair; a grumpier adolescent girl, stoned on Nabakov and pot.
This has provoked a shit storm of vitriol in the blogosphere for some reason. Though quite what the fuss is about I do not know. Manipulating and squeezing every dime out of music fans is what Interscope and their ilk have always done best isn’t it? As my friend Charlie Roth, a New York musician and producer put it:
“Interscope is so bad ass’d that they stole Death Row Records out of the hands of….DRUG DEALERS.”
For what it’s worth I liked the songs I’d heard so far. ‘Video Games’ is a great little tune. Interscope, perhaps scared of burning out their new prodigy before her album ‘Born to Die’ is released at the end of the month yesterday ‘leaked’ her new record, with it a lush and cinematic video to the title track ‘Born To Die’. When I saw the video my good natured tolerance towards the new Lolita on the block evaporated. It is shocking.
The song itself is a gloomy song about having fun now because we’re all going to die soon. It’s no ‘Born to Run’, but it would like to be.
Choose your last words/This is the last time/Because you and I/We were born to die.
‘Born to Die’ is swaying ballad full of existential misery and trip hop drums. Drenched in John Williams style orchestration, some twangy guitar and Lana Del Rey’s brooding vocal it’s a rich and expensive sounding song and it’s not bad. Nothing weird there. The video, however, made me really uneasy. As so often in these grandiose three minute epics the story seemed to bear little relation to the song and this new storyboard put quite a different slant on the lyrics.
The Video shows Lizzy or Lana as she is now, draped across four posters, sitting on thrones, wandering around cathedrals with tigers and lounging in arms of an half naked male model. This particular variation on a time honored theme is a grumpy tattooed, hipster type who looks like he just moved into his daddy’s warehouse condo in Williamsburg to find out he’s got to park his 1974 Chevy Buicksterfordmoblie two blocks away, on the street.
Lana is then seen in various poses with this rocket-scientist-in-waiting being threatened with fingers pointed gun-like or being delivered from the shadows at her the in universal sign language for throat slitting. At one point he gently holds by her throat. He kisses her against her will (twice) before she ends up dead. Yes, dead with the inked up buffoon cradling her bloody corpse in his spindly arms. The burning wreck of his precious car (presumably) is scattered in the background.
Interscope’s edgy new siren might well be the newest upstart pop toy to be cast out of an old mold. Who cares? That’s the music business but her depiction as a punching bag and a murder victim? That really is something to get pissed off about.
Neville Elder is a freelance writer and founder of the Folk Rock band Thee Shambels He lives in Brooklyn, New York.