Lana Del Rey’s languid style becomes a chore in Blue Banisters
Gender barriers may have disintegrated, as evidenced by the mix of pop and rap in Lana Del Rey’s early work – but the singer’s misrepresentation as a reactionary provocateur shows how music still works as a way to stake out identities.
In the decade since her breakthrough with “video games,” she has been variously accused of cultural appropriation, embodying white privilege and mythologizing a pre-feminist world of female victimization. The tension mainly stems from the points of conflict between the America fantastically imagined by Del Rey – a place of alluring charms and dangers – and the social realities that divide the present nation.
These two worlds are deliberately united in his new album blue ramps. “Text Book” opens with the sluggishness of a black sixties soundtrack and languidly sung lyrics about a woman falling in love with a man with a Thunderbird car like her father’s. But then this appearance from Freud’s textbook is depicted “shouting ‘Black Lives Matter’ in the crowd” – a shocking reference given the backlash Del Rey caused when she posted an Instagram story about the BLM protests in Los Angeles. Angeles last year, which many considered unresponsive. .
The students of the controversial Del Reyvian will hear the echo of another real-life incident when she sing: “Girls run around in summer dresses / With their masks on and it makes me so happy,” in “Violets for roses ”. Last October, she was criticized for wearing a glamorous but apparently hygienically unnecessary mask during a book signing. (She claimed it was safer than it looked.)
These teasing allusions show that Del Rey is using his infamy, if not encouraging him. She helps to define her own space, the dreamlike dimension of her songs. In this regard, the arrival of blue ramps just seven months after its predecessor, Chemtrails on the Country Club, is an act of self-affirmation. Music, on the other hand, is less prominent.
Slow piano melodies predominate. Subtle details emerge in the background, a swell of orchestration here, a brushed drum routine there. There is a lot of emphasis on Del Rey’s voice. “I sing like an angel, my heart is one too,” she announces in her usual languid style in “Black Bathing Suit”. In “Dealer,” a theatrically sinister duet about a vicious argument, starring Miles Kane of the Last Shadow Puppets, she screams her disgust for him like a rabid whispered singer. “Living Legend” has a wailing solo that can be either an electric guitar or a distorted voice: a superb act of acoustic deception.
The songs are carefully traced. The Freudian father of the first track is replaced by his real father Rob Grant on the closing track, “Sweet Carolina”, which he co-wrote with his sister Chuck Grant. There are deliberately leaked glimpses of a real Del Rey under the mannered first stage. But the album suffers from its decidedly slow tempo. Rather, it becomes a chore in her final stages, as if she gets lost in the singer’s beautifully made world, the made-up identity she has imposed on herself.
‘blue ramps‘is published by Interscope / Polydor