Re. Lana Del Rey

I’ve been mulling this over since last Thursday (21st) as I’ve been struggling to work out how I really feel about the whole situation. For anyone who isn’t aware, Lana Del Rey issued a written post via Instagram last week on the subject of her struggles in the music industry, followed by another statement, followed by a 6-minute long video, all of which caused quite a bit of controversy across social media platforms. Anyone who knows me will be aware than I am a huge fan of Lana Del Rey’s music and have been since she first emerged with Video Games and the Born to Die album in 2011. There was no one else like her on the scene and I immediately became captivated by her dreamlike melodies and deeply related to so many of the songs. Every album has been there for me through both happy and troubling times over the past decade, and I fell in love with the melancholia in her voice and brutal honesty of her lyrics. There is no denying that she is a fantastic and still under appreciated singer, songwriter and poet, but I understand that her music is not for everyone and may seem slow and boring to many. Norman Fucking Rockwell! is a masterpiece and should have won the Grammy this year, but then so should Lemonade in 2017 and Beyoncé in 2015.

I fell in love with the character “Lana Del Rey”, which on Thursday I was forced to admit was an illusion. In my head I had never really separated the persona of Lana Del Rey from the real life person Elizabeth Woolridge Grant. This was down to my own naivety, because to me the person and the character were completely combined and the image I held of Lana was one of grace, humility and of being completely unproblematic. I read her statement on Instagram four minutes after it was posted, and immediately I knew that this would be a long day, and that things would never be quite the same again.

As a man, it is not my place to comment on the struggle of a woman in the industry. I know that every woman in music has had to go through unspeakable hardships and has fought their own uniquely difficult fight to get to where they are now, in a way that men could never fully understand. I do not underestimate the struggle that Lana herself has been through over the past ten, fifteen years. I do not dispute her main point of addressing that there needs to be more fragility within feminism, and I will hold my hands up and say that this isn’t something I know much about. I do think that we have a problem with femininity and fragility being perceived negatively in both men and women, and that toxic masculinity is the root cause of this.   

As a white person, it is not my place to comment on allegations of racism. I cannot sit here and say “Lana isn’t racist”, because how can any of us actually know what someone is really thinking? I cannot go round saying that something “isn’t racist” because my lived experience and therefore my interpretation will be completely different to that of a black person. I do not have to constantly deal with being racially profiled, and I can probably count on my hand the number of times I’ve been made to feel uncomfortable about being white. I do not believe that Lana is inherently racist, but it’s clear that her statement, and the very act of making the statement, is steeped in white privilege and this is something that should be addressed. To openly complain and to act with entitlement is white privilege, as we’ve seen with the rising anti-Karen movement and the recent case of Amy Cooper calling the cops on an innocent black man who politely asked her to put her dog on a lead in Central Park. I don’t think Lana has properly addressed her privilege or dealt with the accusations of racism very well at all. I’ve noticed that when white people are accused of racism, our instinct is to immediately deny rather than question. As white people our role should not be to deny. The more we ask questions, recognise privilege where it appears and try to understand the lived experience of black people, the easier things will hopefully become for everyone. Equality will not be reached if white people don’t start to open their eyes, and the way Lana has handled this situation from the start has made me cringe. She should never have compared her struggle to that of the other artists, period.

On Thursday morning I saw the person I had idolised for years be completely annihilated by stan Twitter within the space of a few hours. The elegant persona of “Lana Del Rey” was dashed aside and replaced by the angry, flawed, passionate Lizzy Grant, chewed up and spat out at an alarming rate and branded as “fake”, “boring”, and “irrelevant”. Watching this unfold throughout the day was heartbreaking, and I had no idea how to react. Stan Twitter operates militantly, so the fact that Lana had riled not one but seven armies made defending her virtually impossible for her relatively quiet fanbase. I spent the whole day reading tweets, agreeing with a lot of what was said, and struggling not to take certain comments personally. When an artist is “cancelled”, I get the impression that their fans are tarnished with the same brush and essentially “cancelled” too. Make no mistake, stan Twitter is a destructive and toxic environment, stifling individuality and heavily focused on mass generalisation. I have felt awkward all week and unsure of whether or not to carry on supporting Lana, because I know that by publicly supporting an artist there is an assumption that you agree with every single thing they say and what they stand for.

Lana’s fans are typically dreamers, often dealing with depression, trying to make the best of life but struggling with mistakes along the way. None of us asked for this. I spent a few days angry with her for shattering the illusion. How dare she ruin the cosy state of calm I get from listening to her music? Who is this new supposed “badass” cringingly telling people to #fuckoff left right and centre? The illusion of “Lana Del Rey” I had fallen for a decade ago was graceful, glassy-eyed and majestic, unbothered by everyday life and part of some never-ending dream. When I watched her six-minute IGTV, I saw a vulnerable person, no big hair or dark makeup, close to tears and clearly damaged by the comments but pretending not to be. Lockdown has caused people to stop, reassess and think deeply, with mental health issues often being the result. I guess it was only a matter of time before the persona of Lana Del Rey cracked and the real life, imperfect Lizzy Grant emerged.

Heartbreak is the shattering of an illusion, and this was my fourth in eight months, so I took it a lot better than I probably would’ve done a year ago. If there’s anything this year has taught me, it’s that we are surrounded by illusions. A seemingly healthy relationship is often just an illusion. The idea that someone will be around forever is an illusion. The idea that society could carry on the way it was going without a global pandemic breaking out was an illusion. I haven’t listened to any of Lana’s music since Thursday because of this shattered illusion. The dream, or the way things were before, is over forever. I know I’ll continue to follow her work and always wish her well, but I don’t think I’ll ever feel as closely connected or could call myself a “stan”, because I’m opposed to the way she’s dealt with a lot of issues this past week. For me personally, it is time to wake up from the dream.

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