Admittedly, I am behind the times with this post, but considering that much of the music I post is in the 80-year-old vintage, I’d like to think I’m being pretty timely. While I might normally skirt around most of-the-moment music, I’ve really been digging this track lately and might as well throw my two cents into the Lana Del Rey void. Aside from “Video Games,” I find LDR’s catalogue to be fairly unremarkable, perhaps undeserving of the sudden attention, but the fact remains: “Video Games” is an excellent song. I’m going to sidestep questions of inauthenticity or artistic integrity here, not because I don’t have an opinion about these issues, but because that subject has been talked to death lately.
I think a far more interesting topic to discuss is LDR’s much slighted lyrical use of features of the contemporary cultural landscape, case in point: video games. Criticisms of her use of phrases such as “diet Mountain Dew” or “video games” tend to centre on their ultramodern, consumerist trendiness; however, it seems that it’s been only in the last ten or twenty years that the use of the contemporary cultural landscape has been shunned as inappropriate lyrical inspiration. One need only go back, all the way back, to the great Rock & Roll innovator, Chuck Berry, to hear lyrics about a Cadillac Coupe de Ville motorvatin’ over the hill, a lyric so hip and contemporary that Berry had to invent a new verb to complete it. The current lyrical distaste for the vulgar modern seems to be part a self-conscious effort to legitimize contemporary works by connecting them with an idealized past. An anxiety that even LDR seems guilty of, with her retro-stylized aesthetic (see video, below) and self-comparision to Nancy Sinatra.
But, here we are, discussing Chuck Berry in a post ostensibly about Lana Del Rey, an article which was supposed to be a fun and quick post before the weekend. Perhaps this is where the true value in Lana Del Rey’s music lies: it seems to be impossible to listen to her without somehow engaging intellectually with her work, digging beneath the surface to either praise or condemn her. Her role as a polarizing lightning-rod has probably caused more people to think critically about music, and culture more generally, than the bulk of indie heroes from the last ten years. Enjoy! (Or abhor, but you must pick one.)
Lana Del Rey, “Video Games” (from Born to Die, 2012)