Category Archives: Music

Lana Del Rey: Drugs, Sex, and the American Dream

Photographer:  Nicole Nodland

Source of picture: http://www.stereogum.com

She takes to the stage with an air of dreamy languor about her, wearing a loose sweater over a pair of jeans. But her videos portray her as a sophisticated hedonist, living life as if it were a work of art.

Before gaining fame with her debut single Video Games, Elizabeth Grant was merely an aspiring singer and songwriter striving to fulfill her American Dream. While the launch of the album Born to Die has catapulted Del Rey’s popularity across continents, her songs are not exactly in congruence with this sense of accomplishment. She breaks through the veneer of the American Dream and invites us into the world of drugs, gambling and uninhibited sexual fantasies.

Del Rey gives us an image of a charismatic young woman, living off rich men’s money while spoiling them with her sexual prowess. She falls in love, but it always seems to happen in the wrong place or at the wrong time. There are no ordinary love songs in the album, but rather Born to Die deals with a continuous soul-searching journey, where the persona tries to find true love in a world of hedonism, vanity and greed.

Despite the album’s depiction of bleakness that America seems to hold for aspiring artists, Del Rey exhibits a strong sense of national pride in her music. References to the star-spangled banner and American rock icons crop up in most of her songs. Perhaps it’s America’s overt sexual freedom that fuels Del Rey’s tribute to her homeland. One can easily deduce that Del Rey’s songs are generally about casual sex, but only if the listener fails to acknowledge the singer’s idea of sex being a way of exercising one’s freedom.

Del Rey’s low, smoky voice, underlined by a strong sense of wistfulness and nostalgia, takes listeners on a trip down memory lane. Her lyrics evoke the carefree youth in all of us, reminding us of those long summer days we spent getting high on drugs, booze, and wild sex.

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Lavigne’s fall from grace

I rarely tune into local radio channels while I’m driving, seeing how by the time I get to work (a 20-minute drive on good days) I would have listened to the three most overplayed songs and eighty-six commercials.  But on some very rare occasions I’d rather have random songs thrown at me than putting on my unaltered, one-year-old playlist, and last week was one of them.  Nonetheless, the poor choice of morning songs combined with the repetitive round of adverts sent me into a trance as the heavy morning traffic came to a standstill. There was, however, one song that managed to cut through my deep thoughts and pull me back to reality.

I’m stuck in traffic on a Tuesday morning listening to the kind of song that could easily be a hit at kids’ birthday parties if it weren’t for the bad words being thrown here and there.  The verses of the song are comprised of short simple words. The singer places exaggerated emphasis on each word, making the song sound like an elocution lesson carried out the wrong way.  And then comes the chorus, with the only comprehensible word to come out of all the gibberish being ‘Radiohead’ – I can’t imagine them being exactly chuffed about earning a mention in such a tedious song. The singer’s shrilly voice at this stage of the song makes the chorus even more incomprehensible.

It is only half way through the song that I think I recognise a familiar tone underlying the strained high-pitched voice.  My hunch is soon confirmed by the DJ at the end of the song, but that doesn’t make things any better.  I have been listening to Avril Lavigne’s latest song, Here’s to Never Growing Up.  I have been listening to the very singer who had once been my idol.

I still remember how Avril Lavigne’s debut with Complicated in 2002 had triggered a revival of the punk trend among teenage girls. Avril represented girl power and teenage rebellion.  In addition, her lyrics were honest, profound and emotional, and as a result they struck a chord with love struck girls.

Over the past five years Avril has given herself and her songs a complete makeover, something which most artists feel the need to do at some point in their career.  But instead of evolving into an outstanding artist, she reduced herself to a mere singer with shallow lyrics and uninventive tunes.

“I’d rather be anything but ordinary, please,” Avril says in one of her early songs.  So this actually begs the question:  Where did it all go wrong?