The thing about Lana Del Rey is, women either think she’s god or an overly dramatic phony who has cashed in one too many times on her mistress of darkness “shtick.” When “Video Games” came out as a single in 2011, girding us all for the release of the Born to Die album on January 27, 2012, I was immediately transfixed. This was the wailing voice of romantic misery I never knew I had been missing so badly from my life. At the time, however, I hadn’t been truly been burned enough by the pain of l’amour to revere Del Rey’s work via that next level factor: empathy. To me, it just sounded good.
2012, appropriately then, was the year I met the person I’ll probably always write about because of how unresolved and unjustified the end will perpetually feel to me–no matter how many times I’m told to “get the fuck over it.” That same year when I met him, he found out of my Del Rey ardor and claimed to have seen her walking the streets of Brooklyn recently. I doubted it, but it was a pretty thought, just like the notion of a love that can last forever. And yet, as Del Rey has proven love can last forever, if you harp on its failure for the rest of your life. This is where she divides people: those “empowered” women types who want to be “healthy” about a breakup versus those “I’d kill myself upon learning of Rudolph Valentino’s death” types. If you don’t understand what seems like melodramatic extremism, then you’ll never truly appreciate LDR.
As Born to Die established, Del Rey is always writing about the same guy, and who knows if she even really still loves him? It’s just so ingrained in her at this point to continue mourning the loss any way she can. The guy is no longer a person, but this entity she writes into every three to five minute manifesto. And unlike Adele, who has made millions off the same pain, there is something a little more sinister about Del Rey’s obsession. This isn’t catharsis so much as compulsion. And the metaphor of relationship death in the opening title track is what set the precedent for both the longstanding themes of Del Rey’s career and the notion that fatalism dooms all affecting love–the kind that only feels special precisely because it couldn’t work out. In many ways, you might say La La Land ripped off Born to Die actually.
The closing track of the album, “Lucky Ones,” showcases Del Rey’s only trace of “early years” naïveté as she paints the Act One of Romeo and Juliet picture, “Every now and then, the stars align/Boy and girl meet by the great design/Could it be that you and me are the lucky ones?” The response on every subsequent album from LDR since has been a resounding “no.” Some women just can’t be a lucky one in love. But at least pain can be pleasurable to one’s bank account. Just not mine.