Last August, Lana Del Rey released her sixth album, Norman Fucking Rockwell to rapturous acclaim. By the end of 2019, it landed high on numerous publications’ best-of lists, and it even earned an Album of the Year nomination at the Grammys just a few months later.
But it was a long journey for Lana, as she writes out in a pointed new note posted to Instagram early Thursday (May 21). “With all of the topics women are finally allowed to explore I just want to say over the last ten years I think it’s pathetic that my minor lyrical exploration detailing my sometimes submissive or passive roles has often made people say I’ve set women back hundreds of years,” she wrote.
The catalyst for her note, it appears, is the recent chart success of several female artists she mentions by name. “Now that Doja Cat, Ariana [Grande], Camila [Cabello], Cardi B, Kehlani and Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé have had number ones with songs about being sexy, wearing no clothes, fucking, cheating, etc — can I please go back to singing about being embodied, feeling beautiful by being in love even if the relationship is not perfect, or dancing for money — or whatever I want — without being crucified or saying that I’m glamorizing abuse??????”
“I’m fed up with female writers and alt singers saying that I glamorize abuse when in reality I’m just a glamorous person singing about the realities of what we are all now seeing are very prevalent abusive relationships all over the world,” she continued.
She also clarified that her frustrations are also rooted in, as she sees it, whose perspective gets incorporated in feminist art and whose doesn’t: “There has to be a place in feminism for women who look and act like me — the kind of woman who says no but men hear yes — the kind of women who are slated mercilessly for being their authentic, delicate selves. The kind of women who get their own stories and voices taken away from them by stronger women or by men who hate women.”
The note also mentions a decade of “bullshit reviews” she received and how she feels her art has “paved the way for other women to stop ‘putting on a happy face’ and to just be able to say whatever the hell they wanted to in their music,” unlike, she writes, her own early experiences. One of those “bullshit reviews” may be storied critic Ann Powers’s September 2019 take on Norman Fucking Rockwell, which was largely celebratory but also noted, as criticism does, “uncooked” spots and “B-plus poetics.” Lana did not agree, tweeting back at Powers that “there’s nothing uncooked about me. To write about me is nothing like it is to be with me. Never had a persona.”
This interaction has resurfaced again among the reactions to Lana’s new note, which range from the fans of the artists she mentioned defending their faves to others calling out what they see as hypocrisy to still others commenting on the inherent racial politics of a white artist calling out largely nonwhite artists. There are also those defending her and urging detractors to focus on her larger points about the importance of women’s points of view in music.
Amid all the discussion the statement is generating, it’s easy to miss a key detail Lana concludes with: She’s got two forthcoming books of poetry as well as a brand-new album set to drop on September 5. “I’m sure there will be tinges of what I’ve been pondering” in the new music, she wrote. While we wait to discover what that might sound like — and how producer Jack Antonoff, of whom she posted a FaceTime virtual jam session photo, will help shape it — read her note in full above.
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