“It’s a shame that we die”whispers over pianos and violins King’s wool in ‘Fingertips’, one of the cuts from their new ninth studio album, out today: ‘Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd’. And it’s impossible not to immediately think of the song that catapulted her to fame, that ’cause you and I / we were born to die’ from which she emerged as if wrapped in a cloud of sepia-colored smoke, glamorous and decadent, earthy and ethereal at the same time. In the era of boys with cigarettes and guitars, nobody understood anything. She was accused of being inauthentic (why is no one wondering about the authenticity of Nick Cave or Julian Casablancas?), to romanticize abusive relationships, to glorify the American dream, to present a sadness passed through a Valencia filter.
Dozens of columns were written about how Lana del Rey was the patron saint of the Sad Girls (that archetype of a woman who spent a lot of time on the internet and embodied a strange paradox: the desire to express her deepest feelings through the most artificial aesthetics possible), anticipating something now more pronounced than ever: that everything is contained, and that female identity is built on the internet through what we consume. Summer Hot Girl (#goodvibesonly #poolside), Crazy Girl (#sylviaplath #fleabag #feral), Fall Healthy Girl (#selfcare, #workout #podcast)… Every day new meme-terms emerge on TikTok that define a supposed female personality and are turned into supposed cultural trends. (and, consequently, in market niches). We consume so much that we may not know what it means to exist as something unsaleable, wrote journalist Rayne Fisher-Quann about it.
Of all these trend-memes, however, the Crazy Girl one does contain a poignant intuition, hence its growing popularity.: Do not look at yourself through the eyes of anyone other than yourself. Not fulfilling the fantasy of the empowered girl through a rigid work-gym-tulips-always-fresh-at-home routine, or the absolutely-depressed-but-absolutely-gorgeous girl. Not fulfilling any fantasy, let alone a masculine one. Surrender alone and simply to your own chaos, whoever falls along the way. But how fine is the line between loving yourself above all else and closing yourself in?
‘Lately I can see / you wanted me sadder’, Del Rey continues on ‘Fishtail’, a surprising and magnificent song with its good dose of autotune and slowed down vocals à la SALEM. Ten Years Later, Lana Del Rey Is Still Lana Del Rey, But She’s Not Sad Anymore. Light makes its way through the cracks on ‘Ocean Blvd’. Subdued, but unstoppable.
It is not surprising that one of the songs is titled ‘Kintusgi’, that Japanese technique according to which broken objects are fixed by filling the fractures with gold, without covering them. Or that the chorus take that opens ‘The Grants’ — Del Rey’s lovely homage to his genealogy — is just one where we hear one of the singers get the verse wrong. Because this is ultimately a record that reaches out to the world and to each other. To love. No matter how many mistakes there are along the way, no matter how painful it can be sometimes. Because love has never been a one-way street. It is a path that inevitably converges with that of others, then takes the form of a romantic relationship, a family member, a friend, a God or whatever you want. To love is to commit to the world, although it may go wrong. It will sound cheesy, because it is and because what does it matter, but it will only be love who saves us. And Lana knew it from the start..