Most of the world is of two minds when it comes to Lana Del Rey—love or hate. Rarely does anyone claim middle ground. When I first heard one of her early singles, “Video Games,” I was appalled. I thought the lyrics were so backward, so not okay. “In his favorite sundress/ Watching me get undressed/ Take that body downtown.” How could a woman write lyrics like this? Those lyrics, the subservience and the pandering to men, scared me.
Now, however, I listen to that song and it makes me want to cry. It makes me want to weep with understanding because I hear the exquisite sadness in her voice and in her melodies. I hear the resignation, the giving in and the giving up. What’s more, I see the same world-weary exhaustion in the teen girls I know. I remember feeling it myself. Looking at my role as a girl and thinking, “I guess this is the best we get. Wear a cute outfit. Put on the makeup he likes. Smile at him. Maybe he’ll give me some attention.”
Del Rey’s first album, “Born to Die,” was full of similar melancholy contemplations of girlhood, but she moved away from it with her second album, which was more aggressive and frustrated. Mostly, her new album, “Honeymoon,” is full of super slow burners—a big middle finger to what a “hit album” should be. The first single sums up the prevalent theme with these lyrics, “All I wanna do is get high by the beach.” It’s almost like you can either love her or hate her, but Lana Del Rey has no more shits to give for what we all think about her. Lana is going to do what Lana wants to do, which may or may not include shooting a helicopter out of the sky with a bazooka while wearing a flowing silk nightgown.
“Art Deco” stands out from the rest of the “Honeymoon” songs because it’s the only one that dips into the sadness she explored in her earlier material. Reading the lyrics without hearing Del Rey’s execution, they come across jaded and mean, a little condescending. “You’re so Art Deco out on the floor/ Shining like gun metal, shiny and unsure.” But the way she sings them, the way her voice dips and then soars high, I hear compassion. I hear disappointment. My question becomes, “Is she singing about someone else? Or is she singing about herself?” Maybe it’s both. Maybe she’s watching the cool girl out on the floor trying to be above it all, and maybe she’s been the cool girl above it all. Maybe she understands how lonely and alienating it is. Maybe despite realizing all this, she can’t help putting on the cool girl façade. Maybe we all can’t help it.
If you like “Art Deco,” you might also enjoy “High By the Beach” and “Music to Watch Boys To” by Lana Del Rey.