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Hot Take: Lana Del Rey does not Deserve the Spotlight

I don’t like Lana Del Rey. I’m aware this may be a stab in the heart to many young women scrolling through TikToks of frilly lace dresses and oversized Mary Jane shoes, but my point stands that western society is too lenient on the questionable if not problematic behavior of white, elitist female singers.  

Del Rey has had a fair share of controversies throughout her career, many of which have been brushed under the rug. Recently, popular artist Lizzo was canceled for alleged fatphobia and abuse towards her backup dancers. In contrast to Lizzo, a Black plus-sized woman, Lana Del Rey has hardly been shunned from public spectacles. In fact, her fan base of Lolita inspired girls seems to grow by the minute. According to , her instagram following increased by 5 million between July of 2020 and 2021, clearly denoting she hasn’t lost her reputation. 


Lana Del Rey’s rap sheet of controversies stem back to 2020, where she shared a lengthy Instagram post in poor taste. The post defended backlash against her “glamourization” of abuse, which she defended by criticizing women of color (WOC) for leading the charts with songs “about being sexy, wearing no clothes,[explicit], cheating, etc.” The women of color she explicitly refers to include Nicki Minaj, Beyonce, Doja Cat, Camila Cabello and Kehlani.


This seems like another instance of white women being jealous of the success of WOC, being condescending towards their lyrical themes and pitting themself as a victim of the music industry despite being successful. 


Part of the issue I have with her criticizing Black women also stems from the insensitivity she takes when ignoring the fact that Black women have had to fight very hard in climbing the ranks of the music industry, much less empowering their sexualities in a sexist and racist music industry. There are privileges Del Rey has that she fails to recognize. 


In this message, she also wrote, “I’m not not a feminist, but there has to be a place in feminism for women who act and look like me.” 


In response to her criticism of this post, she once again claimed to be a victim and stated, “there are certain women that culture doesn’t want to have a voice. It may not have to do with race. I don’t know what it has to do with it.” She also stated that media critics and “hyper liberals” were attempting to start a race war, rather than taking feedback from people of color and doing some self-assessment. 


I should add, though, that technically her sales have decreased since her first album, but I don’t think it’s primarily because of her actions or being less popular. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that in 2012, there were less streaming platforms than there are now. According to spotify stats, her top tracks as of now are from her recent 2021 album, Blue Banisters. So, her streaming has remained successful, proving that she isn’t on a decline. 


Of course, I can’t write this article without mentioning her strange allusion to rappers as a defense against being called racist. After the release of her 2021 album "Chemtrails over the Country Club", Del Rey assured fans, “I have always been extremely inclusive without trying to. My best friends are rappers, my boyfriends have been rappers.” 


The odd part about this statement is that Del Rey assumes all rappers must be people of color and that simply being affiliated with one makes her not a racist. 


Now, though I said her controversies originated in 2020, I believe her true problematic origins start from as early as 2013, though most cancellations have only happened beginning in 2020. Sure, 2013 was ten years ago, but I believe it also wasn’t 1950. 


In 2013, Del Rey released a short film called “Tropico” in which she romanticized and appropriated Chola aesthetics and gang activities. She also has a song titled “Art Deco” in which she writes about an experience (presumably about teenage womanhood as a whole) where she sings, “Baby you’re so ghetto, you’re looking to score.” 


I’m not sure of the context for this lyric, but given we don’t have any, I don’t like the fact that a white woman writes about experiences primarily experienced by people of color. I strongly believe she was probably never called “ghetto”, and even if she was, there’s a slim chance that she was defined as such growing up. It’s not a part of her identity the way it is prescribed to people of color, therefore why is she writing about it like it is?


In “Tropico”, the time stamps from 10:40-11:00 minutes depict her two tear drop tattoos, which, in Latin gang culture, represent one has killed someone or had someone they knew die, often by murder. It’s a serious cultural trauma that people carry with them for the rest of their lives.


Additionally, we see Del Rey smoking with a group of Latinas, many of whom have staple Chola aesthetics such as big gold hoop earrings, necklaces, and typical Chola makeup. When women of color wear hoops, they are considered “trashy”; when white women do it, it’s fashionable. I find it quite frustrating as a Latina to see a rich white woman making a diversion of something riddled in violence and exacerbated by real-world low income status of many Latin communities. I understand Del Rey comes from a lower class neighborhood with a history of young alcoholism, which is a story that does reflect real pain in her life. But this isn’t an excuse to racialize it and appropriate other cultures to express these experiences. 

As I mentioned earlier, De Rey has been flamed for her romanticization of sexual abuse in her songs. I can’t confidently say that I know how much of her lyrics are rooted in actual experiences, but I find it alarming that she poses them in a manner which seems fun and appealing for younger women. 


TikTok seems to be the platform where most Lana Del Rey fans express their undivided devotion towards her. I mean, there are  TikToks where fans claim, “Lana is mother,” or “Lana Del Rey is the most relatable artist ever”. Other TikToks hold titles such as, “Forever obsessed with Lana Del Rey” and “Who else has an unhealthy obsession with Lana Del Rey?"


She even has her own aesthetic, called, “Lana core”, which consists primarily of coquette aesthetics and a dash of unhealthy sexual relationships with men. I think it’s important to dissect clear examples of her questionable lyrics and artistic characters as well as the chilling responses from listeners. 


For starters, I’ve heard many of my friends say “Lana is my religion” and “that’s so Lana Del Rey core” in regards to self-destructive behavior. I find it disturbing that a celebrity is associated with such themes as a positive role model. Stating someone is your religion, devoting your aesthetic and life goals to match theirs, is a terrifying extreme of para social relationships. 


Some lyrics of Del Rey’s songs that I find distasteful are, “hit me and tell me you’re mine, I don’t know why but I like it. Scary? My god you’re divine,” from her song “Diet Mountain Dew”. I can understand that Del Rey might be citing her actual experiences of being blinded by the manipulation of a past partner she had, and that this lyric might be sarcastic, but the timbre and melody on the song is so upbeat that fans begin singing it without realizing that they’re literally promoting domestic violence and normalizing putting abusers on pedestals.


There are people who listen to lyrics such as these and make a fantasy of them, something they desire. One user on a Quora thread details their admiration for Del Rey : 


Sometimes you feel like you are in an abusive relationship but still love it. Other times you are sleeping with some other woman's husband. But you also feel the pain of being a mistress… she makes you feel like Lolita,” (from the user, “Devanshi Tank”). 


To provide more context for the Lolita characterization, Lana Del Rey has famously sung, “come on you know you like little girls. You can be my daddy,” in her song “Put me in a Movie”. Complimentary to this lyric is, “let me put on a show for you daddy,” from her song “Yayo”. For those who aren’t aware of what Lolita is, it’s a classic novel about a relationship between a minor and a much older man. Making these crimes appear fun and normalizing grooming is not okay. 


I understand that Del Rey has heavily implied that she’s been sexually assaulted with lyrics in her song “A&W”. I certainly don’t want to tell someone how to cope with their trauma, but I believe there comes a point in a career where worshiped celebrities must have serious conversations regarding their content, even if it comes from personal experience. 


Relaying your personal experiences is a brave vulnerability Del Rey embraces, but her fans are also to be considered when interpreting and enjoying Del Rey’s accounts of abuse and sex. Though Del Rey doesn’t directly promote the aestheticization of her life, she is complacent in the array of jokes and commodity of trauma young fans spread throughout TikTok and social media, which is harmful to those who cope differently with trauma and want their experiences to be taken seriously. 


I believe art should make waves, that art should be bold and authentic to the artist, but more importantly, that there is a level of responsibility in producing culturally sensitive content and addressing the seriousness behind some sexual content. If I were Del Rey, I’d make it a point to her fans that unhealthy relationships are not an aesthetic, but a real world emotionally damaging and harmful experience. 


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Tags: racism music TikTok pop genz songwriting lana del rey elitism


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