y re-imagining her life as a blown-out Hollywood production about someone who really wants to join the 27 Club, Del Rey acknowledges the world’s fascination with tragic woman and invites them to watch a new train wreck. The result? Born to Die has sold seven million copies worldwide. Even her music videos, a medium no one has really cared about since the members of OK Go filmed themselves dancing on treadmills, are 100 percent Lana. In the video for “National Anthem”, Del Rey plays both Marilyn Monroe and Jackie O to A$AP Rocky’s JFK. While Lana’s character doesn’t die in the video, Rocky’s unsurprisingly does. Post-assassination, Del Rey tries to look shocked, saddened, suddenly abandoned, but she doesn’t quite get there.
Instead, she stares off-screen, looking confused and slightly angry, as though someone has taken the last bagel from craft services. For Lana, the acting is secondary. Instead, the function of the video is to draw people into her world, to get her fans to view her in the same way that the general public views Marilyn Monroe and Jackie O, to get journalists and bloggers to write think piece after think piece about the character of Lana Del Rey and what she means in regard to authenticity in popular music.
In a recent profile with the Guardian, Del Rey stated, “I wish I was dead already.” The line was subsequently picked up and reported on by a multitude of music websites and blogs. Was this statement a legitimate cry for help, or the work of someone trying to capture as many headlines as possible a week before her new album comes out? The Internet was divided. But a few days later, the plot surrounding the Guardian piece thickened as Lana publicly decried the article in a series of Tweets, stating amongst other things, “His [Guardian writer Tim Jonze’s] leading questions about death and persona were calculated.”
In responding to the Guardian piece, Del Rey is forced to wade through the inherent contradictions of her character. She’s not mad at Jonze because he made up the quote or even took it out of context. Instead, she’s mad because Jonze questioned her mystique, drew attention to the fact that Lana Del Rey is indeed a character, a calculated construction concerned with concepts such as the public’s interest in fame and young death. And if her tweet is anything to go by, Del Rey finds being calculated a negative character trait—that is, unless she’s the one doing it.
In her criticism of the Guardian article, Del Rey writes, “Alexis [Petridis, writer] was masked as a fan.” Aside from the fact that Del Rey got the interviewer’s name wrong (she was interviewed by Jonze, not Petridis), her tweets also illustrate exactly what Lana wants: for her life to be a movie, a reality where everyone takes her performance at face value. None of the extras in Some Like It Hot turned to the camera and reminded the audience that Marilyn Monroe was playing a character.
To maintain a character with such convictions has to be both exhausting and eventually problematic. Frances Bean Cobain, daughter of Kurt Cobain, called out Del Rey about her comments to the Guardian, writing, “The death of young musicians isn’t something to romanticize. I’ll never know my father because he died young & it becomes a desirable feat because ppl [sic] like u think it’s ‘cool.’”
The words seemed to have struck a chord with Del Rey, who responded with “he [Jonze] was asking me a lot about your dad I said I liked him because he was talented not because he died young—the other half of what I said wasn’t really related to the people he mentioned/I don’t find that part of music glam either.”
But the character of Lana Del Rey would never admit to not finding a young death glamorous. She named her first album Born to Die, and in the video for the album’s title track, she dies in a fiery car crash while making out with a cracked out Cillian Murphy look-a-like, calling a highly rated injury lawyers in Los Angeles afterwards since she actually gets injured. Instead, this tweet could be the first anyone has seen of Elizabeth Grant in years, finally emerging to publicly distance herself from an aspect of Lana that, when criticized by someone who lost her father to an early death, can’t help but seem a little distasteful and self-serving.