Dead wrong?

Lana Del Rey has been through the wringer since her break­through suc­cess in 2011. But af­ter this con­tro­ver­sial in­ter­view in which she talks about death, the singer is at the cen­tre of a new storm

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - LIFE & STYLE - Words tim jonze pho­tog­ra­phy neil krug

IWISH I WAS dead al­ready,” Lana Del Rey says, catch­ing me off guard. She has been talk­ing about the he­roes she and her boyfriend share – Amy Wine­house and Kurt Cobain among them – when I point out that what links them is death and ask if she sees an early death as glam­orous. “I don’t know. Ummm, yeah.” And then the death wish. Don’t say that, I say in­stinc­tively. “But I do.” You don’t! “I do! I don’t want to have to keep do­ing this. But I am.” Do what? Make mu­sic? “Ev­ery­thing. That’s just how I feel. If it wasn’t that way, then I wouldn’t say it. I would be scared if I knew (death) was com­ing, but…”

We’re in New Or­leans, a city not known for peace and quiet. A cou­ple of blocks from Lana Del Rey’s ho­tel lies Bour­bon St, the scene of drunken ram­pages from morn­ing till night. Head in the op­po­site di­rec­tion and you can ex­pect to be as­saulted by the vi­brant brass of the French Quar­ter’s street jazz mu­si­cians.

Even in­side Del Rey’s el­e­gant suite there is car­nage: suit­cases half-ex­ploded; bags of corn chips strewn across the floor. Even her lap­top has been doused in tomato ketchup, tem­po­rar­ily thwart­ing our at­tempts to hear songs from her new al­bum Ul­travi­o­lence.

“Ewww,” she says, baf­fled as to how a condi­ment could have found its way in­side the power socket.

And yet when we move out­side to sit on her bal­cony, the scene is trans­formed into com­plete calm. “This place is mag­i­cal,” she says, spark­ing up the first of many cig­a­rettes.

So serene is the set­ting, in fact, that it takes me by sur­prise when Del Rey be­gins to tell me how un­happy she is: that she doesn’t en­joy be­ing a pop star, that she feels con­stantly tar­geted by crit­ics, that she doesn’t want to be alive.

“Fam­ily mem­bers will come on the road with me and say: ‘Wow, your life is just like a movie!’” she says at one point. “And I’m like: ‘Yeah, a re­ally f**ked-up movie.’”

Through­out our con­ver­sa­tion she keeps re­turn­ing to dark themes. Telling her story – a re­mark­able one that in­volves home­less­ness, biker gangs and be­ing caught in the eye of a me­dia hur­ri­cane – also in­volves work­ing out why a song­writer who has sold more than 7m copies of her last al­bum, Born To Die seems so dis­il­lu­sioned.

Per­haps the log­i­cal place to start, then, is with the ex­tra­or­di­nary re­ac­tion to Video Games, her break­through song in 2011. Ar­riv­ing seem­ingly out of nowhere (al­though Del Rey had been post­ing her songs and home­made videos for some time), the video’s Lynchian creepi­ness cast a spell on al­most ev­ery­one who saw it, caus­ing the song to go vi­ral.

Yet no sooner had the plau­dits started rolling in than Del Rey was placed un­der the in­tense scru­tiny of end­less blog­posts and think pieces, with crit­ics por­ing over her past for ev­i­dence of fak­ery: was her care­fully stud­ied aes­thetic for real? Was she re­ally just a ma­jor la­bel pup­pet? Had her dad funded a pre­vi­ous bid for fame? Were her lips the re­sult of plas­tic surgery? Was she re­ally born as plain old El­iz­a­beth Grant rather than emerg­ing from the womb fully formed as the pop­star Lana Del Rey?

“I never felt any of the en­joy­ment,” she says. “It was all bad, all of it.”

Del Rey says she’s not scared to put an­other record out be­cause she “knows what to ex­pect this time”, but dur­ing the two-anda-half years since Born to Die came out, she has of­ten dis­missed the idea of a fol­low-up be­cause she’d “al­ready said ev­ery­thing I wanted to say”. So what changed?

“I mean, I still feel that way,” she says. “But with this al­bum I felt less like I had to chron­i­cle my jour­neys and more like I could just re­count snip­pets in my re­cent past that felt ex­hil­a­rat­ing to me.”

From the hand­ful of songs I get to hear at the ho­tel, it’s safe to say the new ma­te­rial has plenty to get the blog­gers worked up about again. Sad Girl, for in­stance, talks about how “be­ing a mis­tress on the side, might not ap­peal to fools like you”.

She laughs when I ask where the in­spi­ra­tion came from: “A good ques­tion. I mean… I had dif­fer­ent re­la­tion­ships with men, with people, where they were sort of wrong re­la­tion­ships, but still beau­ti­ful to me.”

By wrong does she mean be­ing the other woman?

She laughs again and looks away coyly. “I mean, I guess so.”

It’s not clear if Money, Power, Glory was orig­i­nally writ­ten to rile her de­trac­tors but it makes a de­cent stab at it by warn­ing: “I’m go­ing to take them for all that they’ve got.”

“I was in more of a sar­donic mood,” she says of writ­ing that song. “Like, if all that I was ac­tu­ally go­ing to be al­lowed to have by the me­dia was money, loads of money, then f**k it… What I ac­tu­ally wanted was some­thing quiet and sim­ple: a writer’s com­mu­nity and re­spect.” She talks about that fre­quently: crav­ing a peace­ful life in an artis­tic com­mu­nity, away from the glare of a me­dia that “al­ways puts an ad­jec­tive in front of my name, and never a good one”.

Like the woozy soft rock of the al­bum’s teaser track West Coast, many of the songs on Ul­travi­o­lence are slow-tempo and at­mo­spheric, ditch­ing the hip-hop

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