A Ten years ago, when Lana Del Rey first introduced herself and her “Hollywood sadcore” aesthetic to the world with the video for her 2011 hit “Video Games,” it took just 14 seconds for the first American flag appears, inverted and fluttering half heartily in a light breeze. The Stars and Stripes have been a frequent presence in his work ever since, forming part of his visual lexicon of Americana. This was true, at least, until Donald Trump was elected in November 2016. The following July, Del Rey said Fork that his feelings about the flag had at least temporarily transformed.

“It’s definitely uncomfortable,” Del Rey said. “I definitely changed my visuals on my tour videos. I’m not going to fly the American flag while I sing ‘Born to Die’. It’s not going to happen. I prefer to have static. It is a period of transition, and I am very aware of it. I think it would be inappropriate to be in France with an American flag. It would seem weird to me now – it wasn’t weird in 2013. ”

Del Rey set to release fifth album The desire to live, a file on which she explicitly wondered if the era of American geopolitical domination was coming to an end. “Is this the end of an era? she sang on “When the World Was at War We Kept Dancing”, “Is it the end of America?” Four years later, Del Rey set to release eighth album blue ramps on Sunday July 4, as America celebrates its 245e birthday.

Del Rey has been a skillful reassembler of American iconography since making her major label debut in 2012 Born to Die. The album’s title song artwork and video featured Del Rey in the arms of a tattooed bad boy, with a sprawling American flag as a literal backdrop. On the subsequent single “National Anthem”, she described the July 4th celebrations with the words “Red, white, blue is in the sky” and portrayed A $ AP Rocky in the video as Jackie Kennedy’s JFK. The chorus, “Money is the Anthem of Success,” repeats itself throughout the song, bringing home its finely drawn satire of America’s religious fervor for consumerism. In the video for “Ride”, from his EP 2012 Paradise, she wears American iconography as a costume. She’s seen differently in fringed denim and cowboy boots; a white dress that seems to refer to Blanche DuBois; draped in an American flag; and – most controversially – in a full Native American headdress while hanging out with the Hell’s Angels in Vegas.

One of Del Rey’s most famous lyrics, the opening line of 2012’s “Cola” (“My Pussy Tastes Pepsi-Cola”), offers another ironic observation of the deep connection between American patriotism and brands. business. In 2013, she told a German newspaper interviewer Die zeit that he was inspired by her then Scottish boyfriend, Barrie-James O’Neill, who “finds American girls very exotic.” He once said to me, “You American girls walk like your pussies taste like Pepsi-Cola, like you want to wrap yourself in an American flag to sleep.” He considers us all to be very patriotic. In the hands of Del Rey, what may have been conceived of as an affront becomes a powerful – and funny – metaphor.

By 2017 The desire to live, Del Rey’s biting wit had caught the attention of some of the internet’s most virulent trolls. The right site Breitbart furious at her words, sending out angry Trump supporters with the enticing headline: “Lana Del Rey Trump-Era Album Asks’ Is America The End of America? “.” Del Rey was not deterred. When she released the follow-up album Norman F ** King Rockwell! in 2019, Atlantic called her, “Lana Del Rey’s obituary for America.” On this album’s apocalyptic centerpiece, “The Greatest,” Del Rey sounds nostalgic not only for past relationships and the golden age of the West Coast music industry, but for the idea of ​​America. herself. In the lyrics, Los Angeles is on fire and getting hotter and hotter. “I am facing the greatest / The greatest loss of all,” she sings. “The culture is on and I had a blast / Guess I’m signing after all.” That same year, she released the single “Looking for America”, in response to fatal back-to-back shootings in Dayton and El Paso. “I’m always looking for my own version of America,” she sings. “One without a weapon, where the flag can fly freely / No bombs in the sky, only fireworks when you and I collide.”

While blue ramps was still being kept under wraps at the time of writing, early singles suggest one of his country’s most accomplished and insightful songwriters still grapples with all that it means to be American in the post-Trump era . On “Text Book,” she juxtaposes the country’s contemporary civil rights movement with an American songbook classic: “And there we were, shouting ‘Black Lives Matter’ in the crowd,” she sings. “By the Old Man River, and I saw you see who I am.”

Del Rey’s well-meaning attempts to support the Black Lives Matter movement have come under criticism in the past. In May 2020, she drew the wrath of fellow musicians Kehlani and Tinashe after posting videos on her Instagram account showing people breaking into businesses during the widespread protests against the murder of George Floyd. Kehlani tweeted at him at the time: “Please delete your instagram post, it’s dangerous as f ** k and a really bad choice of times to post. Protest by all means, but DON’T put endanger people with your very massive platform. “

This controversy may still have been fresh on her mind in January this year when she revealed the artwork for her seventh album. Chemtrails on the country club on social networks. The cover shows a group of women, including Del Rey, seated around a table. She accompanied the image with a rambling message that sought to anticipate criticism of the group’s ethnic makeup. “As far as my amazing friends and this cover art, yeah there are people of color in that record photo and that’s all I’ll say about it,” she wrote. “In 11 years of working, I have always been extremely inclusive without even trying. My best friends are rappers, my friends have been rappers. My dearest friends have come from all over so before I comment again on a WOC / POC issue I’m not the one taking the capital by storm, I’m literally changing the world by putting my life, my thoughts and my love there on the table 24 sept.

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It was an odd way of announcing a new body of work, although a fine example of the classic American pastime of shooting yourself in the foot. The album itself saw Del Rey explore a more pastoral America, away from the bright lights of Hollywood and New York City that previously alternately illuminated and blinded him. This drift from the city to the heart of the country seems set to continue on his new album. The title track “Blue Banisters” opens with Del Rey conjuring up the image of herself astride, of all things, on a tractor: “There’s a picture on the wall of me on a John Deere / Jenny Handed me a beer, said, did you get there? “/ Oklahoma.”

By weaving himself into the pre-existing tapestries of national iconography, Del Rey has made himself the essential contemporary American songwriter. Its lyrics are peppered with cherry pies and farm machinery, but the meaning is often that of a declining culture. She paints America like a late-era Marlon Brando, its beautiful promise and potential giving way to excess and stoutness of all kinds. Even with Trump out of office, America remains in what it has called a “transition period.” Wherever the country is heading now, Del Rey has already proven to be one of America’s most insightful and penetrating columnists, a subversive patriot who, even in the darkest hours, will always fly the flag.

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