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Krak des Chevaliers

Lana Del Rey

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I'm sure that this has somehow to do with fragrance, although actually I'm not sure. I can tie it in by the end perhaps. Suffice it to say that this post is not about "what frag would Lana wear" or "if Lana were a scent, what would it be?"

At work I got looped into a discussion about the one-woman culture war that is LDR. Specifically, I was discussing with my colleagues the long video for "Ride," with its nearly five-minute spoken introduction. Broadly, the objections raised were that it glorified the exploitation of women, fetishized gun violence, thoughtlessly appropriated the cultural apparatus of native peoples, was overdependent on cliche, and indicated no vocal talent on the part of its star.

To which I responded "yes" on all counts.

And yet, it rises, gloriously, from its improbable ingredients, or perhaps because of them. Part way through the video I was laughing in incredulity, only to be literally in tears by the end. Like William Burroughs, the Doors, or Jeff Koons, "Ride" is the apotheosis of trash, made all the more potent in that--unlike, say, anything by Lady Gaga--it spits and stomps all over everyone's sacred cows, left and right. And not to single LG out for abuse, but I'm tired of hearing about how Gaga's music "challenges accepted notions about gender and sexual identity and blah blah blah." Lady Gaga doesn't challenge a damn thing about what artsy, liberal white people already thought about those topics.

"Ride" on the other hand challenges all those things, and a few more besides, like: are we to take it seriously? are we even to like or sympathize with its protagonist? The video projects me, personally, to a kind of Keatsian place of negative capability: "when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason." I mean, like, when she's draping herself in the American Flag, for chrissakes, against a multimillion-dollar desert sky like some 80's jeans ad from hell, or murmuring how she "believes in the country America used to be" or "the person I want to become" after we have just witnessed her character indulging in nine minutes of epic self-delusion and personality disorder. And yet it's beautiful, defiantly and unremittingly so, underpinned by its commitment to making us completely unsure of what we're watching--or, if we think we're sure, we're not paying attention.

Can she sing? Probably not. Does it matter? The video, and for the most part the song, are great, and criticizing Lizzy Grant for not being a total artiste in its construction is like faulting Marcello Mastroianni for not having written, directed and scored 8 1/2 instead of just having acted in it. Such scorn reflects more our pathological need to identify with singer-songwriter heroes than with the merits of the work.

And I guess maybe I do want to know: If Lana Del Rey were a fragrance...
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