Lana Del Rey's 'Great Gatsby' Greatness: Maybe Her Second Act Actually Doesn't Suck

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Remember when Lana Del Rey was controversial? If you're fortunate enough to have missed the back-and-forth that bitterly split the Internet toward the end of 2011 and beginning of 2012, the argument went something like this: Her dour Lolita shtick was phony, her music was caked in retrograde artifice and it was an insult that something so tailor made for Jaguar commercials could ever be marketed toward enlightened music listeners OR all of that was fantastic, and you were just being a stick in the mud. Predictably, not much was learned or achieved from this. But something unexpected happened: Lana continued to release music that people sort of enjoyed (or at least enjoyed talking about), and the blogosphere naturally found plenty of new issues to divide itself over. There'll be some revival over the drama whenever her newest album is on its way out, but the market had spoken: Enough people cared about Lana's music to keep giving her another shot.

See also: Jay-Z's Great Gatsby Soundtrack is a Failure

That window of opportunity won't be open forever, being that she's ostensibly a pop star making pop music. But something fortunate happened: She lucked into singing the most important song used in Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby, doubling as her most creatively relevant moment since she mysteriously released "Video Games" nearly two years ago. (There's irony to this: F. Scott Fitzgerald's famous quote is "There are no second acts in American lives," but Lana found one by rebranding her relatively drab Lizzie Grant persona.) In the film's most thematically important scene--SPOILERS if you never took high school English--Gatsby and Daisy have escaped his party to share a tender moment a nearby garden. During their makeout session (heyo!), Daisy whispers how she wishes they could just run away from her controlling husband Tom, which Gatsby reacts to with unexaggerated shock. He doesn't want to run away; he wants to stick here and craft a new life together, regardless of the public scandal that would follow.

As the lover's quarrel plays out, the muted strains of Lana del Rey's "Young and Beautiful," filter in. A string-soaked ballad written specifically for the movie's soundtrack, "Young and Beautiful" has Lana wondering if her love will still appreciate her after the glamour has faded away--a frequent topic in her songs, but finding its finest context in Fitzgerald's story. Used earlier to score a montage in which the main characters frolic about Gatsby's mansion and take in his wealth, it now reveals the blind spot in their relationship. Gatsby is optimistic enough to believe in forever, but Daisy's marriage has conditioned her to be cynical about love. (She once loved Tom, too.)


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5 comments
melislay90
melislay90

You seem to make many derogatory comments about the sexuality in her music, implying that its sensual nature makes many of her songs seem cheap. However, I think cheap sexuality comes from people who are flaunting their sexuality because they are hedonistic with little understanding of what they are really doing, or else they are wanting something material out of it.  But hers is a step up from this.  It takes an artistic temperament to choose to be a hedonist and to choose to flaunt it because you believe it does have an artistic value.  Her whole point is that being a "bad girl" does not stop you from being classy.  Her lyrics are actually intelligent, and she is crossing that line where she is taking risks and being original.  If you can't see all the agendas she is pushing beneath her songs, you won't be able to recognize the true art that manifests there, but that is an imprecision in your sensibility, not hers.  

EspressoCloud
EspressoCloud

Being this is a blog from the Village Voice, I am happy a native New Yorker found something enjoyable over one who got her start singing at open mic events in Manhattan. Nicely done!

@lanadelreymefaso, Thanx for posting the cover. Here is another nice one!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcKFUj-_-Ws

lanadelreymefaso
lanadelreymefaso

"...Her most creatively relevant moment since she mysteriously released "Video Games" nearly two years ago."  What about her amazing 'Ride' from last fall?  I actually didn't really dig her version til I heard this cover: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAYNNszWUeY

felixthecat
felixthecat

Say whatever you want about the music from the movie. Take a look at this song and video inspired by the last page of Gatsby (the book). It's called New Continent -- by SF Bay Area teens Matt Jaffe & The Distractions -- enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIOq-9CNJx0

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