This July Fourth, it’s worth remembering the National Anthem music video that the immensely popular and gifted singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey released ten years ago. It was one of those gloating pro-miscegenation pieces that we’re bombarded with nowadays, with Del Rey and black rapper A$AP Rocky portraying Jackie and John F. Kennedy (with visibly mulatto children), and hardly patriotic. But the point is that the video has done Del Rey absolutely no good at all—she’s still a racist. Actually, she isn’t a racist. But since the Left is now insisting that she is…well, she is. And she doesn’t seem to know what has hit her.
Thus a Twitter user vented over her recent album, Chemtrails over the Country Club:
Lana Del Rey really just released an album and then was a racist in the post trying to say she wasn’t a racist. Just say you didn’t want your album to succeed girl.
And there’s lot more where that came from.
Welcome to race and gender Cancel Culture, Lana. Its enforcers are determined to make you grovel until you accept their terms. And they won’t be swayed by your denials or your professed love of rap.
At an accelerating rate, Woke social media mobs are demanding that leading white figures in the performing arts publicly atone for harming women, blacks, transgendered and other “marginalized” populations. Recently, I described the global “anti-racist” campaign against Eric Clapton for blunt comments he delivered onstage way back in 1976 on behalf of English immigration patriot Enoch Powell. Triggering that witch-hunt was a song Clapton and Van Morrison wrote, recorded and released in late 2020, “Stand and Deliver,” challenging the morality of COVID-19 lockdowns. To Clapton’s inquisitors, limiting immigration and resisting lockdowns are cut from the same Trumpian cloth.
Lana Del Rey, whose real name is Elizabeth Grant, hasn’t accumulated such baggage in nearly 15 years as a recording artist. But the petty and spiteful campaign against her, while unable to cancel her outright, could now erode her artistic identity. Her “crimes” aren’t about what she has done. They are about what she symbolizes: femininity, beauty, white privilege.
Grant was born in 1985 in New York City. of Scottish-American descent. She grew up in Lake Placid, New York. An introvert, she experienced existential dread early on:
“When I was very young, I was sort of floored by the fact that my mother and my father and everyone else I knew was going to die one day, and myself too,” she recalled. “I had a sort of philosophical crisis. I couldn’t believe that we were mortal.”
[Lana Del Rey: ‘I Couldn’t Believe That We Were Mortal,’ by John Ritchie, MusicFeed.com, January 28, 2012]
After graduating from prestigious private Kent School, she spent a year on Long Island and then enrolled in Fordham University, majored in philosophy, and played nightclubs and made demo tapes on the side. Veteran record producer David Kahne discovered her, and shortly thereafter she delivered a three-song EP in 2008 and then a full album of unreleased material. Her breakthrough came in 2012 with Born to Die.
Working with a variety of producers over the years, Lana Del Rey has put romanticism to good use. She writes or cowrites almost all of her songs. And often they are in a minor key, prompting many critics to describe her as “sad” or “depressing.” This interpretation misses the fact that she is exploring the full emotional spectrum of love, dramatizing how Eros and Thanatos aren’t that far apart.
And even if all her songs were about sadness, so what? Back in the mid-1960s, the Righteous Brothers and the Walker Brothers each had a string of hit singles immersed in sadness and desperation, every one a classic.
Del Rey stands out among her peers. Tori Amos, Fiona Apple and Regina Spektor, to name a few women keyboard-oriented singer-songwriters, have made some excellent records over the years. But they can’t quite match Del Rey. Her dusky contralto voice, eclectic songbook, film noir cynicism, and cavernous studio sound create remarkable atmosphere—as the video for Shades of Cool attests.
It’s hard to see how she inspires hatred. But, believe it, loathing Lana Del Rey is a growth industry. That she has sold millions of albums and singles, and won an armful of awards, only exacerbates the animosity.
“Award-winning multimedia storyteller” Melany Rochester got right to the point in her 2017 article, I Hate Lana Del Rey [TheEagleInline, June 2, 2017]. She called Lana Del Rey’s music “trash,” complained that the singer is “the lyrical queen of unhealthy relationships,” who “glamorizes drug and substance abuse.”
This latter point is especially ludicrous. The song referenced, “Off to the Races,” was about an ex-boyfriend’s drug habit, not any habit of Del Rey’s.
(And anyway Del Rey wasn’t “glamorizing” drug abuse, but simply expressing the pull of two opposite forces: desire for a man and exasperation over his self-destruction. Haven’t many women experienced that feeling at some point?)
More recently, the bombardment has increased with the spotlight shifting to Del Rey’s “problematic” comments on sex and race. Particularly enraging to the hard Left: an Instagram post in which Del Rey defended herself against the charge that she “glamorized” domestic abuse:
I’m fed up with female writers and alt singers saying that I glamorize abuse when I’m just a glamorous person singing about the realities of what we are all seeing are very prevalent in emotionally abusive relationships all over the world.
[Lana Del Rey responds to critics she says accuse her music of ‘glamorizing abuse’: ‘I’m fed up,’ by Nate Day, Fox News, May 21, 2020]
Even further infuriating her critics was another remark in the post:
Doja Cat, Ariana, Camila, Cardi B, Kehlani, Nicki Minaj and Beyonce have had number ones with songs about being sexy, wearing no clothes, f**king, cheating, etc.—can I please go back to singing about being embodied, feeling beautiful by being in love even if the relationship is not perfect, or dancing for money—or whatever I want—without being crucified or saying that I’m glamorizing abuse??????
[Twitter: Why is Lana Del Rey ‘canceled?’ Hashtag and Trend Explained, by Ella Kipling, HITC]
But what was inaccurate here? These mainly mixed-race female rappers do sing about these things—routinely and explicitly. It would seem Lana Del Rey’s real offense, as Steve Sailer would put it, was Noticing.
But, needless to say, the backlash was swift. And the recriminations continued for months afterwards.
Laura Snapes, The Guardian’s deputy music editor, declared that Lana Del Rey’s “swipes at her peers of color undermine her feminist argument” [Lana Del Rey's swipes at her peers of colour undermine her feminist argument, May 21, 2020].
Lana Del Rey's swipes at her peers of colour undermine her feminist argument | Laura Snapes https://t.co/FeUgvnXs4U— Guardian music (@guardianmusic) May 21, 2020
The recriminations continued for months. One social media post read:
Girl, if you don’t shut your mouth…you’re only making shit harder for yourself. You literally didn’t need to say anything about this.
Another comment read:
Lana we’re tired please stop. Your white is showing.
A post by @BeeNicole10A declared:
I remember last year she said some snide remark about women of color being overly and aggressively sexual and charting while she can’t have her daddy complex and be on the charts. I haven’t forgotten.
The recriminations continued for months.
And you won’t be surprised to learn that the retro cover photo of Chemtrails over the Country Club was “racist” for featuring mostly white women.
Perhaps it had not occurred to Del Rey’s critics that: 1) most country club members are white; and 2) the photo might have been satire.
As you’d expect, Del Rey’s rather mild defense of the cover only dug her into a deeper hole. A blogger named Holly Mosley opined that Del Rey had “fragility” issues. “It’s probably about time,” Mosley wrote, “she learned to tone down the attitude when responding to such criticisms before she makes matters even worse for herself” [Racism or Fragility: We Need to Talk About Lana Del Rey, by Holly Mosley, ContactMusic, January 11, 2021].
A black blogger, Lauren McEwen, in a hit piece titled “Lana Del Rey Has Always Been Problematic, We Just Never Talked About It,” called out the singer’s “history with race and internalized misogyny” as enabling “white people who traffic in casual, underhanded, or coded racism shut down the moment they are called out for their behavior.”
For McEwen, Del Rey’s apparent mild skepticism about dogmatic feminism and racism go together. With cliché and arrogance, McEwen called for shaming. “That is why the unlearning process is such a big part of becoming a say-it-with-your-full-chest feminist,” she wrote:
[T] his society was built on a racist, patriarchal system, and those who refuse to listen to women of color when they are called out for this kind [Del Rey’s kind] of behavior are doomed to repeat it.
Every bit as noxious was Los Angeles-based journalist Lorraine Ali, she of Iraqi and French-Canadian ancestry. In “Lana Del Rey and Alison Roman Flaunted White Women’s Privilege. But They’re Not Alone” [LA Times, May 22, 2020] she singled out the pair (Alison Roman is a celebrity chef) for “callous comments…about other female celebrities of color.” Ali then went full revolutionary:
(E)xpectations for how female colleagues deal with one another have been built on the belief that women generally behave better than men, and that we’re all part of the same gender underclass…What a lovely idea—if not racial discrimination, ambition, greed, socioeconomic disparity and everything else that’s part and parcel of a capitalist empire. And let’s not forget an American political machine that sees division as opportunity.
Lana Del Rey, to her credit, has pushed back against this petty sadism. Unfortunately, her method is the familiar “but-I’m-not-a-racist” protestation. About the Chemtrails over the Country Club cover photo brouhaha, she posted this message on Instagram:
In 11 years working I have always been extremely inclusive without even trying to. My best friends are rappers (and) my boyfriends have been rappers. My dearest friends have been from all over the place, so before you make comments again about a WOC/POC [women of color/people of color] issue, I’m not the one storming the capital [sic]. I’m literally changing the world by putting my life and thoughts and love out there on the table 24 seven. Respect it.
It's too bad these critics don’t.
Cancel culture is real. Its enforcers, heavily female, have their knives out for Lana Del Rey because she hasn’t apologized for her exquisite Celtic whiteness. So her efforts to rebut her attackers have gone for naught.
Lana Del Rey’s overseers don’t have any government bureau (yet) to act on behalf of their whims, but they do have power. In 2018, activists associated with the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement pressured her into dropping a scheduled concert in Israel [Lana Del Rey’s Israeli Concert Cancellation Inflames Boycott Fears, by Alex Ritman, Hollywood Reporter, September 11, 2018].
Del Rey and other public figures must watch their backs. Canadian poet-social justice activist El Jones explains how violators of race and gender protocol should be treated:
When we cancel somebody, we’re basically saying that a person has done something harmful and we want people to know about it and for them to face consequences for it.
[Lana Del Rey, Doja Cat and now Jimmy Fallon? ‘Cancel culture’ explained, CBC, May 28, 2020]
One hopes Lana Del Rey will ignore the contrived “controversies” surrounding her. Romance is filled with disappointment, loss and rage, but also with joy, grandeur and wisdom. Her great artistic gift is reconciling these emotions and creating something valuable. In other words, she does what real artists do.
Lana Del Rey deserves her large and loyal audience. Her talentless tormenters, consumed with rage over her “problematic” twin offenses of artistic genius and white beauty, deserve nothing of the sort. They need to get a life and respect her independence.
But of course, they won’t. That’s why Lana Del Rey needs our support—whether she appreciates it or not!
Carl Horowitz [Email him] is a veteran Washington, D.C. area writer on immigration and other issues.