Sometimes musicians surprise me. Take Lana Del Rey, for instance.
Del Ray has made her reputation on gothic gloom. Her breathy, much-reviled-yet-much-fixated-upon singer’s 2015 album Honeymoon prompted me to write, “Leave it to the reigning alt-pop princess of noir … to take one of life’s most joyous moments—a honeymoon—and drain the brightness right out of it.” I also excoriated her bleak perspective and “her fractured, injured and nihilistic take on life and romance.”
So when I saw that Del Rey had released a new song and video called “Love” from her forthcoming fifth studio album, I thought, Oh, boy. Here we go. Suffice it to say that I wouldn’t have voted her “Most Likely to Write Nice, Happy Songs About Love.”
And yet here she is with exactly that: a nice, happy, earnest, wonder-filled song and video … one in which she even smiles a few times.
Lana Del Rey coyly pretends kids today still get in cars and drive around looking for love, looking for each other, sometimes looking for trouble. (They don’t. At least not like previous generations did.)
Still, that doesn’t stop Del Rey from stylistically projecting the habits of the past onto the present as she dreamily conjures the joyous, don’t-care-where-we-go wonder of young love. “Look at you kids with your vintage music,” she begins, playfully implying she’s already an old lady at 31. “Comin’ through satellites while cruisin’.”
“You’re part of the past, but now you’re the future,” she continues before adding, “Sometimes, it’s enough just to make you feel crazy.” Then the song’s simple chorus: “You get ready, you get all dressed up/To go nowhere in particular/Back to word or the coffee shop/Doesn’t matter, ’cause it’s enough/To be young and in love.”
And that, right there, is the crux of it: When you’re young, when you’re in love, it doesn’t really matter where you are. Because, well, you’re probably just wandering around with a dopey, silly grin on your face. And that’s as it should be.
Told you Lana turned a corner here, didn’t I? (One has to wonder if perhaps there’s not some sort of Invasion of the Body Snatchers-kind of thing happening here, so jarring is the disconnect between Del Rey’s previous efforts and this one.)
The second verse then gives a shout out to the optimistic vigor of youth (“Look at you kids, you know you’re the coolest/The world is yours, and you can’t refuse it”), even as it also nods subtly to the fact that life can at times be painful (“Seen so much, you could get the blues/But that don’t mean you should abuse it”).
Lana, is that you?
Then it’s back to the coffee shop. Or work. Or wherever. ‘Cause when you’re in love, it doesn’t really matter where you are. It’s all kind of like floating through outer space, anyway.
Which is exactly where the video goes.
As Del Rey and her band perform, we see various couples arrive in vintage cars at a diner, then end up in the audience as she sings … and then float off into the solar system in a very 2001-ish conclusion.
They all end up together (including Lana and her band, still singing away) on some distant planet, going for a swim (clothed) in a lake before gathering to watch a majestic meteor shower and an eclipse.
It’s pretty cosmic stuff—and even more unblinkingly romantic than the song itself, if that’s possible. A camera close-up of a smoldering marijuana joint next to a wine bottle is about the only fly in the ointment here.
But, hey, a Lana Del Rey song without something to critique would be a shocking thing indeed. As it is, she got mighty close.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews.