It’s unclear where Lana Del Rey came from, and maybe that’s the point. She became ubiquitous in 2011 after the release of the seemingly homemade video for her song “Video Games,” but even then she felt pastless. She sings like an opiated Patsy Cline played over a Lifetime movie soundtrack with an echo effect.
Then there’s her look: Swooping cat eyeliner, inch-thick mascara and aerosol-assisted hairstyles channel old-school yet dark all-American ingénues from Jackie O. to Twin Peaks’ Laura Palmer. And speaking of David Lynch, Del Rey’s rendition of “Blue Velvet,” part of her H&M campaign, nods brashly to his 1986 film of the same name and indeed his entire oeuvre. She was a torchy first lady in “National Anthem,” a Hell’s Angels groupie in “Ride” and a Whitman-quoting country music star in “Body Electric.” The role play is mesmerizing.
At this year’s Coachella, Del Rey debuted a song called “West Coast,” for which a video teaser appeared online the following Monday. The looping shots of Del Rey spinning on a windswept beach with a Cobain-esque hunk call to mind Beyoncé and Jay Z canoodling in the “Drunk in Love” video, while the song’s lyrics—anxious with future nostalgia—are reminiscent of Del Rey’s biggest hits:
You’re feelin’ hot at the show, I’m feelin’ hot to the touch
You say you’ll miss me the most, I say I’ll miss you so much.
But the instrumentation and vocal style have shifted: Backed by a spare guitar riff, Del Rey recalls Alison Mosshart of the Kills, circa 2011’s Blood Pressures. With its lo-fi production and casual release, “West Coast” doesn’t feel like a song of the summer. But who knows, maybe it’s not trying to be one. Then again, Del Rey’s polished shtick and image machine have caught us off-guard before. Maybe the ordinariness is part of the hook.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia