On Thursday, Lana Del Rey offered a reductive critique of the pop music scene and feminism, and in the process, she felt compelled to throw a bunch of black women under the bus, which as you can imagine didn’t go well for her.
In an Instagram post expressing her frustration at “10 years of bullshit reviews,” as well as the “female writers” and “alt singers” who accuse her of glamorizing abuse, Lana wrote, “I think it’s pathetic that my minor lyrical exploration detailing my sometimes submissive or passive roles in relationships has often made people say I’ve set women back hundreds of years.” She added, in classic Notes App rant fashion, that she’s “not not a feminist” and that there should be a place in feminism for women who “look and act” like her. This feminism would make space for “the kind of women who says no but men hear yes, the kind of women who are slated mercilessly for being their authentic, delicate selves…”
Much of this reads like a belated missive toward music critic Ann Powers, who infused mild critique in an otherwise positive review of Lana Del Rey’s Grammy-nominated album Norman Fucking Rockwell! in 2019. The review angered Lana and sparked a days-long discourse on the state of music criticism. If Lana kept it at that, this wouldn’t be much of a story, even with covid-19- induced boredom threatening to turn anything and everything into a big story. Instead, she chose to kick off her rant by namedropping several other women artists, most of whom happen to be black. She writes:
“Now that Doja Cat, Ariana, Camila, Cardi B, Kehlani and Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé have had their number ones with songs about being sexy, wearing no clothes, fucking, 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??????”
Full note below:
Interesting timing! Several of the women Lana named are celebrating some kind of success or acclaim at the moment, making Lana’s rant look like a case of sour grapes. Beyoncé, Megan Thee Stallion, Doja Cat, and Nicki Minaj made music history last week by becoming the first black women solo-artists to occupy the No. 1 and No. 2 spots on the Billboard Hot 100. “Stuck With U,” by Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber, currently holds Billboard’s top spot, and singer Kehlani finally caught a break with the success of her new album, It Was Good Until it Wasn’t.
The optics of Lana, a white woman, complaining about feminism lacking space for her while critiquing the acclaim allotted to several black pop artists is mortifying. It looks especially foolish when considering the fact that the women Lana namedropped—especially the black women—have never been immune to critique regarding the sexual content of their music or the personas they have taken on in the pop space. It was nearly impossible to be online from 2013 to 2016 without encountering reductive discourse regarding whether Beyoncé’s sexuality, her wealth, her continued dedication to her cheating husband, etc., exempted her from the feminist title. Lana’s post reads like someone who has been under a rock for the last decade, or someone so wrapped up in their own critique that they’re left clueless about the criticism lobbed at their peers.
The criticism Lana has faced over the years—regarding her authenticity, her flirtation with cultures that are not her own, her literal ability to sing—hasn’t stopped Lana from becoming one of the most popular pop artists of our generation precisely because her moody, brooding songs about good relationships gone bad and bad relationships gone worse resonate. But why embrace that clout when she can fret over, say, a Pitchfork review of Born to Die from 2012 instead?
Lana is deeply invested in what the critics say. Fine, but she could have made her argument about her music and feminism—however odd it may have been—without comparing the reception her music receives to that of Cardi B, Doja Cat, and the like. She turned a diary entry into a trending topic when the Barbz and Beyhive have nothing but time to kill. Godspeed, Lizzy Grant.