Lana Del Rey: From Rebellious to Nostalgic

Updated: May 7


Lana Del Rey in her new music video for 'Doin' Time'
In the video for her hit single ‘Doin’ Time’—a cover of Sublime’s song about the pain of being cheated on—Del Rey pays tribute to the movie classic Attack of the 50 Foot Woman

Amidst the recurring images of California, rock’n’roll, and most of all the theme of romance —Lana Del Rey’s new album ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell’ does not disappoint. The tone, however, is what makes this album so unique. The singer is as unfiltered as ever, delving into the depth of her heartbreak and her subsequent nostalgia for better times. Since ‘Born To Die’ in 2012, Del Rey’s lyrics have been defined by wild romances and daring adventures; a spirit which she clearly misses in this new album.


Perhaps invoking past eras of pop culture is the closest she can get to going back to the past happier and easier years of her life.

Del Rey is famous for her fascination with vintage culture and aesthetics, and more so than ever, this album’s lyrics and music videos imitate pop culture of older periods such as the 1920s, 50s and 90s. In the video for her hit single ‘Doin’ Time’—a cover of Sublime’s song about the pain of being cheated on—Del Rey pays tribute to the movie classic Attack of the 50 Foot Woman as she walks around Venice Beach in a giant-sized version of herself. Nostalgia is evident in the pain that Del Rey expresses about the present in the song: she longs for a time before her heartbreak.


‘California’ also loosely alludes to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic The Great Gatsby to express the singer’s change of heart towards California. A place she used to view as dream-like now feels empty without her lover. In the likes of Gatsby, the singer promises to throw a party for a man if he comes back to California. In addition, Gatsby was obsessed with the past, and that might be one more thing the singer has in common with the iconic literary character. Perhaps invoking past eras of pop culture is the closest she can get to going back to the past happier and easier years of her life.

Lana Del Rey in her music video for 'Doin' Time' and album campaign shoot
Del Rey is perhaps most upfront about her feelings of nostalgia in the song ‘The Greatest’. The words "I miss" are repeated throughout

While Del Rey’s music has always had gloomy undertones, it also highlighted the singer’s rebel side. The ‘Venice B*itch’ video appears similar to older music videos like ‘Ride’ and ‘West Coast’: images of American landscapes and Del Rey laughing, playing around by the beach and driving away from the police, and overall living a carefree life. But the melancholy in her voice and the grainy effect of the clips suggest that these are flashbacks of a lifestyle that the singer misses. Similarly, she pours her heart out in ‘Love Song.’ She paints a picture of being in the backseat of a fast car, just as she did in the song ‘Born To Die.’ The callbacks to her former albums in her latest one puts them in juxtaposition: while the visuals are similar, the music has developed into sadder melodies and pained lyrics.

Del Rey is perhaps most upfront about her feelings of nostalgia in the song ‘The Greatest’. The words "I miss" are repeated throughout; she longs for New York, rock’n’roll and nights that "were on fire". The lyrics are simple and straightforward because her emotions are: she misses the life she used to have. In the video, she wears neon green eyeliner and sparkly eyeshadow—her make-up is bold but there is a sadness to it. She is alone, singing about her nostalgic feelings. Perhaps the heavy make-up is to make up for how bare the singer appears in this album.


Just like the past eras that she borrows from in her album, the wild, romantic and spontaneous years of her life are gone, and she is left heartbroken.


Words by Carla Pelosoff

Graphics by Katie Janes


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