4. BuzzFeed: This Is Why People Are Mad At Lana Del Rey
“Arrogant and ahistorical” is how Michael Blackmon characterized Lana Del Rey’s Instagram post. “The idea that she ushered in a wave of women artists singing about sex and failed relationships is just absurd when there were many before her who have sung about the very same subject. And she fails to recognize that the majority of the women she named, many of whom are black or women of color, have endured a lot of the same struggles as Del Rey — and often to a greater extent because of their race. There’s an entire history of women singers and songwriters making music… who are completely erased by her statement.” I wholeheartedly agree with this. Blackmon gives examples of the backlash that artists Del Rey named have faced for their music, and cites the plethora of women who have written and sung about “being sexy, wearing no clothes, fucking, cheating, etc” decades before Del Rey did.
Most of the artists that Blackmon lists are Black. But there are also white women artists, like Fiona Apple and Courtney Love, who also preceded Del Rey and “made waves using their sad, angry and frustrated indignations to drive their projects, proving that (yep) white women can be scorned in life and love, sing about it, be criticized for it, and still persevere,” wrote J’na Jefferson in The Root. Ashley Reese wrote for Jezebel that much of Del Rey’s post “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.” (I HIGHLY recommend reading both of these articles in full.)
In the controversy of Lana Del Rey, I’m on the side that her remarks were ahistorical and, intentionally or not, about race. It also doesn’t help that in response to people’s reactions the artist left a series of comments in which she ostensibly doubled down on her post, writing, “Bro. This is sad to make it about a WOC issue when I’m talking about my favorite singers. I could’ve literally said anyone but I picked my favorite fucking people. And this is the problem with society today, not everything is about whatever you want it to be. It’s exactly the point of my post – there are certain women that culture doesn’t want to have a voice it may not have to do with race I don’t know what it has to do with. I don’t care anymore but don’t ever ever ever ever bro- call me racist because that is bullshit.” In another comment she wrote: “And my last and final note on everything – when I said people who look like me – I meant the people who don’t look strong or necessarily smart, or like they’re in control etc. it’s about advocating for a more delicate personality, not for white woman – thanks for the Karen comments tho. V helpful.”
Del Rey then decided that was not enough, and made another post Friday night where she tripled down on her initial statement, writing “despite the feedback I’ve heard from several people that I mentioned in a complimentary way, whether it be Ariana or Doja Cat—I remain firm in my clarity and stance in that what I was writing about was the importance of self advocacy for the more delicate and often dismissed, softer female personality, and that there does have to be room for that type in what will inevitably become a new wave/3rd wave of feminism that is rapidly approaching.” She then says this isn’t a “race war” and that “in fact the issue was with *female critics and *female alternative artists who are dissociated from their own fragility and sexuality and berate more sexually liberated artists like myself and the women I mentioned,” and that “in truth making it about race says so much more about you than it does about me.”
The language Del Rey used in the original posts and in her responses to it, use racially coded language as she describes herself as “more delicate,” “fragile,” and “soft”—traits that historically have been reserved for white women and denied for women of color, especially Black women. Further, she seems to completely dismiss what the artists she named think and feel about her post. Although those conversations were presumably private, starting the sentence with “despite” indicates they disagreed with Del Rey. She also illustrates her own misunderstanding of feminism, because third wave feminism began in the 1990s, fourth-wave feminism is considered to have taken place in the 2010s, so I guess she is talking about the fifth wave?
This story is still ongoing, and I’m sure I’ll have more to say about it next week, but Del Rey needed to just take the loss and apologize. I don’t think she can do that now.