I still remember the first time I heard Lana Del Rey's moping, melodic debut, "Video Games," released in fall of 2011. In a lilting growl, Lana sings about her aloof, video-game-playing man. Lana, aka Lizzie Grant, has claimed every song she writes is about the same man, fueling the hammy flames of her self-manufactured and oft-criticized persona.
Over sweeping orchestrations, there's an unapologetic, bold-faced desperation in Lana's purr as she repeats, "It's you, it's you, it's all for you." Saccharine in its own sorrow, "Video Games" slipped Lana quietly into the mainstream music scene like smoke under a door.
Over the course of several more albums, including her latest release, Honeymoon, Lana has been slowly adding dark blue, velvet bricks to the hazy tower of her own sad-girl oeuvre. Though she's been dismissed by critics for her reliance on the same recurring themes—we GET it, Lana, you're sad, you have terrible taste in men, you like drugs, you wear a lot of little red dresses—it's those very lyricisms that have made her into a household name.
Lana presents her morose melodrama with the dead-eyed seriousness of a dejected teen, but if you ask me, she's in on the joke. She plays with the listener, injecting shots of self-awareness into her whines. As she slips into a warbling falsetto to sing, "I fucked my way up to the top," it's like a small and silent wink to the camera as she drags on her cigarette.
Beauty—makeup and fragrance in particular—is one of Lana's favorite themes to return to. She is aware of her looks and how to use them as a means to control the men of her life. (Or, just the one man, I guess.) As she croons about her wild life and reckless abandon, Lana seems firmly in control of the various tools available to her.
I've been a Lana fan for a long time now, so let's take a look back at her best beauty-related lyrics, in case you need some new tunes to get ready to this weekend.
She starts to cry,
Mascara runnin' down her little Bambi eyes,
'Lana, how I hate those guys.'
- "This Is What Makes Us Girls"
In this ode to girlhood, Lana captures the spirit and turmoil of female adolescence. The first time I heard it, I cried. All at once, I remembered those fleeting joys of teendom: sneaking out at night, plotting ways to find someone to buy you cheap beer and vodka, the way everything felt like a thrill and rebellion.
But it's not only that—it's the way every tender moment was the end of the world. Being a teenage girl is a lesson in constant heartbreak, in tumult, in bronzed and glittering melodrama. Lana nails it.
The other woman has time to manicure her nails.
The other woman is perfect where her rival fails.
- "The Other Woman"
In this slow and sliding song, Lana tells the classic tale of doting wife versus mysterious mistress, aka the other woman. The other woman, unlike the wife, has ample time in her day to do things like manicure her nails or collect French perfumes.
Married or not, all of us have experienced this type of jealousy. Lana spins the story, though, reminding us that since this vague other woman remains tied to married men who will never leave their wives, she is doomed to a lonely life. And if you listen to the song enough, it becomes clear Lana is referring to herself as the perennial other woman. After all, Lana loves her manicures.
I say, 'You the bestest,'
Lean in for a big kiss,
Put his favorite perfume on.
- "Video Games"
Something about using the phrase, "You the bestest" in a song really endears me to Miss LDR. Putting "his favorite" perfume on is so sexy. Lana knows the power in her prowess.
While I typically make my perfume purchases based on what I'm into, there's no denying the sex appeal in a scent. When you know which fragrance really does it for the man (or woman) in your life, you can get a certain leg up on them. (And then you can get another leg up on them, heh heh heh.)
I got my red dress on tonight,
Dancin' in the dark in the pale moonlight.
Got my hair up real big, beauty queen style.
High heels off, I'm feeling alive.
- "Summertime Sadness"
Give me all,
Got my blue nail polish on.
It's my favorite color,
And my favorite tone of song.
- "The Blackest Day"
Lana loves singing about her nail polish, and I love her for it. I love the thought of Lana curled up like a cat on some sinking sofa somewhere, carefully shellacking each nail the perfect shade of velvety blue. After she's done, she admires her handiwork and sighs, "Blue, like my soul." I love it.
Slippin' on my red dress,
Puttin' on my makeup,
Glass film, perfume, cognac, lilac
Fumes, says it feels like heaven to him.
- "Off to the Races"
Here's a verse that really brings together all of Lana's favorite beauty-related themes: she's got on a red dress, she's dollin' up, she's drinking cognac, her perfume smells like lilacs (I want that, by the way), and her man is just lapping it up.
At first read (or listen), it seems like Lana is doing all this for her man and not for herself. And she is, sort of. But the way she says fumes indicates she's aware of her hypnotic influence on him, and she intends to use that power as far as it will take her. To which I say: same, girl.
- Are you a Lana Del Rey fan? What's your favorite LDR song?
- Have you listened to Honeymoon yet? Thoughts? I really like it, but it's not what I was expecting.
- If it isn't Lana's, what's your favorite beauty related song lyric?