I know we’re supposed to be done with Lana Del Rey. She became Internet-ubiquitous before most people even knew why (actually, do we know even now?), and was a Thing until her disappointing Saturday Night Live performance made her a Joke. She even hooked up with Axl Rose — let me say that again in caps, AXL ROSE — to give herself the literal kiss of death.
Once the buzz died down (or, more precisely, suddenly silenced), I actually started listening to the album — and I’ve listened to it almost every day for the past couple of weeks. Born to Die is the perfect soundtrack for a stormy spring: hopeful but hazy, with Del Rey singing about cars and pools and beer in her trademark disaffected voice. The album captures summer’s languorous luxury, but in suspended animation: look, but don’t touch. “Dark Paradise.” “Summertime Sadness.” Emo, but classy emo.
Del Rey cycles through a number of characters on the album, the least convincing being “Lolita” — coiffed and manicured, Del Rey is more of a Charlotte than a Dolores Haze. Humbert’s ADD nymphet would never have the patience for the kind of fawning attention Del Rey pays to her second-person lover in songs like “National Anthem” and “Lucky Ones”: that voice belongs to the determined and unapologetic groupie who sings Humbert’s line “Light of my life, fire of my loins” from her own perspective.
It’s a neat reversal, captured perfectly in the remarkable “Video Games.” All we know about Del Rey’s lover in this song is that he doesn’t like to be bored, and he doesn’t seem to be the world’s most attentive partner. But Del Rey addresses an epic ballad to him, complete with harp accompaniment and references to heaven. She’s doting on him, delightedly wearing his favorite sundress and taking it off with even more delight — and all he’s got for her is “Get over here and play a video game.” Who’s Lolita now?