The Juxtaposition of Lana Del Rey

This is how I work: when it’s sunny and warm outside, I’m happy.  When it’s cold and snowing, I’m sad.  Pretty basic.  I don’t care about the research I’ve read at school, the weather affects my mood, because I hate Massachusetts Weather.

It’s currently the most depressing time of the year for me here in arctic: winter.  The past two months literally have had below freezing temperatures.  It’s just been so dark and cold, and so much snow.  Sad face.

Given the fact that I listen to music mostly based on my mood, and that I’ve been so deflated because of this weather, you’d think I’d listen to music from the ever so effervescent Lana Del Rey (sarcasm), especially her album Born to Die.  But the thing is, that’s really a summertime album for me.

I’m not kidding.  Last summer, one of the albums I had on repeat was Born to Die, and had her songs “Born to Die,” “Video Games,” and “Summertime Sadness” (both the standard and Cedric Gervais Remix (which just won a Grammy)) on repeat on my iPod, especially when I was out biking in the beautiful sunshine.  Today, while at work shelving books, I realized I hadn’t listen to the stunning Lana Del Rey’s music in months, so I decided to dedicate an hour to Born to Die.  It didn’t last; the album kept reminding me of summer and I thought “huh, this is a summer album.”

If you’ve heard the album or any of those songs, they’re not upbeat songs; they’re not songs that would provide you much motivation while exercising or songs that would cheer you up.  So why are these slow, somewhat melodramatic, and rather ethereal songs more compatible for my summer?

The somewhat magical thing about Lana Del Rey’s music is that while it’s depressing-sounding, it does not make the listener depressed.  In a weird way, her musical content is rather bold in that she sticks to themes and strong opinions of heartbreak that others stray from; I doubt anyone would tell their boyfriend, even in song form, that they were “born to die,” or that, rather poignantly, “I think I’ll miss you forever/ Like the stars miss the sun in the morning sky.”  From her lyrics and her music, Lana Del Rey’s listeners pick up her darker emotions and either relate to them or simply understand them.  Take her summer hit, “Summertime Sadness,” the lyrics, on the surface, would appear rather optimistic for Del Rey.  With such lines like “I just wanted you to know/That, baby, you’re the best” and “Oh, my God, I feel it in the air/ Telephone wires above are sizzling like a snare/ Honey, I’m on fire, I feel it everywhere/Nothing scares me anymore,” one would expect this love song to be about the height of romance with no depressing undertones.  But when you add swirling strings and ambient tones to Del Rey’s crooning, you get a rather depressing song about heartbreak.  While the song truly is about a breakup in that Del Rey is listing out all the positive/wonderful things about her relationship that she’ll miss like we miss the summer during winter, the production of the song could have been manipulated to create a more positive experience for listeners.  Take Colbie Caillat’s song “Realize” for example.  The song, like all of Caillat’s signature songs, sounds positive and happy like the sun-kissed home she’s from (she’s from California/Malibu/Hawaii type place).  Her vocal performance and the acoustic nature of the song leaves you smiling, wanting to lay out in the sun with your significant other.  But, upon closer examination of the lyrics, it’s rather a heartbreaking story about unrequited love, especially emphasized with lyrics like “If you just realize what I just realized/ Then we’d be perfect for each other/ And we’ll never find another,” and “It’s not the same/ No, it’s never the same/ If you don’t feel it too.” This is a case where the production/performance of the song changes the scope of the song to be more positive for the audience.  Lana Del Rey, however, does the opposite in that she purposely keeps her music in Born to Die on the negative side to emphasize her misfortunes.

I honestly don’t know why I associate Lana Del Rey’s music with the summer.  I do feel like some music is seasonal, and logic and my past experience would sort Lana Del Rey as a winter’s artist, songs not to be listened to during the upbeat summer.  But that’s not the case.  Perhaps it’s just me; perhaps LDR should be listened year round.  Let me know with poll below!