Thursday, May 10, 2018

Lana Del Rey, "Brooklyn Baby"

Alex Sayf Cummings, internet buddy and proprietor of Tropics of Meta (where I often write) has made me a Lana Del Rey convert. He had talked so long with such great affection for an artist who I'd never really listened to, or just assumed was the usual vapid pop.

Oh no friends, far from it. Recently I was listening to a playlist I made of moody 90s pop songs, and was kind of shocked about how depressing so much of that era's top 40 music was. For example, Sarah McLachlan's "Adia" almost makes me cry every time I hear it, and it was the kind of mainstream "adult alternative" song you'd hear everywhere from the radio to the dentist to the bank.

So much pop music today seems like it's trying too damn hard to have fun. It's written entirely for fun loving teens, not sad sack depressives of an older vintage. It is perhaps fitting that when I sat down to listen to Lana Del Rey today, I did it while grading, a task that hardly fills my heart with happiness.

I have to admit I was transfixed by her voice, which can be both husky and fragile at the same time. It comes from a bygone world of torch singing, and reminded me of nothing less than Marlene Dietrich and Weimar Germany. This is modern day cabaret singing for a decadent society in decline. Her lyrics seem to revel in the decadence, but she also sounds like she's crying on the inside.

I often use pop music to make me feel OK about feeling bad. And these days I must admit that I am feeling bad all the time. This is not so much in my personal life, but in looking out at the hopeless situation my country is in. I have no faith in the future, and knowing that my children will have to live in that future fills me with an awful dread.

So instead I put on "Brooklyn Baby," a song about a hipster doing what hipsters do best: burying their own dread behind their tastes. This song and its torchy singer are made for these dark times. 

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