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Lana Del Rey: Drugs, Sex and the American Dream

Updated on October 8, 2013

She takes to the stage with an air of dreamy languor about her, wearing a loose sweater over a pair of jeans. But her videos portray her as a sophisticated hedonist, living life as if it were a work of art.

Lana Del Rey is possibly the epitome of the American Dream… gone wrong.

Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey | Source

The dark side of the American Dream

Before gaining fame with her debut single Video Games, Elizabeth Grant was merely an aspiring singer and songwriter striving to fulfill her American Dream. While the launch of the album Born to Die has catapulted Del Rey’s popularity across continents, her songs are not exactly in congruence with this sense of accomplishment. She breaks through the veneer of the American Dream and introduces us to a world of disillusionment, drugs, gambling and uninhibited sexual fantasies.

In love with a gangster

Del Rey’s low, smoky voice, underlined by a strong sense of wistfulness and nostalgia, takes listeners on a trip down memory lane. Her lyrics evoke the carefree youth in all of us, reminding us of those long summer days we spent getting high on drugs, booze, and wild sex. This is the life that the persona in Del Rey’s songs resigns herself to after failing to find her place in society and establish an independent living.

Del Rey gives us an image of a charismatic young woman, living off rich men’s money while spoiling them with her sexual prowess. She falls in love, but it always seems to happen in the wrong place or at the wrong time. There are no ordinary love songs in the album however, but rather Born to Die covers a continuous soul-searching journey, where the persona tries to find true love in a world of hedonism, vanity and greed.

Sex and Freedom

Despite the album’s depiction of bleakness that America seems to hold for aspiring artists, Del Rey exhibits a strong sense of national pride in most of her songs with her constant references to the star-spangled banner and her praise of American rock icons. Perhaps it’s America’s overt sexual freedom that fuels Del Rey’s tribute to her homeland. One can easily deduce that Del Rey’s songs are generally about casual sex, but only if the listener fails to acknowledge the singer’s idea of sex being a way of exercising one’s freedom.

Del Rey’s album is an invitation into that world of freedom that one would nowadays only dream about. But as the last song comes to an end, for possibly the first time ever you’d find yourself stepping out of your comfort zone, followed by the temptation to give in to your darkest fantasies.

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    • IsaiasPablo90 profile image

      IsaiasPablo90 9 months ago

      I love Lana Del Rey and you bring up some very good points about her. That's why she's one of my favorite artists. In regards to your points about her celebrating national pride and expressing her sexual freedom, i believe her album "Ultraviolence" sums that up perfectly. I wrote a review on it. Such a powerful and memorable album with her best work in it. She poured her heart and soul in it.

    • hallucinogen profile image

      Lucy 11 months ago from London, UK

      We share the same views on Lana and her work!