Lana Del Rey has been making headlines lately, albeit for all the wrong reasons. What was supposed to be a gradual buildup to the highly-anticipated March 12 release of her upcoming album, Chemtrails Over the Country Club, has since devolved into a jaw-dropping back-and-forth exchange with her fans (and media) over recent comments and actions that have led many to label her as a “problematic white woman” — and rightfully so.
Initially, I wasn’t fully aware of all the details surrounding her hurtful words and actions. Lana Del Rey is not an artist who is regularly on my radar, so I missed the earlier portions of her months-long downward spiral. But after some fun research, it became rapidly clear that the backlash and outrage over Del Rey’s statements about race, privilege and Trump were 100 per cent justified.
Instead of taking the opportunity to learn from her mistakes and apologize, Del Rey has doubled down — digging herself deeper and deeper into a hole that she might never be able to claw her way out of (for another recent example, check out the latest happenings with Sia). Now, in what has got to be considered one of the most drawn-out (and painful) ongoing album rollouts in recent memory, even Del Rey’s most devoted fans are turning their backs on the singer.
So, how did the 35-year-old Grammy-nominated artist and indie pop star run afoul of, well, everyone? One need only point to a recent spate of controversial public statements — and contentious mask choices — to find the answers.
A quick breakdown of the Lana Del Rey drama:
May 2020: In an open letter on her Instagram account, Del Rey wrote, “Now that Doja Cat, Ariana [Grande], Camila [Cabello], Cardi B, Kehlani and Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé have had number ones with songs about being sexy, wearing no clothes, f*cking, cheating etc., can I please go back to singing about being embodied, feeling beautiful by being in love even if the relationship is not perfect, or dancing for money, or whatever I want, without being crucified or saying that I’m glamorizing abuse?”
Also in May 2020: After receiving backlash over the aforementioned post — including accusations of racism and using the “coded” language of self-victimization — Del Rey doubled down. Hard. “I haven’t had the same opportunity to express what I wanted to express without being completely decimated,” she wrote. “And if you want to say that has something to do with race that’s your opinion but that’s not what I was saying … I don’t care anymore but don’t ever ever ever ever bro – call me racist because that is bullsh*t,” she added.
Still in May 2020: In yet another long-winded Instagram post, Del Rey wrote, “I’m sorry that the folks who I can only assume are super Trump/Pence supporters or hyper liberals or flip-flopping headline grabbing critics can’t read and want to make it a race war.” She followed it up with a six-minute video wherein she said, “When I mentioned women who ‘look like me,’ I didn’t mean white like me, I mean the kind of women who, you know, other people might not believe. The difference is, when I get on the pole, people call me a whore, but when [FKA] Twigs gets on the pole, it’s art. The culture is super sick right now. And the fact that they wanna turn my post, my advocacy for fragility, into a race war — it’s really bad. It’s actually really bad.”
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October 2020: The singer hosted a book signing at a Barnes & Nobles in Los Angeles (so much for that lockdown!), in which she donned a mesh face mask. You’ve probably seen the pics plastered all over social media. Although she later claimed the interior of the mask had a plastic lining (sure, Jan), there was no going back. The photo had gone viral, with her own fans voicing their exhaustion from having to defend her recent antics.
January 10, 2021: To kick off the new year, Del Rey released the cover art for her upcoming album. Shot in black and white, the image featured Del Rey surrounded by a group of friends, including a couple people of colour. But she already had her back and preemptively went on the following tangent after sharing the photo on social media: “No this was not intended — these are my best friends, since you are asking today,” she wrote, even though literally no one asked. “As it happens when it comes to my amazing friends and this cover, yes, there are people of color on this record’s picture and that’s all I’ll say about that. We are all a beautiful mix of everything — some more than others, which is visible and celebrated in everything I do.”
‘chemtrails over the country club’
Love you. Hope you love it. pic.twitter.com/w9hhaTXKtR
— Lana Del Rey (@LanaDelRey) January 10, 2021
And she DIDN’T. STOP. THERE, folx: “In 11 years working I have always been extremely inclusive without trying to,” she added. “My best friends are rappers, my boyfriends have been rappers. My dearest friends have been from all over the place, so before you make comments again about a WOC/POC issue, I’m not the one storming the capital, I’m literally changing the world by putting my life and thoughts and love out there on the table 24 seven. Respect it.”
Del Rey has since deleted the comment, but the damage is done. We took to the Slice Instagram account to ask our audience about whether or not Del Rey has changed their world in any way. The answer, for the record, was a resounding: no.
January 11, 2021: Less than 24 hours after dropping that album cover, she did an interview with BBC’s Annie Mac, wherein she said, “You know, [Trump] doesn’t know that he’s inciting a riot and I believe that … The madness of Trump … As bad as it was, it really needed to happen. We really needed a reflection of our world’s greatest problem, which is not climate change but sociopathy and narcissism.”
You may also like: 10 signs you’re dating a sociopath.
This came a mere five days after the storming of the U.S. Capitol by white supremacists and pro-Trump domestic terrorists. That’s right: as her fellow Americans were still reeling by the unprecedented news, Del Rey took the opportunity to point out that it “really needed to happen.” Five people died, while countless others were injured. But, you know, it “really needed to happen.”
There have been plenty of examples of Hollywood’s biggest stars inserting their expensive shoes in their mouths, but few have spiraled as rapidly as Lana Del Rey. This isn’t a case of “oh, her comments were taken out of context” because we know they weren’t — this is an instance of a privileged white woman consciously choosing not to learn from her mistakes. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we all have to do better and that starts by listening and learning. Perhaps Del Rey can salvage some of the wreckage, but that’ll only come with self-reflection and perspective.