Violet Bent Backwards over the Grass – Lana Del Ray | Authenticity Vs Aesthetics: Is There Ever A Winner? | Album Review

Violet Bent Backwards Over The Grass - Lana Del Ray | Official Album Artwork (2020)

I wish I was too cool for Lana but alas, I am only human and I, much like many others, struggle to resist moping around in her three-minute long Los Angeles-tinted daydreams about tumultuous lost loves I’ve never had and sticky lip-gloss on the rim of whiskey bottles (two things I also have no care for in the real world). Lana has a strange quality of making you feel wistful and romantic about things that are actually just pretty cliché. Maybe it’s the plump lips and the breathy voice, but this spoken word album doesn’t seem to be any different. Is the writing particularly good or original? No. Would I have been laughed out of my creative writing classes if I’d ever written any of this myself and presented it proudly for everyone to see? Without a doubt. And yet here I am, considering getting the vinyl record and having another listen before my flatmate gets home from work and berates me for my taste. Lana has done it again and in a way that probably nobody else could have gotten away with.

Maybe this is at the core of what makes this album work – it’s Instagram poetry at its finest. I believe that this itself isn’t a terrible thing because I’m all about accessibility of the arts, it’s just not particularly a great thing either…because why does all writing deemed “accessible” end up just being so bad? The line “You thought I was rich / And I am but not how you think” in ‘Happy‘ seems a perfect example of this, because yes, I can see this becoming written out in blotchy typewriter font and posted onto Instagram accounts and inked onto under the tit tattoos, but it’s actually not great and it certainly isn’t as deep as it’s pretending to be.

LA Who Am I To Love You‘ comes across as a love letter to LA in what is maybe the most Lana thing to ever be produced (think the vibe of those America-flag shorts she wore in the ‘Ride‘ music video, but in poem form). Despite that, I can’t figure out if Lana is trying to actually make a point in this album beyond just rose-tinted glasses and flowery words. And it’s here that I realise that one of Lana’s great strengths has always been the imagery that she can conjure up and make us care about, even if all the moments she depicts are so fantastical or even so mundane that they shouldn’t intrigue us at all. This happens in ‘Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass‘ with the image of a little girl bent backwards in her garden, her fingers clasping wildflowers as she stretches. It’s simple and yet it’s mesmerising in a way that is difficult to put your finger onto, but then it’s over before it began and we’re onto the next piece. But this isn’t an art that Lana has perfected, for in ‘Paradise Is Very Fragile, Lana goes too far with it. What starts with potential soon devolves into the same “me, myself and I” flowery language about being a dreamer and feeling lots about lots that tends to tint almost every single one of Lana’s pieces, and not just from this album either. This isn’t always a terrible thing, don’t get me wrong, Lana wouldn’t be popular if we didn’t all secretly love it, but I can’t deny wishing to have hit something a bit rawer in this album. Something real.

Salamander‘ acts as one of the more interesting pieces within the entire album, for it suggests a conversation from Lizzie Grant herself about the music and media industry that she a member of. “I don’t want to sell my stories anymore, stop pushing me […] I want to leave them underneath the nightstand to be forgotten” is difficult to ignore, intentionally so. But yet my empathy for it is fleeting considering it is on a record she has created that is literally selling us her poetry. Lana isn’t exactly the least problematic person in the world and while I feel like this might be an effort to “be deep”, it succeeds only on the surface level, ultimately falling short when you take into account the context everything she is saying. I love a guilt trip as much as the next person, but only when it can be followed through.

I have been harsh on Lana in this review (something I’m sure my sixteen-year-old “Video Games is genius” self would despise) but it’s not all misery and complaint, for ‘Tessa DiPietro was one of the few pieces that I actually ended up enjoying. Yes, some positivity at last! There feels to be something silky and slippery about it, almost as if the entire poem is a monologue delivered by an Elizabeth Grant laying down on a masseuse bed or psychiatrist’s sofa, purging herself of casual thoughts before being cleaned or prodded or whatever other treatments you can get in LA. It feels more playful, like she is having fun when writing this, still as interested with aesthetics as she always has been, but not so much as to lose the point of what she is writing. And this is the part of Lana that I hoped we would have more of in this piece, a Lana that holds back with the aesthetics of the glitz and glamour just enough to let us see anything real. Or maybe this entire album is as real as it gets and is actually the most personal thing she’s ever produced. Maybe I’m just so used to hearing her surface-level secrets revealed in every song that it just rolls off my back as another sweet story to not believe. But either way, this album does beg the question – does something actually have to be “good” to be worth listening to? I’m not sure, but maybe the next repeat will bring the answer.

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