Most of the world has given up on Lana Del Rey. Her tomb was built when Born to Die’s gothic white-girl rap was a little too weird, and a little too macabre for critics looking for her to cash-in on the assigned narratives. Instead they got an unabashedly cinematic menagerie of sugar daddies, cars, sunsets, and indulgent moroseness. Most critics wouldn’t be caught dead recommending something that so gleefully takes the piss, and it’s pretty much a guarantee that her next album, Ultraviolence, replete with track names like “Fucked My Way Up to the Top” and short films that cast her as “Eve” opposite an albino model’s “Adam,” will serve up some of the smarmiest hounding this side of the Killers greatest hits album.
But here’s the thing. Pretty much every cultural authority that has spoken on Lana Del Rey has missed the point. Lana has never really been able to exist independently in what she thinks makes for good entertainment. She will continue to work for her significant fanbase, and she will continue to be entirely misrepresented by mainstream media. Lana Del Rey has become the popstar equivalent of professional wrestling.
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There are a lot of aesthetic correspondences. Much of the WWE roster seem like they could be cast as love interests in Del Rey music videos, and I’m sure Lana romanticizes the golden days of pro wrestling just like she does with every piece of bygone Americana. But they share a core philosophy too. In wrestling there are “mark” fans, and there are “smark” fans. Marks are the dying breed of people who believe everything in wrestling to be the cold, hard truth. Right now they’re reeling from that horrifying Shield breakup and cursing Triple H’s name.
In this day and age, this demographic is mostly reserved for 11 year olds. The much more common smarks are people who enjoy wrestling for its unique combination of athleticism, storytelling, and mic-work. There are few things more enjoyable then watching a perfectly executed match, or seeing the company push an under appreciated talent into title-contention. Smark fans aren’t cursing Triple H’s name, they’re instead interrogating his selflessness in putting over younger guys like The Shield and Daniel Bryan so thoroughly.
Similarly, there are mark Lana fans and smark Lana fans.
There are plenty of people who believe everything she says, entranced by the fantasy of a sexed-up woman smearing her makeup and legs all over old-money in the Hamptons. It’s a fictional reputation that’s earned her a lot of fame, and a lot of ire. The smark fans understand that at the end of the day, Lana Del Rey is an homage. Always was, and always will be. She is not a kept woman, she’s never fucked the president, it’s simply something she dons in her music. We can appreciate her storytelling, her guile, her false ego, we can appreciate her gloppy, Technicolor atmosphere while knowing that she, like us, doesn’t take all this too seriously.
Lana has done numerous out-of-character interviews, she lists Janis Joplin and Britney Spears among her primary influences, but it still seems most of the world are marks for Lana. She’s hated for the exact same reasons she should be likable. Are we really that gullible? Are we really so dedicated to make sure a woman sticks by her obviously make-believe word? Does pop music have to be so cut and dry? Do yourself a favor when Ultraviolence drops, and listen to it the same way you listen to Shawn Michaels.
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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 10, 2014