Lana releases her long-awaited spoken word album, an album I’ve been anticipating for a while, since it was announced. I was sure it was going to be a solid release, I mean it’s Lana, she’s an amazing writer, and that was shown splendidly on her previous full-length record Norman Fucking Rockwell! So does Violet Bent Backwards Over The Grass hold up to the hype I gave it? Yes actually.
Now I wasn’t expecting this to be another NFR, but I was intrigued to see what direction she would take this. From the first track it was quite obvious to me what this was. This was an album about Lana, but also not. It’s a personal album that’s masked with anecdotes made up and characters fictional. It’s a short walk through Lana’s garden as she recites the stories of not just her past but her present, other people’s pasts and presents, all of which are Lana herself, but projected onto another vessel, a vessel we can relate to and empathise with. Now I would hope that most of you know that Lana is a character, Lana Del Rey isn’t a real person, her real name is Elizabeth Grant. Through these poems that she writes, her character of Lana is portrayed through the words and the instruments. This fragile woman, this sex-loving woman, but a woman who enjoys the smaller things in life, like nature or writing. She’s a woman who sits in the shadow of her man, and doesn’t question it, she lives to be with a man and would die for any of them. But there’s more to this than that. While a lot of this album seems to be about men, and her yearning over lost loves, I feel like there’s a deeper meaning here.
This is explained in a way on the opening track, in which Elizabeth, or Lana, is personifying LA and is talking to it as if it were a person, begging to be able to go home, recounting hardships she had gone through in order to garner sympathy from the city, complementing it and trying to woo it over. I feel like a lot of the songs on this album follow a similar metaphor but to a less noticeable extent. Most of these songs are discussing a love, and using the love of another man as a metaphor, but it seems to me that they’re only a mask for what she is really talking about. Take the second track, for example, The Land Of 1000 Fires. It’s a song discussing the Lana’s love for 3 men it seems, but to me this song is more discussing her love of the city, of the trains, of the people in the city, a similar storyline to the opener. She’s in love with the city she’s in and she never wants to leave. She wants to stare her city in the eyes and kiss it deeply. I’m sure it’s a feeling some of us can relate to, it’s far and few between but it can happen.
Most of the songs here are relatively short, clocking in at 1-2 minutes, maybe 3, but there is one song that clocks in at nearly 7 which really showcases Lana’s writing ability. SportCruiser is a song about Lana trying to find herself, trying to trust herself again, reciting the story of when she took flying lessons and boating lessons, and learning how to trust herself, using the words that her instructors tell her to try to fix herself. Taking their words out of context and applying it to her own context. Making it applicable to her every day, isn’t that what writers do? She says. Writers do, do that. They take the writings of other people and apply it to their own, take metaphors and reconstruct them into something new, something beautiful. Take signs we see every day and use them in our own little contextual bubble. A stop sign, a sign telling us to stop. Stop what? It makes you stop and think, or it would some. Is it speaking to me? Or is it speaking to everyone? As a writer, sometimes you do end up stopping and looking at the mundanity of the world and seeing a spark in it. Seeing an idea flourish in front of you as another car drives down the road, another black cat crosses under a ladder and into the house of the people who are too scared to leave their home, are they plagued with bad luck? It’s something to ponder on, something to write about. Lana thrives in this mindset and builds little worlds for us to live in and engage in. It’s inspiring to hear and fun to deconstruct. Or maybe you don’t need to deconstruct it, maybe it makes perfect sense the way it is, and that’s ok. Not everything needs to make sense, not everything needs to be in the context it was originally put in. A good writer makes sense of the seemingly nonsensical and applies that to their own world, their own contexts, maybe this review will do the same?