LANA DEL REY - "HIGH BY THE BEACH"
I don’t believe one trip to a city allows anyone to speak about it with authority. But there’s a gossamer aura that appears after a small amount of time in a city and, if you choose, you can place onto that aura a city’s entire thematic truth, much the same way Proust had something or another to do with madeleines or Entourage had something or another to do with nice jeans.
This is how I felt about Los Angeles as I smoked a joint in a McDonald’s parking lot across from Nobu. I had four days to spend there and already I was a living manifestation of a Drake mentions pest.
But we pulled out into traffic and wound northwards on the Pacific Coast Highway and listened to Lana Del Rey, while in the passenger seat I took a selfie video of me mouthing the words to “Cruel World.” If this was to be my experience of LA, this one unconditional night made picturesque by the low sun swinging back and forth from behind the mountains, then Lana Del Rey is a crucial part of its definition.
I had never really connected to Lana Del Rey until this moment because music works very simply in my head, especially with regard to geography (or weed). Though there is more of a connection to the geography of Lana Del Rey than I could ever know sitting in my apartment in Brooklyn.
On our right past Pepperdine University, mansions jut out of the mountains whose structures are visible and whose access roads are obscured. Their allure is on full display as though they were billboards on a freeway. On our left was the ocean, a long linear gradient of gold to white to blue.
Lana Del Rey, as she sounded to me then, was a scrim in front of the California. Along with this little sliver of understanding, I thought of the sheer music of Honeymoon. Knowing that I was high by the beach listening to “High By The Beach” was all the stupid synergy I needed to place her music into my lay understanding of California.
Eyes squinted, she was, indeed, no definitely, the voice of this city’s broken dreams. Juxtaposing this beach’s beauty against all this emotional and economical poverty was all I needed to hear her songs as I believed they were meant to be heard. Of course this wasn’t LA. I knew this feeling was far from the exegesis this city deserves. Of course Lana Del Rey is not a close examination of music or emotion, but in my fleeting moments there, on the beach, riding in a car, staring up at the mansions that I’d never own, this patina of truth for both Lana and LA seemed like the most harmonious union.
Lana Del Rey’s music is a roman à clef, some kind of fantasy that we’d love to believe is true at first glance. But at best it’s fantasy, and at worse it’s a dull pose. It evaporates over the smallest amout of time. (Admittedly, this is what is so great about her music: its delicate half-life. It’s a rare quality, and I feel like Honeymoon doubles down on this lamé scarf twisting in the desert vibe.)
And after 72 hours, it all disappeared. I’m back in my apartment listening to “High By The Beach” rolling my eyes at its pale and empty gestures. Jesus Christ, where’s the beach, I’m very sober, and there’s a car alarm interrogating the entire neighborhood.
But in L.A., for that breif amount of time it was the best little lie I told myself in years.