How Lana Del Rey is the closest ACL gets to Madonna
Even Lana Del Rey would probably agree that she’s all about the image. You can tell because, at her Saturday night ACL Fest set, she played clips of her meticulously on-brand music videos behind their respective songs, and because she took a victory lap in the pit before the first song was over.
There were selfies with fans. There was autographing of copies of her latest LP, “Ultraviolence.” There was Lana on the Samsung Galaxy stage with her big gold hoop earrings, green and white minidress and Americana-laced lyrical provocations.
And there was a sprawling crowd that a headliner would be proud to claim, except this mid-tier act’s lackadaisical strolling through songs like “West Coast” and blasé demeanor barely betrayed two smiles. In other words: Lana Del Rey, the queen of sad, was exactly who she was supposed to be.
Del Rey fills a role in pop culture similar to Madonna. She’s not a horrible singer but not a great one, either. (Her backing band and backing tracks did a lot of heavy lifting while Del Rey warbled like a church lady through “National Anthem” and swallowed phrases into silence.) Like Madge, Lana’s real personality is indistinguishable from the stage persona she’s crafted, and she wields sexuality in her songs on no one’s terms but her own. And they’re odd, often unprintable terms.
But these aren’t knocks. Picture this: Lana Del Rey taking the world’s most deliberate drag on a cigarette before launching into “Born To Die.” She changes the arrangement of that song and others at whim, for who knows why. Those cat’s-eye mascara lined eyes aren’t telling. She changes the word “kiss” in the lyrics to an F-bomb. A picture of Marilyn Monroe flashes behind her. So does Psalm 51.
Come for the dead-eyed stares, stay for the blank expressions, but drink in the atmosphere.