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Lana del Rey, unexpected gay icon

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Lana del Rey, unexpected gay icon

Emma Vaughters | Layout Editor

Emma Vaughters | Layout Editor

Emma Vaughters

Emma Vaughters | Layout Editor

Emma Vaughters

Emma Vaughters

Emma Vaughters | Layout Editor

Grace Yang, Contributing Writer

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Lana Del Rey is known for her edgy, entrancing alternative music. Her sound, though often categorized as indie, also fits comfortably into the mainstream music scene. Many know her hit “Summertime Sadness,” which dominated radio stations in the summer of 2013.

In bridging the pop-alt divide, her music often appeals to an audience of individuals who feel like they are on the outside and want to be accepted within society’s standards. Del Rey has become a representation, a muse, for those who have been misunderstood — she even penned a song called “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” Del Rey’s music, in particular, speaks to the LGBTQ individuals in a way that makes her an icon in the community.

But what is it about Del Rey that makes her popular? Her lyrics tell stories of love and reflect the feeling of belonging, or desiring to. And while certain facets of LGBTQ+ culture have been thanklessly co-opted by the mainstream, members of the community themselves have yet to be accepted or welcomed in that same way.  Because of this, many people face rejection and struggle with the idea of feeling “wanted” under pressure to conform to what society considers appealing.

Through her lyrics, Del Rey illustrates this idea in an edgy yet beautiful way that draws the LGBTQ community to her music. In “Carmen,” on Del Rey’s first album “Born to Die,” Del Rey  sings, “She laughs like God, her mind’s like a diamond,” and voices the angst her audience feels, wanting to be wanted. In “Mariners Apartment Complex,” Del Rey sings, “You lose your way, just take my hand, you’re lost at sea, then I’ll command your boat to me again,” and it feels as though she is the guiding ship for those who are lost and feel misunderstood. Even her soft and hazy voice transports her audience in a way that is almost intoxicating. Her music is like a current that pulls you away from reality and lets you ride the waves of a Del Rey sea.

Most notably, in the music video for her smash summer hit, “Summertime Sadness,” Del Rey showcases the romantic homosexual relationship between the character Del Rey portrays and her character’s partner.

Compared to other gay icons such as Beyoncé or Lady Gaga, who are famous for their more vibrant and lively pop-styles, Del Rey’s mellow sound and her mysterious persona appeal to members in a more subtle and way, allowing her to reach a different, unconventional group within the LGBTQ community. She acts as an undercurrent that sweeps over members of the community who choose not to fill the mold of society’s stereotype of a queer person.

Del Rey’s bad-girl persona and her music are seductive, and she has an edge to her that attracts listeners, yet she still presents herself as an elegant figure with her haunting vocals. Del Rey’s popularity may come from individuals trying to stay on the mainstream. It’s trendy to be edgy, and her brand of approachable edge is the safest option.

Del Rey and her music have proven to be spellbinding and attractive to LGBTQ audiences. Though many might find her music to be dark and ambiguous, she voices the complexities and uncertainties of love, relationships and the struggle for recognition beautifully, and often – intentionally or not –  mirrors the general experiences of the LGBTQ community.

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10 Responses to “Lana del Rey, unexpected gay icon”

  1. Cameron Tipton on April 3rd, 2019 11:07 pm

    I just wanted to specify that Lana did not pen “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” It’s a cover of a Nina Simone song. Thanks!

  2. Cameron Tipton on April 3rd, 2019 11:07 pm

    I just wanted to specify that Lana did not pen “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” It’s a cover of a Nina Simone song.

  3. Dale Harvey on April 4th, 2019 1:32 am

    This article is so on point. I read allot about Lana Del Rey, and you are the first to communicate succinctly and accurately her relation to the LGBTQ community. TY

  4. Michael D. on April 4th, 2019 7:38 am

    I just wanted to comment on the fact that “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” was not penned by Del Rey. It was written for Nina Simone to perform in 1964.

  5. Oliver on April 4th, 2019 1:40 pm

    “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” was a cover of a Nina Simone song. It was not originally written by Del Rey.

  6. Stefani Germanotta on April 4th, 2019 9:07 pm

    UNEXPECTED??????????????????????????? Girl, please. Lana has lips bigger than Jolie and Trinity the Tuck’s COMBINED and her entire aesthetic is c r a f t e d in anticipation of a gay audience. To say her attitude is not traditionally “flamboyant” is laughable. Melodrama is still drama, hunny. Are you telling me those sultry, pouty looks, deep voice, and constant “daddy”-ing is not directly descended from, like, every gay man ever? Her use of iconography like Elvis and Monroe is even more suspect— hell, a traditional point of Camp (a concept introduced by Susan Sontag—PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, IF NOTHING ELSE BUT FOR THIS SAD HETERO WORLD YOU SEEM TO BE LIVING IN, READ SUSAN SONTAG’S “NOTES ON CAMP” AND BE GAGGÈD. IT’S THIS YEAR’S MET GALA THEME) is to have a patron saint whose persona is bigger than their person. Don’t act like Lana wasn’t primed for prayer candles just because she doesn’t wear a leotard or a meat-suit. Her existence was predicated by Judy Garland, Lana Turner, and basically ever other gay icon during the 60s. If anything, she’s a renaissance.

    And don’t even get me STARTED on her use of sapphic imagery to sell records… DOES SHE KISS WOMEN IN REAL LIFE OR NOT??? IT’S 2019!!! FUCKING DEMI LOVATO IS OUT BY THIS POINT!! Can she at least confirm that her and Lady Gaga shared a passionate, but ultimately troubled, love affair circa 2009 when they were both performing in New York? Can she? Or do I have to cry-wank to “This is What Makes Us Girls” yet again?

  7. Ryan on April 5th, 2019 11:26 am

    Great article! Just a heads up Lana did not write Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood. It is a cover of a Nina Simone song penned by Bennie Benjamin, Gloria Caldwell and Sol Marcus.

  8. Ryan on April 7th, 2019 11:18 am

    Del Rey didn’t write “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” It is a cover of someone else’s song.

  9. reijagurl on April 8th, 2019 1:07 pm

    lana del rey did NOT “pen” “dont let me be misunderstood.”

  10. Jonjon1915 on April 21st, 2019 11:16 pm

    Summertime Sadness was about her friend that committed suicide. Do not think it has anything to do with homosexuality.

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Lana del Rey, unexpected gay icon