This blog has never been the place for timely, contemporary and up to the minute fresh takes. In normal circumstances, if something notable happens during the year I simply put it aside in that special part of my brain that I hope to access around December, then at the end of the year I rant about it in a blog post about my 25th best album of the year, or whatever, when every other person in the world has long stopped caring about it. Or, most likely, I’ll simply forget all about it and instead go off on a tangent about rape fantasies or utter fucking nonsense. It was all we wanted. All we needed. We were happy.
Well, COVID-19 got me doing all sorts of crazy shit that I’ve never done before- last Tuesday I ate an unsalted pistachio*- so I guess I may as well add to the insanity by commenting on something that only just happened this last week. Partly this is because a particularly obnoxious crow outside my window has woken me up at two thirty in the morning, like I’m a 15th century wheelwright working in the tower of his master’s monastery or some shit, but partly because Lana Del Rey’s 21st May Instagram post really got under my skin. Yeah, mostly the former. Sniff, sniff, what’s that smell? Oh yeah! Precious motherfucking content!!
(*well, it definitely tasted unsalted when I ate it after finding it underneath the sofa while doing some hoovering. Hey! Another thing I’ve never done before!)
Kudos to Ms Del Rey- the ‘gangster Nancy Sinatra’, less we forget- there is a lot going on here. I am always very, very, very aware that I am a white male, but I hope that none of the natural biases that my dull and prosaic cultural hegemony won’t colour my reaction to the things Del Rey touches on, and I especially hope that this tired and bloated instance of an old fat man going in studs up on an atractive young woman never comes across as sexist, cruel or snide. Having said that, considering that Lana quite proudly states that she isn’t a believer in equality between sexes or systematic oppression of women, will my sexism even have any effect? Won’t it just be like a Catholic saying I’ll go to hell despite me not believing in it? The woman’s bullet proof! OK, we’re good to go then, let’s take it piece by piece:
Now that Doja Cat, Ariana, Camila, Cardi B, Kehlani and Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé have had number ones with songs about being sexy, wearing no clothes, fucking, cheating, etc – can I please go back to singing about being embodied, feeling beautiful by being in love even if the relationship is not perfect, or dancing for money – or whatever i want – without being crucified or saying that I’m glamorising abuse???????
OK. Many commentators have pointed out that all of the singers that Lana names are, ahem, ‘women of colour’*- at least if you just give into Ariana Grande’s insistence– and that this is emblematic of an underlying racism at the heart of the post. People have considered it a malicious dog whistle referring to that tired old far right trope of black people somehow having it ‘easier’, of Lana believing she’d be treated far better if she was one of ‘those people’ who talked funny and ate strange food. For what it’s worth- and for the purpose of this post at least- I, in my non-more-perceptive position as a fat white man, do not think the post was racist. It was dumb of Lana to not realise how it would likely come across that way, and it’s certainly a cack-handed and careless choice of examples. I might, were I in a particularly generous mood, describe it as ‘racially insensitive’, but nothing more. Thankfully, as I am an awkward white liberal and I’ve already discussed race so much that my hands are becoming so sweaty and it’s becoming difficult to type. No, I think the post is offensive and gross for entirely different reasons.
(*why is it OK to use that terminology if we use that particular syntax?? We all agreed that ‘coloured’ was offensive, but obviously decided that it was more about the sentence structure?? Like it you object to me calling your mother a ‘cunt’ and me apologising and then correcting myself to refer to her as a ‘person who displays cuntish presence’?? Your mother is a cunt by the way, but that’s not what’s being discussed here)
Firstly though, let’s look at what’s being suggested here. The underlying suggestion of LDR’s post is that artists such as Doja Cat, Cardi B, Nicki Minaj etc are given an easier ride than her, and are ‘allowed’ to sing about bums and boobies and bonking without consequence. Putting aside the idea of such things requiring acquiescence, she seems to be naming these artists as examples of singers who don’t face the same critical scrutiny that she does. This is an issue that will come up again and again, but she is obviously thinking of a very particular critical ‘consensus’ when she states conclusions like this. Maybe she’s thinking of the art critics of ‘NY Magazine‘ or ‘Staten Island Advance‘, places where LDR is lucky enough to receive extensive and detailed coverage and artistic analysis. These papers don’t deep dive Camila Cabello’s lyrics, LDR thinks, why are they getting away with it?
This is a shockingly out of touch and near sociopathically ignorant and blinkered view. Yeah, LDR, the art critics from ‘The Village Voice‘ don’t analyse and critique deep readings of Cardi B songs, mainly because- for whatever reasons that I am so not about to get into here- they don’t believe that these artists warrant or deserve the same examination that you do. You’re put on a higher pedestal by the sort of avenues that you’re obviously thinking of, and rather than arguing that these other artists deserve the same artistic attention that you receive, you imagine that all critical voices on your work are illegitimate and that they aren’t held up to the same attention. And suggesting that these artists don’t face any criticism?? Mate, have you logged onto to Twitter anytime over the course of the past couple of years?? Doja Cat, until arguably very recently, was pretty much only famous for the shit that people manged to unearth about her! Her full name is actually Doja ‘Tweets Recently Emerged’ Cat! Cardi B and Nicki Minaj are always the first names mentioned when the angry incels start their racist/sexist tirades about the worthlessness of modern music!! Ariana Grande escapes criticism?? Everyone in the freaking world has had a pop at Ariana ‘Problematic’ Grande, save a brief period in 2017 where her gig got bombed so we all laid off her for a while!! Even I have had a pop, and I’m the nicest man on the internet!! And are you suggesting that Kehlani and freaking Beyonce merely sing about ‘being sexy, wearing no clothes, fucking, cheating, etc’?? Firstly- shut the fuck up, you cloth eared and wool brained moron. Secondly- what if that really was all of these widely acclaimed and lyrically accomplished artists were singing about, what violation is it exactly that you believe they should suffer critical sanctions for? Sex before marriage? Unashamed hussiness? Christ, Lana, fucking mare, mate.
Then there’s the main point that because these artists are ‘allowed’ to sing about their noo-noos being frigged then LDR should be ‘allowed’ to sing about more questionable relationships. Firstly, this whole ‘they’re allowed to say something so I should be allowed to say something else’ logic is some real adolescent bullshit that would compel a child to be forced to repeat the first year of nursery school. Secondly, they’re allowed to do whatever the fuck they want and you’re allowed to do whatever the fuck you want. You’ve managed to work yourself into a position where your only constraints are your imagination, and you’re complaining that music critics (who, and I can’t stress this enough, are absolute nonentities with no real power or influence at all! Apart from me, of course. Though, yes, I am more of a philosopher or cultural influencer than simply a ‘music critic’) sometimes don’t like your lyrics. Why. On Earth. Do you care? She makes out like she’s campaigning for freedom of expression, but what she’s actually arguing for is that she deserves freedom of consequence. Which… Actually, that is pretty white, maybe this is about race after all. Fair enough *starts sweating*…
Fuck, that’s the first paragraph…
I’m fed up with female writers and alt singers saying that I glamorise abuse when in reality I’m just a glamorous person singing about the realities of what we are all now seeing are very prevalent abusive relationships all over the world. With all of the topics women are finally allowed to explore I just want to say over the last ten years I think it’s pathetic that my minor lyrical exploration detailing my sometimes submissive or passive roles in my relationships has often made people say I’ve set women back hundreds of years.
First of all… yeah, fair enough. See? I’m not just spitting bullets indiscriminately here. Singing about abuse and about extremely dubious relationships is absolutely not condoning these relationships, and LDR at least has the respect of her audience to assume that they will be able to make their own moral judgements without her spelling them out for them. She makes music for adults, and that’s an understandable thing to expect adults to be able to do. Again though, it’s exceedingly peculiar (and even frustrating) that she’s still overly obsessed with what the ‘critics’ are saying. Can I please have a citation for the critical claim that you’ve ‘set women back hundreds of years’? Was that a YouTube comment? What about the critics who near unanimously declared your last album to be one of 2019’s best? Or was that when you were trying to appease the critics, and want to take those gloves off again?
Confused? We’re not even at the confusing bit yet:
Let this be clear, I’m not not a feminist – but there has to be a place in feminism for women who look and act like me – the kind of woman who says no but men hear yes – the kind of women who are slated mercilessly for being their authentic, delicate selves, the kind of women who get their own stories and voices taken away from them by stronger women or by men who hate women
OK, so now we start to understand that LDR has no fucking idea what she’s talking about, no fucking idea what she wants, and no fucking idea what ‘feminism’ is. And for someone to claim that they’re ‘not a feminist’ the absolute most generous assumption is that they don’t know what the word means. If you’re a feminist, you simply believe that women should be allowed equal rights and equal opportunities to men. That’s it. It’s not fucking complicated, you dumb, ignorant, ‘Make America Bigoted Again’, if-Mannequin-was-set-in-Urban-Outfitters, dressed for Andy Warhol’s funeral, Peggy Lee cosplaying tool. Sorry, I said I wasn’t going to be cruel, didn’t I? The only reason that someone should feel the need to make it ‘clear’ that they’re not a feminist is either if they legitimately hate women, or their only understanding of the term comes from Men’s Rights subreddits and particularly spiteful memes shared on 4Chan. Which, come to think of it, may well be where Lana has perceived this ‘critical consensus’ that she’s imagining herself kicking against. There absolutely is “a place in feminism for women who look and act like” you*, there’s a place in feminism for absolutely everyone who has accepted the general gender imbalance and would rather prefer to see it improved. In fact, feminism still applies to you and fights for your benefit, despite you being too dense to realise that and practically admitting that you find the whole idea is bullshit. Your stories aren’t being ‘taken away’, you have a bigger and more well regarded platform than essentially every other woman on the fucking planet, and you’re using it to complain to your 16.4 million Instagram followers that you’re not being allowed to express your opinion. Again, you don’t want freedom of expression- you have more freedom of expression than any of those 16.4 million followers will ever have- you’re arguing for freedom from consequence, freedom from any sort of repercussion. Are you going to argue against ‘fake news’ next?
(*no, she wasn’t talking about ‘good looking people’, as she’s been accused of in some quarters, it’s just another case of LDR betraying a chronically lazy and careless writing style and really not properly thinking about what the words she writes might sound like. No, she’s complaining that the Feminazis won’t accept a complicated and supernaturally complex figure such as herself, perhaps because feminism has never had much experience dealing with difficult issues. Yeah, I know, that’s much worse, isn’t it?)
I’ve been honest and optimistic about the challenging relationships I’ve had. News flash! That’s just how it is for many women. And that was sadly my experience up until the point that those records were made. So I just want to say it’s been a long 10 years of bullshit reviews up until recently and I’ve learned a lot from them, but also I feel it really paved the way for other women to stop ‘putting on a happy face’ and to just be able to say whatever the hell they wanted in their music – unlike my experience where if I even expressed a note of sadness in my first two records I was deemed literally hysterical as though it was literally the 1920s
Sigh… OK, whatever. I seriously don’t know how many women that LDR ‘paved the way for’, it could honestly be a lot, I haven’t researched it because the amount of people that LDR has influenced is in no way an issue. Because whatever the number may be, however many people felt inspired by LDR to know they didn’t need to put on a ‘happy face’ and could ‘say whatever the hell they want’ pales into insignificance when compared to the strides and victories won by feminism since way before women in the 1920s were deemed ‘hysterical’. Again, I might need a citation for that claim as well.
In short- Lana wants freedom of consequence, and all the protections of a feminism she wants to be very clear she doesn’t believe in. She’s obviously hysterical and is setting women back hundreds of years.
I honestly thought this would be a short post…
Sigh… OK, so LDR has responded to criticism of the original post with some more weapons grade nonsense. I’m not going to deep dive this to the same extent, as it’s merely LDR refusing to rephrase or apologise for anything she said obviously misunderstanding any complaints she received, and freaking doubling down on the nonsense. She picks out FKA Twigs this time, who is a great choice if you’re cautious of being wrongly accused of racism, saying that Twigs’s pole dancing video was heralded as ‘art’ while LDR’s only got her accused of being a ‘whore’. Firstly, who is calling you a ‘whore’?? Was that the Sunday Times? Pitchfork? I can’t help but imagine LDR is comparing high end critical response to FKA Twigs to YouTube comments on her own video. Lana, mate, no offense, but get a fucking grip and try and emerge from your own arse. FKA Twigs has been through far worse- and because of her identity will go though much worse- than your privileged and pouting first year art school student self could ever imagine. She also suggests that the artists she mentions (assuming she’s not talking about artists she’s failed to mention, though we already know that LDR is a dreadful writer so that’s always a possibility) are just singing about ‘dancing for money’ while she is an ‘advocacy for fragility’ (suggesting that she might have heard of, or even seen the Cellophane video se references, but she certainly didn’t fucking understand it), before,finally and thankfully, proving she’s not a racist because she apparently supported giving reparations to the Najavo community (“because they touched me so much in my youth”) and really likes a white woman who supports black communities.
I still don’t think LDR is a racist… I don’t think she is… it’s getting harder to defend that position, I know… but I’m absolutely done with this whole thing. I can’t be bothered anymore simply because she’s unfortunately revealed herself, not as a shameless bigot, but as a really, really unintelligent person. And in some horrific twist of the Dunning–Kruger effect, she’s not just too stupid to not know she’s stupid, but so stupid that she actually thinks she’s smart, which is why this could run and run. I’m out though, sorry…