Monday, October 1st, 2018

Lana Del Rey – Venice Bitch

Venice returns the favor…


Julian Axelrod: When “Venice Bitch” dropped, fans rejoiced; their prayers for a 10-minute LDR song had finally been answered. Similarly, the song feels like an exercise in wish fulfillment: Lana Del Rey makes her epic, not because she needs to, but because she can. The first few minutes are peak Lana, an impassioned meditation on the fragility of love and childhood through the ashes of a lost America. And then Jack Antonoff grabs the wheel, taking the scenic route through a meandering synth solo that drifts from wistful to wallpaper depending on the timestamp. It’s easy to get lost in a song when it doesn’t seem to know where it’s going.

Katherine St Asaph: Lana Del Rey finally manages to break out of the soporofic monotone that has flattened her career for seven years. Unfortunately, she then adds 7 minutes of soporofic monotone back in. To paraphrase the actually good, actually dynamic Los Angeles song with Jack Antonoff involved: it keeps running, and running, but never moves.

Katie Gill: Unless you’re a stadium rock band with a convenient jam session in the middle of the song, you’re Meat Loaf, or you’re Loreena McKennitt, ten minutes is TOO GODDAMN LONG for a song. Ten minutes is especially too goddamn long when you’re Lana Del Rey, who has absolutely no emotional range in the tone of her voice, lyrics that are fake deep, and musical stylings so dull and dreary that they’re the aural equivalent of Novocaine. The song is ten minutes long but because of all the repetitiveness and boring mood, it feels like a friggen half hour.

Matias Taylor: This is the sound of leisurely riding off into the sunset, actually reaching the sun, circling around it a few times while its golden rays flicker around you, and on to strange wonders beyond. By the time we come back down to Earth, all that’s left of Lana is an old transmission while she herself is off somewhere in the cosmos, and we can only feel grateful she had us along for the high.

Iain Mew: I couldn’t count how many times I fell asleep in my childhood bed listening to Camel‘s Landscapes compilation, appropriately named for which orientation of their sweeping synth-prog it focused on. So as this song spreads out and closes it eyes I’m not sure if it’s a particularly expertly crafted onslaught of nostalgia or just one pinpointed perfectly for me, but job done either way.

Lilly Gray: This could almost be a parody of a Lana song, but if you, like me, are down for pretty much anything this valium haint makes, it barely matters. It’s got everything: layered surf rock-ish guitar, vocals that are have arrived 20 minutes late with Starbucks, and a self-effacing, lovingly delivered hook. To be fair, I have to ignore a lot of the lyrics, which have got to be intentionally on the level of Cracker Barrel decor in terms of referential pastiche, but I like laziness. I enjoy how inconsequential everything other than, oh god I miss you, is to this song. Yeah, you need to get through the day and there’s reasons to live blah blah blah but oh god, I miss you on my lips.

Alfred Soto: Skeptics, grant her this: she writes the best titles in the biz. Concede her talent for inhabiting the gold diggers and sluts and harridans of a century’s worth of Hollywood and pop music culture portraiture at least sixty percent of the time. “Mariners Apartment Complex,” which gets from A to Z with less fuss, offered a subtle portrait of a woman offering sympathy to a man who nevertheless still categorizes her as a gold digger, slut, and harridan. But “Venice Bitch” earns its longeurs on the third play, and she deserves the credit, not Jack Antonoff. So sure is Del Rey’s writing that she could’ve written “Venice, Bitch” and come up with yet another song. Seven years after “Video Games” horrified me, I’ve come around to her way of thinking.

Rebecca A. Gowns: I tend to dislike Lana Del Rey singles. They’re so constructed in that LANA DEL REY fashion, like it was all made of images of huge heart-eye sunglasses, vintage film, palm trees, pink hotel rooms, sad girls smoking cigarettes, all cut out of magazines and pasted onto thin white paper. Nothing substantial. This one really gets me going for a while, and for the first 4 minutes, I’m converted. It’s meditative and longing and aching and tender, and playing coy about it; I sink into the headspace of the narrator, making a pretend pout and saying “It’s me, your little Venice bitch” as if it was a badge of honor instead of one of the thousand ways she’s been discarded over and over. And then there’s the next 5 minutes, and it all seems to fall apart again. By the time we hit “crimson and clover over and over,” the moment of clarity is lost, and I’m back to feeling like I’m humoring a drunk aunt.

Jonathan Bradley: Lana Del Rey flickered into life as a faded YouTube video. She was formed as an icon of ideas rather than a person, ideas that were themselves refracted through overlapping layers of sincerity and irony that fused into a dialectic in which authenticity became indescribable. Her songs didn’t explore her subject matter — celebrity, artifice, American greatness, nostalgia, carefully stylized femininity — so much as enact it at so large a scale that gazing upon it became an interrogation. “Venice Bitch” is nearly ten minutes of Lana Del Rey disordered, her billboard displays made shifting and unstable, their temporal and textual definition dispelled. The lyrics are sudden manifestations of her established methods in decontextualized, nearly parodic, form: “Ice cream, ice queen,” for instance, or “I like diamonds.” Norman Rockwell abuts “I’m fresh out of fucks to give” the way her “National Anthem” video turned A$AP Rocky into Jack Kennedy. Curly melodic threads spirit their way through the mist like psychedelia or like ghosts of the Ohio Players and Parliament samples that Dr. Dre turned into indelible signifiers of West Coast pleasure, because, for Del Rey, modernity doesn’t co-exist with the past; it’s indistinguishable from it. All the while, she sounds less fictive than ever before: her voice high and affectless, no longer glazed and indolent. Yet in dematerializing, she sounds less substantial than ever, as if a strong wind or a powerful wave would transform her into sea foam soaking into California sand.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: From its first lines, “Venice Bitch” feels overwhelming and intimate all at once, like finding a diary in the ruins of an ancient city. It’s not a mode that most pop songs operate in — though most songs by pop artists are not “Venice Bitch,” or even reminiscent of it, in form or ambition. Yet despite its almost impossible aims, “Venice Bitch” still works on every level, with its psychedelic, proggy form, studded with guitar solos and synth breaks and false outros and every trick that’s existed in the long and glorious history of songs like “Venice Bitch” pairing perfectly with the kaleidoscopic, fractured lyric that Lana delivers, a sort of “Tangled Up In Blue” pastiche. She’s in prime form here, finally reaching a sort of apotheosis of the sepia-tinged love and obsession tales of the American West that she’s always told and delivering it with the exact combination of sincerity and camp that it deserves.

Vikram Joseph: The sprawling psychofuzz acid-trip of “Venice Bitch” feels like Lana Del Rey with the Lana-ness dialed up to eleven, her characteristic California watercolour painted in shades both more rhapsodic and disconcerting than usual. There’s a lot of LDR-isms which could (and often have, in the past) felt tired — “you’re beautiful and I’m insane / we’re American made” — but the production lends it an intimacy and intensity that elevate her tropes. And, though it’s hard to be sure, it certainly feels like there’s a subtle satire at work on lines like “Give me Hallmark/one dream, one life one lover.” Intentionally or not, the way Lana casually mentions that “me, myself, I like diamonds” (as if we couldn’t have guessed!) is at least a little hilarious. And then, there’s the ambient, bugged-out, Kurt Vile-ish guitar solos, which stretch out indistinctly into some distant desert horizon. The whole package is kind of unsettling, kind of shallow, kind of beautiful — that Hollywood dream again, then, but more vivid than usual.

Nicholas Donohoue: Lana Del Rey is a very intelligent marketer. Arriving on the scene, she wholly dived into an old school glamour, sexual revolution vibe landscape of Americana. Riding the Obama years, it felt like I was surrounded by icons and events that pointed to a new understanding and unveiling of American sexuality, American gender, American race relations, and what better than a ’60s styled musical artist to pontificate on the good, bad, sexy, and ugly of our exciting and changing times? Well, it is 2018, I was very wrong about how the world works, and this concept is now very wrong for the time. “Venice Bitch” on its own is embarrassing in its confusing mixture of excess and barrenness. The instrumental and a cappella tracks in isolation would be just as meaningful as the full track. The formula is strong and functional, but it has been Del Rey’s default for six years now, and it is very easy to see the cracks and sight failures in Del Rey’s mythology. She is the sound of 2010s liberalism, a force that however “woke” their views, is unable to cope with the creeping in of fascist forces and the rarely confronted hatred of the sexuality, color, and simple being of others. The Americana I want to hear about does not look like me and should not be made to cater to me. It does not continually reminisce about a past without facing its problems and pressures outside of the realms of the straight, white women who love the rowdy, bad boys who don’t know better. I would love a 9-minute, lulling movie score song to let my guard down, but the romance in this song is born from the same culture that would let the likes of Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh be Supreme Court Justices.

Stephen Eisermann: I’ve never really understand the Lana hype, but “Venice Bitch” really highlights why. To me, Lana is that girl who spent a little too much time on her Xanga and had the toughest time leaving it behind for MySpace, opting instead to write Buffy fanfic until she was old enough to experience sexuality and upgrade to Tumblr. And, like, that’s fine, but I just don’t want that girl to sing me her innermost thoughts, because she’ll probably just sing a private Tumblr post that she posted and promised herself that she’d send to her crush one day, but she didn’t. Because, see, that Tumblr post sounds just like this. 

Micha Cavaseno: A longtime Lana Del Rey cynic, I would not have expected to be swayed to any relative sympathy to her output to emerge from a song that sounds like it could’ve emerged from a recent Low record (which, by the way, is not meant to be complimentary from me!). “Venice Bitch”, apparently the product of LDR collaborating with Jack Antonoff, has the singer moving away from her more maudlin and grave deliveries into a pastoral and meandering lilt while the essentials are there in permanent fixation. Invoking the “iconic” with the glee, enthusiasm and death defying see-saw between the disregard for proof of its current ease has been her secret raison d’etre from when her Nancy Sinatra-like Classic-Coke vibes distracted from her real progenitor in Mlle. désespoir rétro herself: Amy Winehouse. Distancing herself even further from a definable era to fix her homages, “Venice Bitch” easily sounds like it could’ve been from a contemporary of Laura Nyro or Jim O’Rourke, depending on the mentality of the listener. But make no mistake, all her mentality is still the understanding of a fixed kind of nostalgia and absorption of totemic “realness,” that notion of Way Back When infused to the “share” function on some social media platform. The details have never been real to Lana Del Rey, always just playing with notions. Now she’s managed to perfect that.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Short pop songs are a product of format constraints and capitalism, so let’s be happy that any established pop artist is deciding to make a ten minute track a single. Fortunately for us, “Venice Bitch” finds Lana Del Rey at her most convincing. Her songs are somnolent drugs meant to slip listeners into a nostalgic bliss, a falsely created America that is nonetheless a panacea for troubling times. The future looks grim, so why not pine for an ostensibly better past we weren’t able to experience? In other words, anything is better than thinking of the present, so transport us to something that’s familiar enough to feel like utopia’s at our fingertips. Her music is thus a peculiar problematization through embrace; the myopic liberalism that shouts “America is still great” she is not. On “Venice Bitch,” Lana Del Rey finally transmits the failure of “American-made” patriotism by capturing the final flickers of summer — the most American of seasons, surely. In the song’s first half, she’s at her most achingly romantic. Accompanied by her least tiresome arrangement to date, her vocal melodies swell with a grace that has you believing in these idealistic images of old: “You’re in the yard, I light the fire”; “You write, I tour, we make it work”; “Give me Hallmark: one dream, one life, one lover.” Her pouting and sass flesh out the persona and performance, contributing to the lyrics’ believability. Before long, it transforms into meandering psychedelia complete with wonky synth melodies and skronking guitars. It’s in this meditative stretch that one can envision the onset of fall. The reddish-browns of leaves, the subtle shock of crisp air, the warmth of layered clothing — they overtake the golden hue of summer twilight, leaving it beyond the point of periphery. More than anything, this transition and its effects bring to mind Early Day Miners’ “A Common Wealth.” Much like “Venice Bitch,” that song imparts its sadness through an extended second act. What initially feels like words to a song suddenly becomes palpable when out of focus. The source of all emotional weight has transferred to something strictly instrumental and we’re faced with this transitory place between art and life, past and present, imaginary and real. As “Venice Bitch” closes, we hear Lana deliver a final line: “If you weren’t mine, I’d be jealous of your love.” It’s here that we fully recognize that this love she spoke of was never really hers — that is, Elizabeth Woolridge Grant’s. The American Dream was really just that.

Reader average: [9.13] (15 votes)

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5 Responses to “Lana Del Rey – Venice Bitch”

  1. the mouse overs!!

  2. Short pop songs are also a product of the fact that 10-minute pop songs are universally terrible. This one’s alright though.

  3. Lilly Gray brought me to literal lols.

  4. for the record I don’t mind 10-minute songs as long as there is something HAPPENING in them, like “Full of Fire” (which has more energy in one note than this song does in three minutes), or if it’s an ambient track or something and not this

  5. I feel like I engage with the song’s second part very much like I would an ambient piece! Which I guess would explain why I thought of the Early Day Miners track (basically a slowcore song that devolves into ambience, twice).

    Jonathan’s blurb is wonderful, as is Lilly’s. I also find this bit from Maxwell’s blurb to be very precise: “But make no mistake, all her mentality is still the understanding of a fixed kind of nostalgia and absorption of totemic “realness,” that notion of Way Back When infused to the “share” function on some social media platform.” Good writing all around from everyone.