Lana Del Rey, Nicki Minaj.
Shappi Khorsandi, The Independent
I’m beginning to think that Instagram and Twitter aren’t the best places to have a discussion. Who knew that platforms where people are desperately eager to impress upon everybody else their own worldview would hurl those views into discussions with no invitation, no moderator or mediator?
Take the latest Lana Del Rey debacle. The poor woman put out a statement on Instagram criticising writers (female writers specifically – we still have no word on how she feels about bloke critics) for accusing her of glamorising abusive relationships.
In the mists of my memory, I remember Florence, from Florence and the Machine, feeling compelled to step out and explain that the lyrics in their debut single “Kiss With a Fist” didn’t actually mean that snogging your lover then punching them in the face, prompting them to “set fire to your bed”, was “romance goals”. Artists trust their audiences to understand nuance and metaphor, and to know that personal expression is just that. None of it is meant as a party political broadcast (I now have Boris Johnson’s voice in my head saying, “A kiss, we have found, with a fist, is, indeed, better than, as it were, none”; thanks, brain).
Twitter and other online platforms, however, aren’t known to be places where people take a breath before spewing their reaction to what they have read or seen – often a reaction to how they feel about the subject the artist has tackled (in this case, abusive relationships) rather than the feelings the artist set out to convey.
In her songs, Del Rey describes relationships that have been abusive; she has not written a catchy little number titled, “If You Wanna Know If He Loves You So, It’s in His Kick”. So I can understand why she has felt singled out by critics who don’t see her as part of the gang of more bombastic performers.
Her music is not my vibe and that’s OK. But I’m not up for a woman being accused of glamorising abuse when she is expressing herself and her own experience. It smacks of not understanding why art exists. No one is meant to relate to all of it, and it’s fine for it to create conversation and debate. In fact, and I can speak from experience, it’s pretty disappointing if it doesn’t.
The hole Del Rey dug for herself was that, when at the end of her tether with the criticism, she named other female singers and argued, and I’m paraphrasing, “You let THEM do THEIR thing, now let me do mine!”
The cluster of female artists she chose in order to argue her point did not, for the most part, fall under the umbrella of “white” as she does. Can you really be a white millennial working in the entertainment industry and not notice that you’ve picked a bunch of non-white people and insinuate they have been given an easier ride than you?
Del Rey continued, and this is where her best-friend or agent or publicist, ANYONE, should have stepped in to say, “Babe, babe, you might wanna think this through a bit, this is the INTERNET you’re on, the INTERNET,” and given her the self-awareness handbook. But no such luck for Del Rey.
She and Beyoncé, Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, and all the women she mentioned, have performance personas that best express what they want to say. None of them, Del Rey included, have got to where they are without being ruthless with themselves, with their expectations of themselves. No one accidentally becomes a music industry superstar. Critics are always annoying. They never see you as you see yourself. They put every performer in a box and expect them to stay in it. When you have an ocean of adoring fans, hit after hit after hit, take it on the chin, keep doing what you do and don’t, for the love of feminism, discount the fight other women have had.
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