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Elle praises "Venice Bitch" and claims "Sylvia Plath" is Lana's next single

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Americunt    15,118

Perhaps the most unusual of these pop-music transformations, though, came from Lana Del Rey. Self-styled America's sweetheart, Del Rey inhabited a femme fatale persona as tragic as it was prettily nostalgic. On her first big-label album, Born to Die, she sang of James Dean–like suitors who'd love and leave her, invoking the beleaguered specter of Lolita—utter youth, heart-shaped sunglasses, and all. A victim of men and love and the fickle attentions of showbiz, the Lana Del Rey character was one doomed to foregone conclusions and pre-existing archetypes. Her music was not boring or even pat, despite how familiar the tropes were, but her oeuvre always felt somewhat contained; we all know the ending of Sunset Boulevard. When has a Hollywood woman ever had a happy ending?

"Venice Bitch," her latest single, luxuriates in that legacy too—but also mutates it and takes it somewhere altogether more weird. You might not even have heard the song, even though it was released in September; at nine-and-a-half minutes long, it's hardly tailored for radio. Starting off much like any other Del Rey cut, "Venice Bitch" rolls '60s American clichés around in the mouth:

Ice cream, ice queen
I dream in jeans and leather
Life's dream, I'm sweet for you

Prostrating herself in front of the godly guy she adores ("It's me, your little Venice bitch"), this Del Rey seems cut from the same old Lolita-esque cloth. Just a couple of minutes in, though, things change: dreamily and slowly, but surely. Accompanied by squiggly psychedelic guitars, the rest of the song consists of Del Rey echoing and repeating herself over and over. "W-w-w-w-w-whatever / Everything, whatever," she hums, almost mindlessly, turning herself inside and out. It's a more a spell than a song, addictive and haunting. "Venice Bitch" is what an unraveling sounds like: the story she's told so many times before, replayed so constantly that it's breaking down.

Which is not to say that Del Rey is on her way to the bottom. "Venice Bitch" is an artifact of contemplation and subversion, and her best song to date. Who is she going to be now? Her forthcoming album, titled Norman Fucking Rockwell, holds some clues. It deliberately targets the myths of great men: "It's kind of about this guy who is such a genius artist but he thinks he’s the shit, and he knows it, and he, like, won't shut up talking about it," Del Rey said in an interview. It also promises to dwell on the tales of devastated female geniuses (the next single, as yet unreleased, is called "Sylvia Plath").

That's a different move for Del Rey. In her earlier records, men were movable feasts, inspiring and anchoring her life while drifting off into the sunset themselves without a thought. But that tape's run out. Now, she's questioning the stories left on the ground for her like dirt. No longer will she be the powerless little woman, left behind in the American Dream's wake.


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