Del Rey breaks up with Kanye, aka The American Dream
“It seems we living the American dream,” Kanye West raps in his 2004 track, All Falls Down. Fifteen year’s later Lana Del Rey is here to tell us all that dream, that American dream we have all anointed Kanye West with achieving, is dead. For her latest album, Norman Fucking Rockwell, Del Rey takes on the evolution of the American Dream. From a time in the 1940s where Norman Rockwell depicted patriotic family life to today when Donald Trump is president, Kanye West is blonde and gone, and we are focused on heading to Mars. Del Rey told Vanity Fair about the album:
“It was kind of an exclamation mark: so this is the American dream, right now. This is where we’re at—Norman fucking Rockwell. We’re going to go to Mars, and [Donald] Trump is president, all right. Me and Jack, we just joke around constantly about all the random headlines we might see that week, so it’s a slight cultural reference. But it’s not a cynical thing, really. To me, it’s hopeful, to see everything as a little bit funnier. The chaos of the culture is interesting, and I’m hopeful that there’s room for there to be some movement and excitement within it.”
Kanye West has some of those headlines Del Rey and Jack Antonoff read and most likely found the chaos and humor in. In “the greatest,” Del Rey sings, “L.A. is in flames, it’s getting hot, Kanye West is blond and gone, ‘Life on Mars’ ain’t just a song, Oh, the lifestream’s almost on.” Kanye West is blond and gone. I repeat Kanye West is blond and gone. One can look at this as Lana Del Rey making a political statement. The kind of statement, so many of her fans have been wanting her to make. She, like Taylor Swift, have managed for so long to be considered apolitical, angering some of their most compassionate and albeit woke fans.
In an interview with The New York Times’ Joe Coscarelli, Del Rey elaborated on her Kanye West lyrics:
“Here’s the thing: I don’t want to elicit a response,” she said. “You never feel better for having written something like that. But Kanye just means so much to us. And by the way, I’m grateful to be in a country where everyone can have their own political views. I’m really not more of a liberal than I am a Republican—I’m in the middle. But it was more like the mood and the vibe around, Yo, this man is the greatest! Really? The greatest? It hurt me. Did I have to say anything? No. But it’s more just a line that represents a lot of things.”
Those lyrics do represent a lot of things. First and foremost, it is probably too lazy for us to have them serve a political statement. For the past two decades, we have seen Kanye West as a representative of the American Dream. A black rapper who made a name for himself on the streets of Chicago and became the best selling musician, fashion designer, and multi-millionaire on his way to a billionaire. Kanye West is a Horatio Alger story on steroids. Another black man who made a name for himself on the streets of Chicago became president of the United States. Although it looked different from Norman Rockwell’s American Dream, the American Dream still felt aspirational until Donald Trump.
Lana Del Rey is saying Kanye West represented the American Dream. However, the American dream is dead. West’s support for a president who is the antidote to the American Dream is why. Ironically the lyrics to West’s All Falls Down, continue “But the people highest up got the lowest self-esteem.The prettiest people do the ugliest things.” Del Rey’s sound which has been dubbed as “Hollywood sadcore” has put forth some of the most cinematic and horrifyingly beautiful breakup songs ever. Norman fucking Rockwell is a breakup album with what the American Dream has become: where Los Angeles is burning, Kanye West is fawning over Donald Trump, and instead of addressing the real issues affecting people, we are talking about landing on Mars.