Why A Formerly Patriotic Pop Star Decided To Ditch The Stars And Stripes
It’s a new Lana Del Ray for Trump’s America.
Image by Lana Del Ray VEVO/YouTube.
The pop singer who once made the iconography of Americana a fundamental part of her brand says she’s giving up flag visuals in her art. In an interview with Pitchfork to promote her new album “Lust for Life,” Lana Del Ray told writer Alex Frank that using the stars and stripes as she once did would feel “weird” to her now because of the Trump presidency:
“I definitely changed my visuals on my tour videos. I’m not going to have the American flag waving while I’m singing ‘Born to Die.’ It’s not going to happen. I’d rather have static. It’s a transitional period, and I’m super aware of that. I think it would be inappropriate to be in France with an American flag. It would feel weird to me now—it didn’t feel weird in 2013.”
Even back in 2013, the singer told Electronic Beats magazine that she didn’t feel patriotic anymore, although in the past her work has evoked a strong sense of American nationalism. (In one video for her song “National Anthem,” she reimagines A$AP Rocky as John F. Kennedy and casts herself as Jackie.) In the New Inquiry’s special Lana-themed issue in 2014, writer Ayesha Siddiqi wrote that “Lana Del Ray “offers an easy patriotism that can be worn like a flag that isn’t also a salute. Like an alien excavating all that we once claimed made us American, Lana takes the artifacts that are too white, too ahistorical to be taken seriously, and removes the insistence upon them.”
This is, however, not the Lana of yesteryear. For many people of color in America, the flag has always represented a country that hates them. But we now live in a time of acute political malfunction, of reactionary mobilization, and many people — like Lana — are starting to feel conflicted about what the flag symbolizes, not just to Americans but to people abroad. She told Frank that she would start every day at the studio talking about what was going on:
“We hadn’t ever done that before, but everyday during the election, you’d wake up and some new horrible thing was happening. Korea, with missiles suddenly being pointed at the western coast. With ‘When the World Was at War We Kept Dancing,’ I was posing a real question to myself: Could this be the end of an era? The fall of Rome?”
Lana would be joining a cadre of pop singers who’ve refashioned themselves in the wake of the Trump presidency, though her approach isn’t as heavy-handed. Katy Perry has spent much of the past year injecting political messages into her music, reinventing herself as an activist artist — although the results can feel impotent — and positioning herself as an alternative to the inoffensive bubble-gum pop of her arch rival, Taylor Swift. It’s always a good opportunity to remind you, however, that celebrities are not political activists.