Lana Del Rey
Violet Bent Backwards Over The Grass [Audiobook Edition]
I’m new to Lana Del Rey appreciation. I wasn’t ever a fan. Until I heard – and heard again (and could not shake) her most recent album, the brilliant Norman Fucking Rockwell! That happened. I was late to the party, but enthusiastic about finding my place – finally. And then Del Rey decided to follow that up – her finest work to date – with a book of poems. Smart move I reckon. A new album is to follow – but first the poems. And that creates breathing space. Ahead of the book’s launch she presents the work here in Audiobook form her co-producer and regular collaborator Jack Antonoff tinkling away at the piano, sprinkling in some Fender Rhodes too.
There are electronica soundscapes and movie soundtrack moods in and under these poems.
And it works entirely because of Del Rey’s voice.
She has a great delivery for this – talking of breathing space, there’s just something in the way she says these lines, hurried at times, hanging onto the end of the line at others – she caresses the words. She means them. And means the music within them – she can see and hear and feel it and does her best to put that across.
I don’t love every single poem here but I do love the presentation of them.
She manages to blur the weaker lines by entrancing with her delivery. She charges the great lines, charges at them. Nails them to the recording.
It’s also a clever marketing trick. Not only is it something different from a critically adored album of songs. But also it’s a way of introducing anyone reluctant to poetry to this craft. That the poems can be heard – a 3D sort of thing – means there’s a try-before-you-buy aspect; the book becoming the souvenir, another piece of the ephemera – part of the fandom jigsaw.
Maybe the very best of these poems – which seem to come from and speak to Whitman and Kerouac and Plath as obvious and overt touchstones – will really shine on the page. But at any rate they sound great.
And what I loved most about this was just as I realised, about two-thirds of the way through, that it was – in some way – the American Prayer of its time, that Jim Morrison spoken-word recording that was assembled a few years after his death was so crucial to many of us even if it was nonsense, Del Rey namechecks Jim. Reduces his legacy to rubble. Points out that he was a doggerel master. Leaves him hanging there at the end of a poem (Tess DiPietro) as basically a laughing stock. I loved that. And think the comparison – that Violet is the American Prayer of this age – is still largely relevant. On point even.