Music Article

The Redemption of Lana Del Rey

She was the most divisive pop star to come along in years; now, with a string of critical and commercial hits, could the singer actually be getting some respect?

If you said back in 2011 that we'd still be talking about Lana Del Rey today, you would have been laughed off the Internet. Common wisdom was that the pop ingenue — who, after a lackluster stint as Lizzy Grant, had the nerve to reboot her career with a new name and stage persona — was a fake phony faker worthy of ridicule. But more than two years after the backlash peaked with her disastrous SNL performance, Lana Del Rey, it seems, has gone legit.

She took the scenic route to get there. While her dreamy breakout "Video Games" made her a near-instant media star (and punching bag), her major-label debut, Born to Die, initially failed to produce any real hits. In fact, it took over a year and a half before one song, a remix of "Summertime Sadness," wound its way to the top 10. In the meantime, she went to the movies: Her haunting "Young and Beautiful" was easily the best thing about 2013's not-great Gatsby, and her spooky new take on the Disney classic "Once Upon a Dream" for the upcoming Maleficent was widely praised. (Her next full-length, Ultraviolence, is reportedly due this spring.) All in all, the haters seem to have cooled; suddenly it's okay to like Lana Del Rey.

So was 2011 wrong? Not exactly. Born provided plenty of fodder for those who couldn't stand her narcotized sex-doll image and sometimes laughable lyrics, but many loved her for that hot-mess vibe. Maybe we just weren't ready for the full LDR experience back then — and as her SNL gig proved, she wasn't ready for us, either. But as the zeitgeist has moved on to the Mileys and Lordes of the next pop moment, we can stop freaking out about what Lana Del Rey means, and hear the (actually pretty great) sound beneath the fury.

Originally posted Feb 14, 2014 Published in issue #1299 Feb 21, 2014 Order article reprints