Lana, we need to talk.
Much as I'd rather chat with you in person (while getting pedicures and perusing the latest Anthropologie catalog, natch), I know you have a really busy schedule, so the Internet will have to act as our interface for this conversation.
Like so many of your fans, I'm completely head-over-heels psyched for your new album, Honeymoon, to come out Friday (Sept. 18). I'm already loving "High By the Beach" (both the song and the video, which we'll get into a little later), as well as "Terrence Loves You." In fact, I'm already carefully and methodically planning which appropriately muted filter I'll use to take an Instagram picture of the vinyl version.
I've been a huge fan of your music for years. I so distinctly remember sitting in my dorm at NYU, watching "Video Games" for the first time. I was instantly hooked by the song's haunting sense of longing and the ethereal melodies. It takes courage to express vulnerability, and to express that vulnerability in such a rich, relatable way is truly a talent.
All that said, I have to be honest: I've been feeling disappointed by you lately, and I want you to be better.
I was more than a little taken aback last year, when you told The Fader that "the issue of feminism is just not an interesting concept" to you.
By way of an explanation you said, "I'm more interested in, you know, SpaceX and Tesla, what's going to happen with our intergalactic possibilities. ... Whenever people bring up feminism, I'm like, 'God. I'm just not really that interested.'"
First thing's first, I totally agree with you: space is f--king awesome. Seriously, I could live at the Hayden Planetarium, surviving only on dry ice cream and gift shop amenities. I worship the ground Neil deGrasse Tyson walks on (does he walk? I imagine he glides, hovering ever-so-slightly above the earth).
But girl, you can love space and care about women's rights too. Sally Ride was interested in the same "intergalactic possibilities" that fascinate you. That's why she decided to rocket straight outta our atmosphere, making history as the first American woman in space. And guess what? She was a feminist!
No one should force someone else to identify as a feminist. And it's true that feminism often seems to be wrapped in a question that results in female celebs, no matter how they answer, being reviled or revered — sometimes so much that people clamor to knock them off their perfect feminist pedestal.
Nevertheless, while I can only speak for myself, it would mean a lot to me as a fan if you used your platform to talk about issues like women's rights rather than dismiss them as an uninteresting concept.
I love music (particularly yours), as well as social justice. It's always been difficult for me to un-marry those two things — to divorce art from artist. Maybe it's because while growing up I listened to a lot of musicians who not only made great songs, but also actively spoke out against oppressive systems. Take Johnny Clegg, a South African singer-songwriter who was heavily involved in the anti-Apartheid movement in the 1980s.
There's the old saying that life imitates art, and vice versa. But I think the symbiotic relationship of the two things extends beyond imitation; it's inspiration. I believe anyone's personal views and life experiences directly inspire the art they create, and, in turn, that the art they create inspires their identity.
Maybe that's why it's so hard for me, as a fan, to grapple with the comments you've made regarding feminism: I struggle to separate your art from your identity.
I also saw that you recently revisited your Fader comments in an interview with V Magazine, conducted by James Franco. You said:
"The luxury we have as a younger generation is being able to figure out where we want to go from here, which is why I've said things like, 'I don't focus on feminism, I focus on the future' ... It's not to say that there's not more to do in that area."
To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure how to interpret that, and no matter how much I try to make sense of it, I can't. I guess that's because it seems like in your songs and videos, you do care about women — especially the way mainstream media treats them.
I adored the way you handled the people in and out of the music industry who said you were "inauthentic," and you seemed well aware that the use of such a term as an insult is often gender-based. It's rare, if ever, that men face this same criticism. In fact, accusations of inauthenticity are often issued to defend men's actions (e.g. the idea that Eminem doesn't "really mean" the misogynistic, transphobic things he says because he's speaking from one of his "alter egos.")
You know gender inequality exists. Gender-based criticisms of your image inspired your tongue-in-cheek song, "F-cked My Way Up To The Top" — the trite, misogynistic reasoning people "give" when women become successful. And then there's the video for "High By The Beach," in which you are the Tarantino-esque heroine of my dreams, shooting down a helicopter from the sky. Correct me if this is wrong, but it seems like this video is a commentary on the ever-present paparazzi invading your life. While all celebs have their own qualms about the paparazzi, it's clear that women endure an extreme amount of media scrutiny, especially when it comes their bodies.
Look, it's no artist's duty to do anything, but it's worth considering what certain actions would mean to your fans, especially younger ones. Maybe you could take a cue from some of your own idols, who've made incredible music while using their celebrity status to advance social progress. I know you love Lou Reed, so lets use him as an example. Reed wasn't just a legendary musician, but also was a champion of LGBT rights who used his art as an opportunity to discuss issues like the treatment of bisexual people. In "Kill Your Sons," for example, he wrote about the electroshock therapy he was given as a teen to "cure" him of his bisexuality.
I guess all I'm trying to say here is that Lana, "I love you, but you're bringing me down." (I know that's not your song, but you get what I mean). I know you're smart, I know you're creative and I know you care about women. But it would mean a lot to me — and potentially a lot of other young, female fans — if you showed it a little better.