MUSIC MONDAY: LANA DEL REY - VENICE BITCH
“Venice Bitch,” the second single from Lana Del Rey’s exquisitely titled new album Norman Fucking Rockwell, is unlike anything she’s ever written—but it takes a while to realize it. To a characteristically pensive fingerpicked guitar lick, Lana opens the song with a series of classic Lana-isms: Admitting she’s run out of fucks to give, rhyming “ice cream” with “ice queen,” alluding to dreams in jeans and leather. In an eerily familiar chorus—which melts into the mix just when you’d expect—she pledges allegiance to a particular kind of “American-made” devotion, so distant it could just be a memory, or a vintage car fading from view in the passing lane.
You think you’ve heard it before, and Lana’s right there with you. “You write, I tour/We make it work,” she sings with the cadence of someone who’s long grown accustomed to routine. But as so often happens when we start getting comfortable, things slide off the rails. At nearly 10 minutes, “Venice Bitch” is the longest song in Lana Del Rey’s catalog; It’s also one of her most gripping. While her work has never quite been minimalist (few artists so keenly understand the importance of writing a good bridge), she has never allowed herself to sink so completely into an atmosphere, burrowing deep into the song’s dark blue, moody grooves. She speaks as clearly through the song’s multiple hooks as she does through its buzzy wall of guitars or the long, meandering synth solo that splits her narrative into two hallucinatory halves.
Like last week’s “Mariners Apartment Complex,” the atmosphere of “Venice Bitch” is decidedly set in the golden haze of 1970s FM radio. But where that previous song’s arrangement occasionally felt like a cozy “This Is Us” flashback, “Venice Bitch” is gnarlier and more vivid. For an artist so immersed in her lineage, Lana has never really sold nostalgia: Her nods to the past often play more like alien transmissions than those-were-the-days laments. So even when she shouts out a mid-century painter and wholesale cops the refrain of an oldies standard, “Venice Bitch” feels more like an ode to embracing the present. Nothing gold can stay, but some moments linger longer than others.