Lana del Rey portraying a California cult leader in her latest music video—administering acid as communion, literally drinking the kool-aid—isn’t really outside her purview, as this is a persona she’s been lightweight constructing from the beginning.
True creepzone Father John Misty is meant to be the Manson character here, of course, as signified by the beard and the lost girls surrounding him, but it’s del Rey who gets to be the real boss, acting as the locus and helping Father John “turn on” by rights of a manicured finger placing square cellophane on his freaky tongue. Plus, she sings a cult preacher’s tale on a trap beat:
Baby if you wanna leave
Come to California, be a freak like me, too
Screw your anonymity
Loving me is all you need to feel
This video is, perhaps, the most salient articulation of del Rey’s mythology, the death and drugs and California, White Album Cliff Notes nihilism she puts forth in both her music and in interviews. Of course the metaphors are a little obvious, but her trade is in broadstroke iconography, which is why it works on arty types and Kanye and sorority girls alike: if your end game is for everyone in the world to think you’re weird and arcane, the irony is that you gotta be pretty straightforward about communicating it.
Then the death cult turns into a lovely underwater Debussy ballet and everything is fine. No one croaks from poison. The myth continues unto eternity.
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