Lana Del Rey’s ability to make any subject sound beautifully nostalgic, fragile and oh so romantic is a skill she has used time and time again. Her brash and sexual lyrics (see ‘Cola’) sound like innocent whispers in her soft, angelic voice. However, as gun control becomes even more of a pressing issue (if that was possible), Del Rey is using her enchanting ability to lend the same softness to the issue.
On its surface, ‘Looking for America’ is simply another gorgeous song from Del Rey. Simple, vintage and perfectly American, as always, Del Rey delivers. Jack Antonoff, who handles the production here and on her forthcoming album, keeps it quite simple, relying on various softly played guitars to make up the instrumental to back up the swaying vocal of Del Rey. That simplicity and beauty, however, is all the more jarring when the lyrics hit home. Lines like “pull over to watch the children in the park/we used to only worry about them after dark” are particularly haunting as Del Rey manages to capture the growing fear and lack of safety and predictability in life. Although not what one would expect from a song about gun violence, the sweeping, hopeful ballad is all the more effective in conveying the true horror of the world. The dark lyrics hit slightly harder as they meander lazily over the background, hammering home Del Rey’s message.
‘Looking For America’ is a wonderful song, both sonically and as a metaphor, but it also marks a change. The brilliance of Del Rey was her ability to capture the feeling of eras gone by. However, as she turns a chapter, perhaps she has evolved. Maybe now her brilliance is found in using that ability to reflect the darkness of the present era by taking it back in time with her. And, maybe that’s the brilliance the world needs.