A spoken-word-poetry album seemed like the logical next step for Lana Del Rey, once she released her existential opus Norman Fucking Rockwell and went full white feminist shortly after. Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass — a collection of 14 poems read in Del Rey’s crisp, ASMR-y voice, with light accompaniment from NFR producer Jack Antonoff — mostly shies away from specifics when it comes to Del Rey’s social commentary, unlike those recent cringeworthy Instagram screeds. But it’s still full of textbook Lana-isms, from allusions to Los Angeles and the 1960s to references to things that are, well, basic. Here’s a short guide to the lines you’re sure to see popping up on Pinterest very soon.
“LA Who Am I to Love You?”
I can’t sleep without you
No one’s ever really held me like you
Not quite tightly, but certainly I feel your body next to me
Smoking next to me
Vaping lightly next to me
And I love that you love the neon lights like me
Orange in the distance
We both love that
No, she’s not talking about a man — this is Del Rey’s definitive love letter to L.A., which she still loves despite the frustration and confusion it often causes her. Of course her personified L.A. vapes “lightly” now, because it’s 2020, not 1969, and she’s kicked her cigarettes, too.
“Past the Bushes Cypress Thriving”
You said you wear your hair long parted in the middle
Long in solidarity just like all his women //
In Long Beach //
In the heat of the summer evening
Like a phoenix like a chem trail like a wavelength No
1. Maybe Del Rey took a note from this woman for her new hairstyle.
2. That’s the first of many wordplay references to Long Beach on this album, putting it right next to Doggystyle and Sublime.
3. Expect a whole lot more chemtrails (and maybe long-haired middle parts too) on Del Rey’s next album, Chemtrails Over the Country Club.
I can’t seem to blow off enough steam to get you out of my head
SoulCycle you to death, run you out of my blood to San Pedro
You knew a SoulCycle reference was impending — although how you SoulCycle someone other than yourself to death, I’m not sure. “My thoughts are about nothing and beautiful and for free!” Del Rey exclaims later in the poem, and honestly, how could you attempt to put a price on a line like this?
In the midst of this mid-life, meltdown, navigational excerise in self-examination,
I also decided to do something else I always wanted to do.
Take sailing lessons in the vibrant bay of Marina del Ray
I signed up for the class as “Elizabeth Grant”,
And nobody blinked an eye //
So, why was I so sure that when I walked into the tiny shack on Valley Way, someone would say
“You’re not a captain of a ship, or a master of the sky!”
No, the fisherman didn’t care, and so neither did I //
And for a brief moment, I felt more myself than ever before.
What I love about this anecdote is how it implies that Del Rey thought a bunch of amateur sailors would know her as a musician, much less that her real name is Elizabeth Grant. But when Lana pivots to sailing in two years to escape the limelight, don’t act too surprised.
I’m not a captain,
I’m not a pilot
And in the same way that I relate to Lady Gaga’s “Alice” because my name also isn’t Alice, I relate to Del Rey’s “SuperCruiser,” because I, too, am neither a pilot, nor a captain, but a writer. “Captain’s aren’t like poets,” Del Rey notes earlier in the poem. “They don’t make metaphors between sea and sky.”
Which, for some reason, made me think of a live show I had seen
Jim Morrison at the Hollywood Bowl, 1968, check date //
The blue trellis lights gave him an unusual aura
Like a halo or something
Made him 8 feet or taller
Del Rey may be embodying a character here — she was born in 1985 after all — but leave it to her to reference Doors singer Jim Morrison to her spiritual healer, the titular Tessa DiPietro. Her response? “Oh — and Jim died at 27 / So find another frame of reference / When you’re referencing heaven // And have you ever read the lyrics to ‘People Are Strange’? / He made no sense!” A true Lana-level burn.
People think that i’m rich and i am but not how they think
i have a truck with a gold key chain in the ignition
and on the back it says: happy joyous and free
Del Rey’s not that rich, she promises. Throughout the rest of this poem, she mentions her “tudor house / under the freeway,” furniture from the Rose Bowl, and “boyfriend box” where she keeps receipts and movie tickets from dates — “just to remind me / of all the things I’ve loved and lost and loved again.” But here, in the second verse of the poem, is the real gem: the keys to her truck with a kitschy saying on a gold key chain, the true symbol of Lana’s Americana. Get those key chains into her merch store now.
“My Bedroom Is a Sacred Place Now — There Are Children at the Foot of My Bed”
I love rose gardens
I plant violets every time someone leaves me
I love the great sequoias of Yosemite
And if you asked my sister to describe the first thing she thinks of when she thinks of me
She would say camp fire smoke
Can Del Rey get any more nature-loving Californian than this? Roses, sequoias, campfires — all she’s missing is a drive out to the desert to look at the stars at night. (If such a reference appears in future Lana Del Rey music or poetry, my lawyers will be in touch.)
“Paradise Is Very Fragile”
My friends tell me to stop calling 911 on the culture,
but it’s either that or I 5150 myself
Leave it to Lana, who very recently dated a celebrity cop, to call 911 on the culture.