Although I do fancy myself as quite indie, I have my moments where I can be classified as very, very basic. The sorority in college. The addiction to Starbucks. The massive crush on Harry Styles. The way I sometimes scream and run onto the dance floor when a song I love comes on at the club. The five flower crowns I own. And with this basic betchiness comes an obsession with Lana Del Rey, the throaty modern callback to a lounge singer era steeped in ethereal woodland fairy goodness.
After reading an article on Buzzfeed called ‘Don’t Let Men Steal Your Favourite Songs,’ I felt compelled to write this because I did just that. I let a boy who didn’t deserve me steal not only one of my favourite songs, but also one of my favourite artists. And he kept her without even really wanting her for nearly a year.
I met this significant boything right before I was accepted into a study abroad programme for the following term, so the timing was less than ideal. It was October 2012, Born to Die was incredibly popular and we bonded over a shared love of the album in a dark, smoky car. First, ‘Diet Mountain Dew’ was our song. Then it became ‘National Anthem’ and then ‘Radio.’ He would tuck my hair behind my ear, run his hand down the glittery sorority letters on the leg of my sweatpants, and whisper ‘You had me at Lana Del Rey.’ And I loved it.
When I went overseas, we decided to remain an item regardless of our short time knowing one another and it was hard. But we did it despite the ups and downs, and I loved that I could listen to Lana’s ethereal crooning just to feel closer to him from an ocean away. In May, one month before I was due to return stateside, I finally saw The Great Gatsby with my flatmate. That was it. ‘Young and Beautiful’ became our song. I envisioned myself standing on a beach as the song played, wearing a large sunhat, oversized Yves Saint Laurent sunglasses, bright red lipstick and a floral bikini as a gossamer white sheet blew in the breeze behind me while he took photos of the sea . I imagined the song spinning lazily on his record player as we sat in front of a fire drinking whiskey sours in the home we would definitely own someday. I pictured using that song as our first dance at our wedding, when even in my highest heels, my face would be pressed in his chest – he was a good foot taller than I am. Because in my 21 year old heart I knew – I had seen the world (I left our tiny campus and lived alone in another country), done it all and was ready to be with him, he would still love me when I was no longer younger and beautiful, and there was no way I would ever fall out of love with his dark sapphire eyes and voice like thunder. We had just survived one of the hardest things that couples have to face – distance – and we had done it with the help of Lana Del Rey.
I’ve learned that it is very easy to let people see what you want them to see about you when you are separated while trying to grow a relationship. I’ve also learned that sometimes, distance gives us a way of keeping things alive when close proximity would have killed it. Our relationship was the canary and the cat – as long as we were separated, things were great. And, as with any cat that knows it will never swipe the canary from its cage, his interest waned. His interest waned enough that he moved on completely without even thinking to alert me. After a full 8 months of dreams and plans for a future together, he didn’t even have the courtesy to let me know this was no longer something he wanted. He waited until we were both on the same campus, in the same building on different floors, and then ended our 10 and a half month thing that had withstood an ocean with a text message. And I was destroyed.
Lana Del Rey, but especially ‘Young and Beautiful,’ became a punch in the stomach. It took the introductory notes and Lana’s breathy exhale to knock me to my feet, sobbing so hard it was silent. There is a photoset taken of me at a party roughly two months post-ending. I am standing with my friend who I haven’t seen since I left to study abroad. In the first one, she is grinning and I am in the throes of proceeding to sob. In the second photo, my grin matches hers. The reason? ‘Young and Beautiful’ started to play over the speakers at the party we were both at, and my friend Jen had to yell for the hostess to turn it off before I cried off all of my mascara. Slowly, songs from Born to Die were purged from my Recently Played and Top 25 Most Played iPod playlists. And I slowly let all the fantasies I had of him leaving his new girlfriend and reclaiming me fade away. I leaned on Best Coast’s then-brand new EP, Fade Away, which seemed to give a outer voice to my inner thoughts. I became the girl who blasted A$AP Rocky as loud as possible driving to and from class, because I was going to be damned if I let him take that artist from me. But I let him have the crowning gem in my musical coping crown. I let him have Lana Del Rey when it was clear that he and his new girlfriend preferred hard rap to anything remotely indie and sweet.
The months went on. I slowly found the wistful longing and utter desolation I felt for him turn into utter disdain. And I found myself listening to Lana Del Rey again – everything, except for one song. ‘Once Upon a Dream’ from the upcoming Maleficent? Done. ‘Damn You’ from her earliest demos? Done. But I couldn’t face ‘Young and Beautiful’ without thinking about how I had been thrown aside and left to rot by someone who was clearly subpar to me.
But then, it happened. One gorgeous morning in July, I was walking down Westbourne Park Grove. It had rained that night but the summer sky was a brilliant blue with perfect white-cotton clouds. I had my iPod on shuffle as I walked towards Portobello Road. ‘Young and Beautiful’ started to play. I looked up at the London sky, thought of the night I saw The Great Gatsby at the Odeon the year before with my flatmate (who I actually love more than life itself), and I smiled, reclaiming my song.