Pretty When You Cry

This sounds piped in straight from the 1960’s. Partly for the West Coast psychedelic production, but mostly for the retrograde sentiment. It’s been at least four decades since “You’re pretty when you cry” was a legit thing that could be said to someone (one hopes.) And it’s certainly been at least that long since that kind of sentiment was a legit thing you could write an un-ironic song about. The 60’s were all awash with doe-eyed girls singing songs written by men about how their entire lives and identities were built around their men. Funny how, once those girls started writing their own songs, those sentiments faded out real fast. Almost no one writes or sings torch songs anymore, which we may take as a sign of some kind of social progress. For those of us who secretly enjoy crying into our pillow and contemplating soft-grunge suicide when we don’t get all of the male attentions, there’s Lana Del Rey.

The Other Woman

Lana Del Rey has a lot of nerve taking up a Nina Simone song – some would say – but I think she made a relevant choice. If nothing else, it’s deeply thought provoking how differently the same words sound, when separated by several decades of social progress. When Simone sang about the other woman, it was as an honest-to-god blues song. Coming in 1959, a time when women genuinely had little to no recourse about the situations they found themselves in in life, the figure of the other woman was a tragic one. Once a mistress, never a wife. Today, of course, the idea that getting involved with a married man is enough to tar one’s reputation for life, or that one even has such a thing as a ‘reputation’ to be tarred upon, is hopelessly retrograde. So when young Lana sings about it, it must be as a pastiche of social roles that some women may still inhabit but which can easily be cast aside for better ones. Is she really making a social point here? Or does she just enjoy the tone of self pity it allows her to take? Well, I’m not sure how self aware Lana Del Rey really is, but she has to grasp that what in Nina Simone’s time was a broken life is in ours just a mildly poor lifestyle choice, and that there is no way to really interpret it without some degree of irony.