Lana Del Rey’s Instagram posts of her upcoming album’s front and back covers have sparked yet another debate about the singer and her thoughts on race — a conversation that the ‘Summertime Sadness’ artist appeared to be trying to get ahead of.
Pro tip: Saying your “best friends are rappers” isn’t likely to win over anyone when discussing race relations.
“There’s always turmoil and upheaval and in the midst of it — there’s always beautiful music too introducing my new album chemtrails over the country club,” Del Rey wrote Sunday on social media, posting the black-and-white album cover, featuring herself surrounded by 10 smiling women. Its back image shows Del Rey’s face peeking out from among the other women’s backs.
She followed up with a lengthy second statement that began, “I also want to say that with everything going on this year! And no this was not intended — these are my best friends, since you are asking today. And damn! As it happens when it comes to my amazing friends and this cover yes there are people of colour on this records picture and that’s all I’ll say about that but thank you.”
Del Rey also posted the first music video from the album, for the song ‘Chemtrails Over the Country Club’, Monday on YouTube.
It starts with Del Rey taking a sunny drive in a retro dress, pearls, gloves and car — and donning a mesh mask in a nod to another recent controversy. It transitions, ‘Wizard of Oz’-style, to a dark world full of flames and vampire women with glowing eyes. And a white wolf. It’s trippy.
The video also features flashes of the women depicted on the upcoming album cover.
In comments on Sunday’s album-cover Instagram post, however, several people expressed shock, saying things like, “This better not be the album cover.”
Del Rey, who is white, was criticised in May for invoking the names of women artists of colour — Beyoncé, Ariana Grande, FKA twigs, Doja Cat and Nicki Minaj, among others — as she defended herself against accusations of “glorifying abuse” in her recordings.
On Sunday, Del Rey spotlighted a few of the women eatured in the album art, writing in that second statement, “My beautiful friend Valerie from Del Rio Mexico, my dearest friend Alex and my gorgeous friend Dakota Rain as well as my sweetheart Tatiana.”
Because the new album cover is shot in black and white, the women’s skin tones are not easily discerned. In the video, it is clear that not all the women are white.
One commenter wrote to the singer, “Are you anti black and POC? In this time in America it’s more important than ever to show women of all shades. Please think about that next cover.”
Del Rey’s second statement went on: “these are my friends this is my life. We are all a beautiful mix of everything- some more than others which is visible and celebrated in everything I do. In 11 years working I have always been extremely inclusive without even trying to. My best friends are rappers my boyfriends have been rappers. My dearest friends have been from all over the place, so before you make comments again about a WOC/POC issue, I’m not the one storming the capital, I’m literally changing the world by putting my life and thoughts and love out there on the table 24 seven. Respect it.”
The statement in its entirety was a trigger for some people.
“That comment is so problematic in so many ways and I don’t understand how she can have activists like Joan Baez in her personal life and still get away with saying things like this or even thinking this is okay,” one person wrote on Del Rey’s post. “I love her dearly, and as an artist she has been the most influential thing in my own art and life. I literally have her lyrics tattooed on my body but I’m also a political activist and I cannot defend this ... at all.”
The line about her best friends and boyfriends being “rappers” drew targeted criticism.
“The fact that you think ‘rapper’ equates to a ‘POC’ is the real issue here karen,” a commenter wrote.
Another user simply didn’t like the artistic concept.
“This would’ve been ok as a picture used in the inside of the album or something to acknowledge her friends and what not. But for the front? Just tacky and comes off half assed, no artistic effort at all,” the person wrote.
That said, there were plenty of comments from fans who were excited about the new music, wanted to know the album pre-order date and defended Del Rey.
“People have decided to hate on her and twist her words no matter what she says,” said one person. “I’m so tired of this unreasonable and persecutory cancel culture. You don’t want her to evolve as a person, you just want to criminalise her so that you can feel superior. Your assumptions are not true at all, she has said it herself.”
Said another, “I’m SO excited beyond words. I say it about every new album of yours, but this is really going to be the best album to date — no questions. Love uuuu.”
And finally, one person asked if people could all “stop complaining about the album cover? Just be thankful we are getting an album.”
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“Chemtrails Over the Country Club” is set to be released March 21.