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Pitchfork Interview: "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: A Conversation With Lana Del Rey"


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#1 OFFLINE   yevgeniakrasnova

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 04:17 PM

http://pitchfork.com...h-lana-del-rey/
 

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: A Conversation With Lana Del Rey

On the eve of her fourth album, the pagan pop star sounds more content than ever. How did she get there?

Lana_Header.jpg

 

Famous artists are notoriously late, but when I arrive about 20 minutes early for an interview at Lana Del Rey’s Santa Monica studio, she is ready for me, offering a handshake and a smile. It is the week before her new album, Lust for Life, will be released, but she seems unhurried and relaxed; when I ask if she’s been busy in the leadup to such a big day, she says “no” with a laugh, as if she knows she probably should be. She is not dressed like the glammed-up mystic you see in music videos and photographs: her hair, long and brown, is tied functionally behind her neck, and she is in a white T-shirt and blue jeans, with cream canvas sneakers and white ankle socks on her feet. Right away, she invites me through a side door into the inner sanctum where her brooding songs are created.
 

For Lana acolytes, this is a mythic place. She has recorded here since 2012’s Born to Die, her major label debut. It is a beautiful room filled with sun coming in from a skylight and two windows, the opposite of the average dank music studio. It looks a bit like how you’d expect Lana Del Rey’s workplace to look: vaguely and warmly retro, with dark wood cabinets and a mid-century-looking painting with interlacing geometric shapes hanging on the back wall. In the center of the room is a scratched-up leather club chair with a Tammy Wynette album cover facing it. (“I always have Tammy there,” she says of the country singer best known for her ode to everlasting devotion, “Stand by Your Man.”) This chair, and not the actual booth in the front of the room, is where Lana sits to record her vocals. “I get red light fever in the booth,” she says. She likes that the studio is by the beach, where she’ll sometimes go to listen to mixes of songs on her iPhone.

 

The studio is owned and operated by Rick Nowels, her longtime producer. He has come down today to listen to the album with us, a pair of sunglasses firmly on his face. Nowels has more than 20 years on Lana, who is 32, and he inhabits something of an uncle role, making the songwriter a bit bashful when he sweetly refers to a ballad called “When the World Was at War We Kept Dancing” as a “masterpiece” for its lyrical message about the importance of finding ways to have fun, even in the Trump era. Gearing up to record what would become Born to Die, Lana had met with a number of producers who all tried to tell her what she should or should not sound like, with some encouraging her to ditch the breathy vocal style that would become her signature. When she finally met Nowels, he didn’t want to change a thing. “I went through a hundred and eleven producers just to find someone who says ‘yes’ all the time,” she says. “Everyone is so obsessed with saying ‘no’—they break you down to build you up.”

 

Lana is a studio junkie—Lust for Life is her fourth album in about five years. She says a day that she works is better than a day that she doesn’t. Nowels tells me that even though the new album isn’t out yet, she’s already making new music. “If I get a great melody in my head, I know it’s a gift,” she says. As we sit down to listen to Lust for Life, she is clearly at home: Like a good host, she offers me her comfy leather singing chair and instead curls up on a blue velvet couch nearby. She has a familial rapport with not just Nowels, but engineers Dean Reid and Kieron Menzies, who she credits again and again for making her work better, and the four of them ruminate on mastering, making jokes about Lana’s perfectionism when it comes to the final cuts of her song.

 

The album, like all of her work, is fastidiously and emphatically Lana in its sound and atmosphere: a haze of lazy pacing and flowery melodies, conjuring a foreboding backdrop for lyrics about summer and antique celebrity icons and dangerous, dissatisfying relationships. Front and center in the mix is her voice, which has a crooner’s tone and an especially wide range, from deep and low to high and sharp. Most pop stars rely on reinvention to retain relevance, but her output is remarkably consistent. She says her main criteria is whether or not a song sounds like it will transport listeners to somewhere else in their minds. On each album, the skeleton remains more or less the same while she infuses her work with stylistic elements from different genres, from rap to rock to jazz. Lust for Life draws from folk and hip-hop, two genres that she says she loves because they both privilege real storytelling.

 

The new record is a departure in key ways, though. In the past, Lana has become famous for themes that are, at times, hopeless: toxic romance, violence, drug use, despair, aging, death. This isn’t to say every song she has ever recorded is a downer, or that she hasn’t displayed a knowing sense of humor about her reputation. But her relentless obsession with the dark arts is a reason why her fans love her with an almost religious fervor; she’s had issues with people breaking into her house. “They want to talk,” she says chillingly. Her menacing themes have also led to resistance at certain momentsfrom larger audiences who, perhaps trained to think of pop music as a tool of empowerment and empathy, just can’t face her nihilism.

 

While Lust for Life certainly has it’s share of grim moments, it is not as much of an avalanche of gloom, and perhaps offers signposts to a happier future. At times, Lana even approaches uncomplicated joy, like on first single “Love.” The album also contains some of her first songs that deal with a universe larger than the tangled intensity of one-on-one relationships—there are tracks intended to be balms and battle cries for trying times, which, like many Americans, she found herself fretting over constantly during the 2016 election campaign. And for the first time on any Lana album, she’s also opening the door to a number of guest vocalists: A$AP Rocky, Playboi Carti, the Weeknd, Stevie Nicks, and Sean Ono Lennon on a Beatles-referencing song called “Tomorrow Never Came.” “I FaceTimed with Yoko, and she said it was her most favorite thing Sean’s ever done,” Lana says.

Lana_Inline1.jpg

 

After listening to the album, Lana and I peel off to a small office on the other side of the studio for our interview. Before we begin, she pulls out her iPhone to record the conversation along with me, a defensive move she’s taken up after years of feeling manipulated and harangued by the media. When answering questions, she is at turns thoughtful and strident, seriously considering topics like her attempts at a brighter life and how Trump has affected her love of Americana, and also entirely unafraid to bat away questions she finds boring or irrelevant. At one point, she laughs so hard at a silly sidebar in our conversation that she has a coughing fit and has to take a break. She says she binge watches “The Bachelor,” and that while all of her friends now call her Lana—not Elizabeth Grant, her birth name—her parents are the two people who do not. She is wry about the new song “Groupie Love,” in which she writes herself not as the star but in the role of a worshipful devotee: “Old habits die hard—I still love a rock star.” When I ask her if she is bothered by TMZ dating rumors, which have recently speculated about her relationship with rapper G-Eazy, she gives an unexpectedly goading answer: “They’re usually true. Maybe where there’s smoke there’s fire.”

 

Which is to say: She’s kinda regular, not the hardened artist we’ve heard in her songs, but someone, it would seem, who likes to hang out and chat about life and music. Talking about good times brings up memories of rough ones, and when the conversation veers towards rocky terrain, she reveals an artist—and a person—at a pivotal moment.

 

Lana_Inline2.jpg
 
Pitchfork: A few years ago you were singing lyrics like “I have nothing much to live for,” and now you’re smiling on the cover of Lust for Life. How’d you get to a happier place?
Lana Del Rey: I made personal commitments.
 
Commitments to what?
Well, they’re personal. [laughs] I had some people in my life that made me a worse person. I was not sure if I could step out of that box of familiarity, which was having a lot of people around me who had a lot of problems and feeling like that was home base. Because it’s all I know. I spent my whole life reasoning with crazy people. I felt like everyone deserved a chance, but they don’t. Sometimes you just have to step away without saying anything
 
Your past albums often presented a claustrophobic universe made up of just you and one other person, but all of a sudden it’s like you’ve got your eyes wide open and you’re looking at the world around you.
Developmentally, I was in the same place for a very long time, and then it just took me longer than most people to be able to be more out there. Being more naturally shy, it’s taken stretching on my part to just continue to integrate into the local community, global community, to grow as a person. Also, getting really famous doesn’t help you grow with the community. It’s important to have your own life. It’s hard with how accessible things are. Hacking? Email is just a no for me. I do a lot to make sure I don’t feel trapped.
 
Your fans are famously obsessive. Do they ever cross the line?
They fucking have. Someone stole both my cars. All the scary shit. I’ve had people in my house for sure, and I didn’t know they were there while I was there. I fucking called the police. I locked the door. Obviously, that’s the one in one-hundred-thousand people who’s crazy. But I [had a hard time sleeping] for a minute.
 
Fame can be isolating, but you are making a real effort to not let it be.
It’s going to be isolating. Period. Unless you stretch past it. But it takes so much footwork. Getting over the uncomfortability of being the one person in the room who everyone recognizes. The last few years, I’m out all the time: clubs, bars, shows. For years I was more quietly in the mix, always through the back door, do not tell anyone I’m coming. And now I’ve relaxed into it where I’ll just show up. I don’t need a special ticket. I’ll just go sit wherever. It feels a little more like I’m myself again.
If you’re happier these days, what do you think when you hear an old lyric from an old record, like, “He hit me and it felt like a kiss,” from “Ultraviolence”?
I don’t like it. I don’t. I don’t sing it. I sing “Ultraviolence” but I don’t sing that line anymore. Having someone be aggressive in a relationship was the only relationship I knew. I’m not going to say that that [lyric] was 100 percent true, but I do feel comfortable saying what I was used to was a difficult, tumultuous relationship, and it wasn’t because of me. It didn’t come from my end.
 
Now you want to present a different face to the world on Lust for Life?
No. I don’t care. I would just say I am different. And even being a little bit different makes me not want to sing that line. To me, it just was what it was. I deal with what’s in my lyric—you’re not dealing with it. I was annoyed when people would ask me about that lyric. Like, who are you?
 
Do you think you romanticize danger in your music?
No. I don’t like it. It’s just the only thing [I’ve known]. So I’m trying to do a new thing. I never wrote better when I had a lot of turmoil going on. Born to Die was already done before any of the shit hit the fan. When things are good, the music is better. I’m trying to change from the way I thought things were gonna be to what I feel like they could be, which is maybe just brighter.
 
But, even with some new perspectives, Lust for Life is still very melancholy at moments. If you make sad music, which you’ve done for so long, does it necessarily mean you’re sad?Yeah. I think for most people, regardless of what they say, it’s probably a direct reflection of their inner world. With my first record, I didn’t feel upset. I felt very excited, and then I felt a little more confused.
 
After the release of Born to Die, you faced a lot of criticism, partly around the issue of whether you were or were not authentic. Do you think of yourself as authentic?
Of course. I’m always being myself. They don’t know what authentic is. If you think of all the music that came out until 2013, it was super straight and shiny. If that’s authentic to you, this is going to look like the opposite. I think that shit is stylized. Just because I do my hair big does not mean I’m a product. If anything, I’m doing my own hair, stuffing my own fucking stuffing in there if I have a beehive. Music was in a super weird place when I became known, and I didn’t really like any of it
 
Did you ever feel like the criticism had a misogynistic bent?
No. Women hated me. I know why. It’s because there were things I was saying that either they just couldn’t connect to or were maybe worried that, if they were in the same situation, it would put them in a vulnerable place.
 
You weren’t singing empowering things.
No, I wasn’t. That wasn’t my angle. I didn’t really have an angle—that’s the thing.
 
Have you noticed that all songs on the radio are bummers now? That Lil Uzi Vert lyric—“All my friends are dead”—sounds almost like a Lana lyric.
There’s been a major sonic shift culturally. I think I had a lot to do with that. I do. I hear a lot of music that sounds like those early records. It would be weird to say that it didn’t. I remember seven years ago I was trying to get a record deal, and people were like, “Are you kidding? These tunes? There’s zero market for this.” There was just such a long time where people had to fit into that pop box.
 
With all the flak you’ve received over the years, particularly after Born to Die, some people would have thrown in the towel. But you doubled down and made an even more fucked up, almost hyper-Lana record with Ultraviolence.
so double downed. [The early criticism] made me question myself—I didn’t know if it was always going to be that way. You can’t put out records if 90 percent of the reviews in places like the Times are going to be negative. That would be crazy. It would have made sense to step all the way back, but I was like, Let me put out three more records and see if I can just stand in the eye of the storm. Not shift too much. Let me just take some of the [production] off so you can hear things a little bit better; I thought people were maybe getting distracted. I did the same thing with Honeymoon. Everyone around here heard it and was like, “It’s a cool record, but you know it’s not going to be on the radio, right?” And I was like, “Yeah. I told [record executive] Jimmy [Iovine] when I signed, ‘If you want to sign me, this is all it’s ever going to be.’” I was just so committed to making music because I believe in what I do. All I had to do was not quit.
 
So that Ultraviolence woman who is so swept up in turmoil—is she still there on Lust for Life?
We’ll see. That’s been my experience up until now, but, like, I’m trying.
 
Some of the sparer, really heartfelt songs on Lust for Life reminded me of the Ultraviolence song “Black Beauty.”
That’s a sad song. In that song—[singsI keep my lips red like cherries in the spring/Darling, you can’t let everything seem so dark blue—that’s a girl who is still seeing the blue sky and a putting on a pop of color just for herself. But this [other] person—it was all black for them. And my world became inky with those overtones. [At this, Lana begins to cry, and we pause for a moment.]
 
What made you cry just now?
In that moment, when I said “pop of color,” I was connected to that feeling of only being able to see a portion of the world in color. And when you feel that way, you can feel trapped.
 
Are you seeing the world in color now?
[sighs] I don’t really know how to describe my perspective at the moment.
 
But you’re trying, and that’s what Lust for Life is about?
It’s not. I don’t know what it’s about. I don’t know what it is.
 
Is the album a way of saying that you at least want to be happy?
No. It’s just that something is happening.
 
What makes you happy?
I’m really simple. I love nature. I like hikes. Being by the water—I don’t always get in. I love the elements. Playing an outdoor festival. Love that feeling.
 
What bums you out?
Feeling like going backwards.
 
Is there a storyline to the album?
Yeah.
 
What’s the story?
You have to figure it out.
 
Just a few years ago you were saying you didn’t care about feminism, and now you are writing protest songs and meditations on war and peace.
Because things have shifted culturally. It’s more appropriate now than under the Obama administration, where at least everyone I knew felt safe. It was a good time. We were on the up-and-up.
Women started to feel less safe under this administration instantly. What if they take away Planned Parenthood? What if we can’t get birth control? Now, when people ask me those questions, I feel a little differently. The reason why I asked Stevie Nicks to be on the record is because she changes when her environment changes, and I’m like that as well.
In “When the World Was at War We Kept Dancing,” I wrote, “Boys, don’t make too much noise/Don’t try to be funny/Other people may not be understanding.” Like, Can you tone down your over-boisterous rhetoric that isn’t working? “God Bless America - And All the Beautiful Women in It” is a little shoutout to the women and anyone else who doesn’t always feel safe walking down the street late at night. That’s what I was thinking of when I wrote, “Even when I’m alone I’m not lonely/I feel your arms around me.” It’s not always how I feel when I’m walking down the street, but sometimes in my music I try to write about a place that I’m going to get to.
 
Do you feel unsafe?
I feel less safe than I did when Obama was president. When you have a leader at the top of the pyramid who is casually being loud and funny about things like that, it’s brought up character defects in people who already have the propensity to be violent towards women. I saw it right away in L.A. Walking down the street, people would just say things to you that I had never heard.
When people asked me the feminist question before, I was like, “I’m not really experiencing personal discrimination as a woman. I feel like I’m doing well. I headline shows just like the Weeknd does. I got tons of women in my life, love women, support women.” I just felt like, Why don’t we talk about the music first? I can tell you that what I have done for women is tell my own story, and that’s all anyone can do.
 
Is it harder to be romantic about America when Trump is the nation’s biggest celebrity?
It’s certainly uncomfortable. I definitely changed my visuals on my tour videos. I’m not going to have the American flag waving while I’m singing “Born to Die.” It’s not going to happen. I’d rather have static. It’s a transitional period, and I’m super aware of that. I think it would be inappropriate to be in France with an American flag. It would feel weird to me now—it didn’t feel weird in 2013.
All the guys in the studio—we didn’t know we were going to start walking in every day and talking about what was going on. We hadn’t ever done that before, but everyday during the election, you’d wake up and some new horrible thing was happening. Korea, with missiles suddenly being pointed at the western coast. With “When the World Was at War We Kept Dancing,” I was posing a real question to myself: Could this be the end of an era? The fall of Rome?
 
Nostalgia can be really corny when it’s not done well, and you’re all about nostalgia. How do you try to get it right?
I know I walk the line sometimes. [laughs] I saw comments that people said about my little “Coachella - Woodstock in my Mind” song. I write that title and I’m like, OK, I know I went there. But I think it’s amazing. It’s on the nose. It’s so on the nose. But sometimes things just are what they are. I’m at Coachella for three days, and North Korea is pointing a missile at us, and I’m watching Father John Misty with my best friend, who’s his wife—that’s all I’m literally saying. It’s just like, Yeah, I’m a hipster. I know it. Got it.
 
You mentioned working with Stevie Nicks on this album, what was it like recording with her?
She came in straight off a plane from her last show of like 60 cities, which I was actually supposed to open for. She had asked me, and I was like, “Oh my god.” But I couldn’t because I don’t want to do a 60-show tour.
She flew through the door. Blond highlights, rose gold glasses, gold-tipped nails, rose gold lipstick, gold chains, gold rings, black on black on black. Very stylish. And meanwhile, I looked like a housewife of 15—flannel on flannel, because it was a cold night. And I was like, Why did I not dress up for Stevie Nicks?
At the end of the track, she sings, then I sing, then she sings. I was kinda embarrassed. I was like, “I sound so little compared to you.” And she was like, “That’s good, you’re my little echo.” And I was like, Stevie called me her little echo. It’s a stupid little thing, but she was very nurturing in that way, and not belittling of the fact that I had a more breathy voice. Which I wasn’t even aware of until I was shoulder-to-shoulder on a track with someone with less air in their voice. I felt a little more exposed in that moment. But she was like, “That’s you. You just be you.”
 
Speaking of musical icons, can you tell me about performing at Kim and Kanye’s wedding party?
It was a surprise for Kim. I hadn’t met her. I sang “Young and Beautiful,” “Summertime Sadness,” “Blue Jeans.” Kanye requested “Young and Beautiful.” The girls—the Kardashians—were so nice. There was only one front row, just them, right there. They were living for it. They started playing Kanye and Jay-Z records for the rest of the thing and it rained and everyone was just up dancing in the rain. I stayed for like 40 minutes and then I left.
 
People have made a big deal about that necklace you are selling that seems to have a coke spoon. Is it a coke spoon?
Yeah. It’s funny. I have a flask and a lighter as well. I don’t do coke.
 
You’ve said in the past that you weren’t drinking either, and yet it turns up in your music. Do you drink now?
No comment.
 
You sing about drugs and alcohol a lot.
Not on this record. I well used to do a lot of drugs, but I actively don’t now.
 
What kind of drugs did you do?
No comment. [laughs] But I think the coke spoon is kinda funny. I’m just like, Whatever. I don’t think it’s going to make anyone do coke.
 
Are you conscious of when you walk right up to a taboo in your work?
Not really. That’s the one thing I don’t have my finger on. I am there, but there are times I don’t really know it. There’s certain stuff that I think is kinda dope that I know other people might be like, Okayyyyy.
 
Like singing about death?
That’s real life though. Super real life.
 
You got a lot of shit for saying “I wish I was dead” to a journalist a few years ago.
Fuck that guy, though. I didn’t think he would print it and make it the headline. I was having a really tough time. I had been on the road for a year. I was really struggling. I was just stupid, I was like, “I fucking want to die.” Maybe I meant it. I don’t really know.
 
Which of your albums is the most autobiographical?
All of them. The last record—I listen to a song like “Terrence Loves You,” and I just really feel for myself at the time. The person I’m singing about—[singsYou are what you are/I don’t matter to anyone—did I really just say I don’t matter to anyone? That’s fucking crazy.
 
Did you feel that way?
I guess so. I sang it.
 
What makes you feel proud?
My records. I love my records. I love them. I’m proud of the way I’ve put parts of my story into songs in ways that only I understand. In terms of my gauge of what’s good, it’s really just what I think. I have an internal framework that is the only thing I measure it by. My own opinion is really important to me. It starts and stops there.

 


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#2 OFFLINE   sexwithme

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 06:23 PM

Love this interview, the illustrations are amazing
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#3 OFFLINE   naachoboy

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 06:23 PM

bitch i love this 



#4 OFFLINE   cherryblossoms

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 06:30 PM

Omg this and Les Inrocks are the best interviews this year
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Me and my boyfriend, we are a new kind of fun


#5 OFFLINE   sparklrtrailrheaven

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 06:36 PM

She is being almost *painfully* candid, and I'm living :defeated:
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 * ~ * ~ the film is fading; look at me ~ * ~ *


#6 OFFLINE   Glorious

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 06:36 PM

beautiful interview. you can really tell how much lana has changed from 2014. 


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Lana | Marina | Charli | Ellie | Foxes | Florence | Paloma | Carly | Ryn | Lorde | Sky | Natalia | Shura | NAO | Dua | Halsey | Tove Lo | Alllie X | Daft Punk | Capital Cities | HAIM


#7 OFFLINE   wittycatchphrase

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 06:40 PM

God I love her so much. LOL at "stuffing it with my own fucking stuffing if I have a beehive". Her bit about Black Beauty and the "I wish I was dead already" comment made me teary


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#8 OFFLINE   UltraviolenceBaby

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 06:41 PM

the best interview so far 

and bitch i knew it you're a liar and you really said you "i wish i was dead" 


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PM ME IF YOU'RE SELLING GALORE MAGAZINE :kiss3:


#9 OFFLINE   GodBlessMe

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 06:45 PM

I love Lana so much. This interview almost made me cry. I'm so grateful to be alive at the same time as an artist who always puts everything she has into her music. Who truly lives and breathes for art. It's such an inspiration. 


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I AM MY ONLY GOD

#10 OFFLINE   lustforlife

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 06:46 PM

Her best interview so far.. So pure and trully honest.. I fuck love this era


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Lust For Life album of the year    tumblr_otpz48Y7Y41txslclo1_500.gif


#11 OFFLINE   gort9999

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 06:46 PM

Now I love UV even more



#12 OFFLINE   NamiraWilhelm

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 06:56 PM

[At this, Lana begins to cry, and we pause for a moment.]
 
 
just reading that nearly made me cry, damn my empathy. This is a wonderful interview.
 
 
 
 
The most striking thing is her attitude, just as it struck me in the Zane interview. She really doesn't give a flying fuck any more does she? No more sweetheart, she straight up has no more fucks to give. 
 
 
Glad to hear she'd making new music already. I need her to bang out a few more albums before she has babies and starts singing about them, the most heinous thing a female singer can do in my non-maternal opinion :D

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#13 OFFLINE   La Dolce Vita

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 07:23 PM

***


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#14 OFFLINE   Masochism

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 07:25 PM

she's an amazing artist and i love her



#15 OFFLINE   Lotus

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 07:38 PM

I love this interview, it went very deep and luckily the interviewer didn't really disrespect her. I feel low-key sad for Lana though, that some fans are stealing her cars, breaking into her house. In the end, she deserves a personal (private) life too and we, her fans should keep that in mind too.


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#16 OFFLINE   DAMN

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 07:42 PM

Her best interview damn
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#17 OFFLINE   Johnny Sunshine

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 07:44 PM

Very interesting & blunt, honest but she sounds patronizing

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#18 OFFLINE   Cleopatra

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 07:44 PM

Love her. So raw. So influential. No filter. No comment!
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#19 OFFLINE   theviolence

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 07:45 PM

Reading this interview made me understand her so much more, we're really similar in particular ways

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#20 OFFLINE   writtenxrabbits

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 07:46 PM

I love her unconditionally.  :defeated:






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