Lana Del Rey is no stranger to criticism. She recently came under attack by Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon, who wrote in her new memoir, "Today we have someone like Lana Del Rey, who doesn't even know what feminism is, who believes women can do whatever they want, which, in her world, tilts toward self-destruction."
Ignoring the implication that women shouldn't be allowed do whatever they want, Gordon pretty well summarizes the past criticisms of Del Rey in that passage. She's been called self-destructive, underwhelming and stupid — and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Time and again, Del Ray is torn down for things that other female artists use to up their cred. Del Rey has been called an awful performer because she's got horrible stage fright; Sia's stage fright is viewed as an artistic statement. Del Rey has been said to romanticize death; Lady Gaga staged her own death during one performance. Del Rey has been slammed for admitting that she's slept around; imagine what would have happened to Madonna if she'd let that affect her artistry.
But Del Rey has sold more than seven million (self-written) albums worldwide, and they're actually really good. It isn't just luck that's put her on the charts — there's a lot to Del Rey. Here are 11 quotes that prove it:
1. On critics
"The good thing about catching so much grief from critics is that you literally do not fucking care. It put me in a mind frame where I expect things not to go right, because they generally don't. But it's not a pessimistic place. The music is always good, in my opinion. That's what I expect now from my career, that the music is going to be great and the reaction's going to be fucked up."
— Complex, August/September 2014
Ever since Del Rey's breakthrough song, "Video Games," hit YouTube, she's faced criticism from almost every angle. Though Pitchfork called her debut album, Born to Die, "the album equivalent of a faked orgasm," Del Rey went on to sell more than a million copies of it.
2. On surrender
"The act of surrendering sort of puts me in a different mindset that allows me to be more of a channel — because I'm not holding on so tightly to things, I'm letting go, and I find that in letting go I become more of a channel for life to really happen on life's terms. I mean, maybe that sounds sort of metaphysical, but that's honestly how I feel."
— NPR, June 21, 2014
Del Rey has been called "anti-feminist" for singing about female submission, but if 50 Shades of Grey has taught us anything, it's that submission can be a healthy form of sexuality, and in Del Rey's case, it aids the creative process.
3. On a higher power
"Everything I do, I do it for somebody I've never met before, something in the great beyond. That's my primary relationship, really, is with something divine. I feel a connection as real with that as I've ever had with anybody on this earth."
—NPR, June 21, 2014
You're not a real star until you're suspected of being in the Illuminati.
4. On writing
"I want one of two things. I either want to tell it exactly like the way it was, or I want to envision the future the way I hope it will become. I'm either documenting something or I'm dreaming."
— New York Times, June 12, 2014
Del Rey has been writing music since she was seven years old, and she wrote every word on Born to Die. The New York native says her best moments of inspiration come from riding the subway to Coney Island at night, and her music often affects a similarly atmospheric, nostalgic spirit.
5. On feminism
"For me, a true feminist is someone who is a woman who does exactly what she wants. If my choice is to, I don't know, be with a lot of men, or if I enjoy a really physical relationship, I don't think that's necessarily being anti-feminist."
— New York Times, June 12, 2014
Del Rey has been slammed as a damsel in destress because she sings about reliant love. When a woman loves a man, that does not imply that she's in need of rescuing.
6. On artistic integrity
"The point is, I know what I like and what to write about thematically and I have integrity in my musical choices and I've stuck to that and I think it's a nice gift for me because I have stuck to my guns about what I want to hear sonically, so at least I've done that right."
—GQ, October 6, 2011
Del Rey has the first and final say on everything that she writes or co-writes. "She is the captain of her own ship," her co-writer Rick Nowels told the New York Times.
7. On clean living
"I've been involved in homeless outreach for the last seven years. Drug and alcohol awareness — I don't drink, I don't do drugs anymore. When things aren't going that well musically, you know ... I stopped focusing on music for a long time so I started focusing on other things that I knew more about."
—MTV, January 13, 2012
People like to assume that Del Rey is an alcoholic with a drug problem, but she's not. She was actually an alcoholic as a teenager, but she got clean and went on to study metaphysics at Fordham University while working the Brooklyn open mic circuit at night.
8. On life goals
"My goals have shifted from wanting to become an important artist to becoming an active member of my community. It's really nice my music is being played and people are taking notice, but music isn't my primary focus anymore. Not even close. My goal is to be a good person who lives with dignity and grace."
— Clash Music, November 29, 2011
"Dignity" and "grace" are two words that do not apply to artists like, say, Eminem, who rapped he'll "punch Lana Del Rey in the face twice like Ray Rice."
9. On her reputation
"Sometimes when the things you say and the way you look don't add up, people are quick to label you as an impersonator or feel like you're not entitled to the life experiences you've really lived."
— Galore Magazine, December 1, 2014
Del Rey's earliest critics were quick to declare that "Lana Del Rey" was nothing but a music-label concoction borne out of the failure of her original stage and birth certificate name, "Lizzy Grant." But she's made abundantly clear that she's a self-made woman who simply changed her name and switched up her look to pursue a new career.
10. On happiness
"I've had despair and grief in my life. In the past four years journalists have always asked me about death, icons and my persona. My own depressions and experiences has gotten miscommunicated as this need to be dark. Actually it's not my preferred way of being. I love when things go really well. Anyone who knows me knows this."
— Aftonbladet, June 26, 2014
Del Rey has come under criticism from the very beginning of her career for being a fatalist with a death wish. We too often forget that the artist is not always a perfect reflection of the real person beneath.
11. On success
"I already have it. I had it a long time ago. It's nothing to do with my music. Music is secondary at this point. The good stuff is really good, but I have success because I'm at peace and I'm a good person in my everyday life and that's important."
— GQ, October 6, 2011
At the end of the day, and at the very least, Del Rey knows exactly what she wants.