Song You Need to Know: Lana Del Rey, ‘Looking for America’
Lana Del Rey has released a heartbreaking song to end what has been a uniquely heinous week in the ever-deepening national horror show. “Looking for America” is about what its title suggests, the terrifying search to find a place in our country, where you can feel safe from violence, free to fulfill the promise of your own dreams and desires without fear.
She opens singing about a taking a road trip to San Francisco, then Fresno, where she pulls over to watch some kids play in a park. “We used to only worry for them after dark,” she observes. Now, after Dayton and El Paso, dozens of other mass shootings and scenes of people fleeing in panic every time a care backfires on the street, what should be a serene place of innocent fun feels like a potential hunting ground. “I’m still looking for my own version of America,” she sings. “One without the gun where the flag can freely fly/No bombs in the sky only fireworks when you and I collide,” then brings to mind Martin Luther King Jr. when she adds, “it’s a just a dream I had in mind.”
The narrative moves on to New York, where she grew up and “used to go to drive-ins and listen to the blues,” but that’s ruined too now — “so many things that I think twice about before I do.”
The song is as spare and simple as a Sixties folk epistle. Its theme of American travel and discovery evokes Simon and Garfunkel, her voice is as plaintively beautiful as Joan Baez’s, and her ability to turn grim news into potent art is on par with the Bob Dylan of “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” or “A Pawn in Their Game.” Those songs were recorded in response to racist violence during the Civil Rights era, chronicling moments of terror amid a rising tide of hope that America was on the verge of historic change and expanding promise. There’s hope in “Looking For America” too, but it’s growing faint, fading into a darkness we may never come out of.
Del Rey has written of the song, “Now I know I’m not a politician and I’m not trying to be so excuse me for having an opinion — but in light of all of the mass shootings and the back to back shootings in the last couple of days which really affected me on a cellular level.”
Her new album Norman Fucking Rockwell will be out on August 30th
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