Florence Butcher

Lana’s Literary Inspirations

  1. Lolita – the text that Lana possibly draws the most inspiration from is ‘Lolita’ by Vladimir Nabokov. The song “Off to the Races” on her 2012 album ‘Born to Die’ features the line, “light of my life, fire of my loins”, the opening line of Nabokov’s novel. Both the song and the novel share themes of forbidden or taboo relationships. Lana also controversially wrote the song “Lolita”, which seems to be based around the young protagonist of the novel, featuring lines like “No more skipping rope, skipping heartbeats with the boys downtown / Just you and me feeling the heat even when the sun goes down” which references young and misguided relationships such as the abusive one Lolita experiences in Nabokov’s story.
  2. Beat Poets - In Lana's 2014 song "Brooklyn Baby," she references the Beat generation through the line "I'm churning out novels like Beat poetry on amphetamines." This is an allusion to the literary movement of the 1950s and 60s, which advocated for a spontaneous and unfiltered approach to writing. Lana Del Rey's lyrics draw a fascinating parallel between the prolific output of the Beat poets, such as Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, known for their uninhibited and often drug-fuelled creative processes, and her own artistic endeavours. By intertwining her modern sensibilities with the rebellious spirit of the Beats, Lana pays homage to a generation of writers who, like her, challenged conventional norms and sought to capture the essence of their time in their work.
  3. Body Electric - Lana Del Rey's incorporation of Walt Whitman in her song "Body Electric" reveals a compelling affinity for the poet and his subversive free verse style. Much like Whitman, Del Rey's lyricism explores the mythologizing of the self and the discovery of beauty in life and death, establishing a striking thematic parallel. Whitman, often regarded as the first true American poet, laid the groundwork for a distinctly American literary tradition. In "Body Electric," Del Rey goes a step further by playfully proclaiming, "Whitman is my daddy," seamlessly weaving the poet into her vivid Americana landscape. By name-dropping iconic figures like Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe in the same song, she blurs the boundaries between pop culture and poetic legacy. This fusion of cultural references underscores Del Rey's unique ability to create a world where legendary poets and pop culture icons coexist. Her Twitter bio, featuring Whitman's quote, "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself; I am large. I contain multitudes," further underscores her embrace of Whitman's complex and multifaceted perspective.
  4. Sylvia Plath - Lana Del Rey's reference to Sylvia Plath in her song "hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have" underscores a profound connection between the two artists. Both women are often associated with a deep sense of melancholy, and they share a confessional writing style that delves into themes of mental anguish, tumultuous relationships, and the burdens placed on women. In the song, Del Rey assumes the role of a "24/7 Sylvia Plath," aligning herself with the renowned poet's legacy. The refrain of "I'm not, no I'm not" echoes Plath's famous declaration, "I am. I am. I am." This reference not only hints at a shared experience of depression but also suggests a determination to avoid the tragic fate that Plath met, despite Del Rey's previous statement about her own struggles. It's a poignant homage to a literary icon, reflecting Del Rey's introspective and emotionally charged songwriting.