Lana Del Fucking Rey!

Lana Del Rey, the depressed, addicted, nostalgic, resentful, mournful, louche musical genius voiced by Elizabeth Grant, has released her new album, and – even more than all her previous albums – it is an instant Strong Language classic.

Lana does not swear like a sailor or a soldier or a rap or punk rock artist. She swears for effect: the vulgarity well placed. In her four albums before this new one (I’m counting Born to Die – The Paradise Edition, which is really a merger of two albums, as one, because that’s how I have it and it doesn’t fucking matter enough for my calculations, and anyway I want to see if it pisses anyone off), 16 out of 69 songs get the magical E-box, the Strong Language buying guide, Tipper Gore’s gift to the adolescent mind, a little rating that conflates swearwords with sexual explicitness. Those E-box songs average only 3.7 swears per song, and if you don’t count repeats, less than 2 – and half of them have only one instance each (though repeated in a couple). And I’m including in those calculations 3 instances of the n-word sung by A$AP Rocky as a guest artist in 2 songs, plus one instance of pussy, one of cummin’, and one of whore.

Over those songs you will hear a swearword on average every 72 seconds. Exactly one of them has a swearword in the title: “Fucked My Way Up to the Top.” But look at these classic lines:

My pussy tastes like Pepsi-Cola

In the land of gods and monsters, I was an angel looking to get fucked hard

If you don’t get it, then forget it so I don’t have to fucking explain it

You could be a bad motherfucker but that don’t make you a man

Her songs and swears are saturated snapshots like Polaroids from the past. And guess what else is saturated and nostalgic and bittersweet to look at.

Norman Fucking Rockwell!

That’s not just an answer. That’s the name of Lana’s new album, including the exclamation mark. It’s also the name of the album’s first song, not including the exclamation mark.

Norman Fucking Rockwell! has 14 tracks, of which 6 are E-boxed. Between them they have 16 unique swearword instances and a total of 35 swearword utterances, for an average of one swear for every 52 seconds in the E-boxed songs. (Fuck the other songs. They just dilute the averages. They’re good, but they’re not germane.)

But one song skews the numbers all by itself, and it’s not the title song. It’s “Fuck It I Love You,” which has 5 different instances of a swearword (a record among Lana songs, believe it or not) and – thanks to repeats of the title line – 18 swearword uses, which is more than half the fucking album total. Not only that, it has what may be the single best sweary line on the album:

And if I wasn’t so fucked up, I think I’d fuck you all the time

Do you see that? A figurative and a literal use of fuck in the same sentence! In fact, Lana has 5 literal uses of fuck in her œuvre; the one I haven’t quoted yet (as a line or a title) is this one, which may just be the archetypical Lana Del Rey line, from this album’s title song:

You fucked me so good that I almost said “I love you”

Along with those 5 instances, here are the scores for other swearwords I counted in the E-boxed songs:

  • 21 figurative instances of fuck, including one of fuck it, 3 of fucked up, 3 of expletive fuck (if you include the one in “Fresh out of fucks, forever”), 13 of intensifier fucking (but I counted fucking white gown and fucking nightgown in the same song as 2 instances), and 1 of motherfucker
  • 9 instances of shit (none literal), including 1 of bullshit
  • 1 instance of pussy
  • 4 instances of bitch (including 2 songs on the new album that have your Venice bitch and your little Venice bitch – by Venice she means the one in the LA area, not the one in Italy)
  • 2 instances of the n-word (this is a blog about vulgarity, not racism, but it’s an offensive word depending on who uses it, though in these cases the user is an African American guest artist)
  • 1 instance of cum (included here because the E-boxers probably count it)
  • 1 instance of whore
  • 2 instances of goddamn

But of course you’re free to double-check my counts and to disagree with my judgments. Certainly bitch is not as taboo as fuck (and, by the way, I didn’t even count ass). But on the other hand, she’s actually using fucking in an album title and already used fucked literally in a song title. It’s in tune with the cultural moment.

Note, however, that she has never used cunt. At least not yet.

4 thoughts on “Lana Del Fucking Rey!

  1. Duncan September 3, 2019 / 11:32 am

    This has given me a new found interest in Lana Del Rey and I now want to listen to all her albums, something I hadn’t previously done.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Heidi A Murdoch September 12, 2019 / 3:38 pm

    I have no clue who you are and I play in a cover band. I’ll look you up.

    I am here to comment about the difference between swearing, cursing and cuss words. The POTUS must have a swearing in ceremony where he swears an oath. Swearing is not bad breaking the oath you swore is. An oath is the same as a vow. Cursing is when you are telling someone that you hope they drop dead Anytime you wish ill to befall a person it is cursing. Cussing is when you use words to express extreme feelings towards a person or situation. Certain words used are considered vulgar. Some times the words are used as a duacrption of how extremely good or bad something is. The words are considered offensive yet other words can be used with the same meaning and not be considered offensive. Perhaps it is more in the spirit of how you express it and not so much the actual words.

    Like

    • sesquiotic September 12, 2019 / 4:17 pm

      It’s not as simple and schematic as that. “Swear” expanded its use long ago and has been used for centuries to mean, as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it, “To utter a form of oath lightly or irreverently, as a mere intensive, or an expression of anger, vexation, or other strong feeling; to use the Divine or other sacred name, or some phrase implying it, profanely in affirmation or imprecation; to utter a profane oath, or use profane language habitually; more widely, to use bad language.” Even Shakespeare used it in that sense. Although one may want to make at least a distinction between misuse of sacred words and casual use of vulgar words, functionally they are not two distinct sets, and the verb “swear” has long been used for both—as has the verb “curse.” “Swear-word” or “swearword” is likewise established as a word used in that kind of “swearing” and has been since its first appearance a century and a half ago. A desire for tidiness in semantics is common but it runs headfirst into the reality of how people actually use the language, and when a usage has been established for centuries, any insistence on tidy distinctions from the “original” meanings slides towards the etymological fallacy. (See https://sesquiotic.com/2014/08/22/the-lord-the-bishop-and-the-harlot-an-etymological-fallacy/)

      Liked by 1 person

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