Lana Del Rey’s Most Controversial Music Videos

Lana Del Rey is no stranger to controversy. From the lyrics of her early songs –  which allegedly romanticize toxic relationships – to her well-publicized feuds with Azealia Banks and Kanye West, Del Rey boldly speaks her mind, regardless of who it will offend. Her career wouldn’t be the same without her penchant for creating striking music videos, so let’s look at some of her most provocative clips.

Lana Del Rey attends the Q Awards | Chris Jackson/Getty Images

‘Freak’

Lana Del Rey on French television | LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images

The song freak is pretty innocuous; it’s about Del Rey asking her lover to come to California to be with her. However, the song became a lot less innocuous thanks to its music video. Del Rey decided to marry “Freak”  to a music video which depicts her as a member of a cult led by Father John Misty. The fact that the cult is almost entirely composed of women recalls the Manson Family. Misty looks like Manson in the video, and a California state flag is visible in a few shots, which is likely a reference to the Family’s Californian origins.  The video also features a scene where the members of the cult drink Kool-Aid which causes them to hallucinate; this is likely a reference to the poisoned Kool-Aid that Jim Jones had his followers drink. The video raises the question: why did Lana associate cult leaders with her love song? Is the video intended to be shallow provocation, or is Lana Del Rey trying to make a statement about the relationships that cult leaders have with their followers? It’s up for the audience to decide.

‘National Anthem’

Lana Del Rey in Hamburg | Photo by Angelika Warmuth/picture alliance via Getty Images

 Lana Del Rey may have released music videos which are more popular than the video for “National Anthem,” but none are as ambitious. The video clocks in at nearly eight minutes long and looks like it may have cost as much as a feature film. The video opens with a recreation of Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to John F. Kennedy, with Del Rey playing Monroe and ASAP Rocky playing the president. In the rest of the video, Del Rey plays Jackie Kennedy and is shown having some shockingly intimate moments with her husband. Lana Del Rey’s decision to combine this imagery with a song about drugs and materialism begs her audience to ask what exactly she is trying to say about wealth, the Kennedy family, and the American Dream. The video ends with a recreation of the infamous Zapruder film and Del Rey as Jackie delivering a monologue about how much she loved her husband. 

‘Ultraviolence’

US singer Lana Del Rey at the 65th Cannes Film Festival | ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/GettyImages)

Lana has been accused of glorifying abusive relationships and there’s no better example of that than her song “Ultraviolence.” Named after the term from A Clockwork Orange, the chorus of the song quotes the title of The Crystals’ “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss).” Rather than a direct portrayal of the song’s subject matter, the video for “Ultraviolence” shows Del Rey walking around in a wedding dress. Is the video commenting on the institution of marriage? Is Del Rey glorifying an abusive relationship or merely portraying one? It’s all up to interpretation.