QUAY: Reject Taylor Swift. Embrace Lana Del Rey

(Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

Grayson Quay News & Opinion Editor
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With the Chiefs’ victory in the Super Bowl, Taylor Swift’s stranglehold on American culture continues to grow. She is, to quote the article profiling her as Time’s Person of the Year, “the main character of the world.”

Some right-wingers have claimed that both the NFL season and Swift’s sudden rise from mere stardom to an empyrean majesty beyond the observable cosmos are part of some carefully choreographed “op” to win a second term for President Joe Biden.

Other conservatives ruthlessly mocked the idea that Swift is a puppet dancing on the invisible strings of the liberal elite. Such conspiracy mongering, they say, only plays into the hands of Democrats by making the right look like a bunch of weirdos. They point out (rightly) that Swift’s relationship with Travis Kelce has conservative overtones. They insist that the path to political and cultural victory is to drop our knee-jerk contrarianism and “have a normal one.” (RELATED: Taylor Swift And Her Crew Go Bat Sh*t Crazy As Kansas City Chiefs Take The Win)

Well, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to “be normal.” Because “normal” is a moving target and the people who move it have no love for conservatives. We won’t win by trying to out-normie the normies. We’ll win by cultivating a weirdness that’s more appealing than society’s distorted version of normality.

And to that end, I offer the following recommendation: reject Taylor Swift; embrace Lana Del Rey.

There are, to be sure, similarities between the two. Musically, Taylor has borrowed heavily from Lana since 2014’s “Wildest Dreams,” and both write beautifully about longing and heartbreak. The two even collaborated on a track for Swift’s latest album. They sat together at the Grammys and the Super Bowl. Both are childless and unmarried in their 30s. Both are politically liberal. 

Lana, whose real name is Elizabeth Grant, voted for Biden in 2020, attended a Black Lives Matter protest and may have even attempted to place a hex on Donald Trump. (RELATED: Could Taylor Swift Trigger The Next American Baby Boom?)

But even if Swift and Lana share similar political views, their political temperaments are vastly different. 

In 2019’s “You Need to Calm Down,” Swift advises anti-gay deplorables who “would rather be in the dark ages” that they “need to just stop.” The concern-trolling tone reveals her contempt for anyone outside her right-thinking milieu. Dissenters from progressive orthodoxy cannot possibly have valid grievances or real inner lives of any kind. They are simply enraged at the idea of women and LGBT people living authentically. No further analysis required.

Lana is more sympathetic. When asked about the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, she attributed it not to the malice and stupidity of Trump supporters, but to a general feeling of alienation and the corresponding need to “wild out.”

“I think people are having to re-evaluate what is strange and not strange,” she told an interviewer shortly after the riot. “Like watching the people storm the Capitol, everyone gets to go look at that and figure out what Capitols they’ve been storming this year in their own freakin’ lives.”

For a few months in 2019 and early 2020, Del Rey dated cop and “Live PD” host Sean Larkin, who told The New York Times that he and the pop star “hung out with my law enforcement friends and their spouses” in Tulsa. For a liberal millionaire pop star to enjoy the unglamorous company of grizzled cops in the country’s second-reddest state suggests a certain generosity of spirit. (She turned lovingly to the country’s reddest state in 2023 with a cover of “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” though technically that song’s about western Virginia, not West Virginia.)

She recently posed on Instagram with a handgun and was spotted soon after at a gun range. Taylor would never. Lana conservative-baits her right-wing fans the same way Taylor queerbaits her gay fans, and both fandoms have become experts at esoteric Straussian reading. (RELATED: The Internet Freaks Out Over An Image Of Lana Del Rey Holding A Gun)

Another of Lana’s flirtations with low-status, right-coded aspects of American culture was her decision to feature megachurch pastor Judah Smith on her latest album. Smith holds traditional biblical views on sexual morality, which would have made him a nonstarter for most pop stars. 

But Lana isn’t most pop stars. Despite the criticism she received (and surely expected), Del Rey devotes an entire track to a Smith sermon reflecting on love, lust, human insignificance and divine creativity. In Taylor’s songs, God only shows up in the occasional metaphor or (in her early country work) as a vestigial genre indicator. (RELATED: Your Favorite Pop Star Is Probably Working On A Country Album)

Lana simply loves America, Americans and Americana too much to share Taylor’s solipsistic snobbishness. She loves beatniks, beach bums, trailer trash and “Tulsa Jesus Freak[s]” while also reveling in the yearning and ennui of the upper-middle class — the boozy suburban cocktail set you meet in “Mad Men” or a John Updike novel. When she sings about “chemtrails over the country club,” she’s not doing it to point out that chemtrails are a dangerous far-right delusion or that country clubs are bastions of white cis-heteropatriarchy. 

Lana also shows no interest in playing the role of girl-boss. Swift was celebrated for lyrics like “I’m so sick of running as fast as I can / Wondering if I’d get there quicker if I was a man” and for the accompanying music video she directed, which plays like a supercut of made-up Tumblr-tier feminist grievances. 

Del Rey, on the other hand, routinely draws backlash for embodying a very different idea of femininity. In a 2020 Instagram post, she wrote that she frequently plays a “submissive and passive role” in relationships, and that women like her deserve to be represented and affirmed, not badgered into an assertiveness that doesn’t come naturally to them.

Lana doesn’t hesitate to express a level of self-effacing devotion most feminists would balk at. She knows what a man wants to hear and doesn’t mind saying it. “Let me love you like a woman,” she croons. “Let me hold you like a baby.”

In one early single, she imagines a man who “holds me in his big arms,” their relationship secure while all their friends are whirled endlessly from marriage to divorce to remarriage. She tells him that “it’s all for you / everything I do” and encourages him to “go play your video games.” In other words — I feel safe with you. I know that you’re a good man. I don’t need to nag you for constant reassurances and I’d never belittle your efforts. Go relax. Don’t feel the least bit guilty about it. (RELATED: ROOKE: Give Young Women 30 Seconds Of Masculinity, And Watch The Feminism Melt Away)

No conservative should feel ashamed to be caught belting out the lyrics to Swift’s “All Too Well,” “Back to December,” “Love Story,” “Betty,” “22” or any number of other hits. She’s a gifted songwriter with an impressively broad body of work. 

But for the discerning right-wing connoisseur of pop music, I’d recommend sampling some of Lana’s work: “Young and Beautiful,” “Born to Die,” “Cola,” “Love,” “Arcadia,” “Bartender,” “The Grants.” 

She has, to borrow Wordsworth’s phrase, a “more comprehensive soul” than Swift and is less self-absorbed. She sees more of the world around her and sympathizes more deeply with it. She stands at a greater distance from contemporary orthodoxies and is thus able to look at them askance. 

Lana may not be voting for Trump or donating to the Heritage Foundation anytime soon, but her music preserves within it certain universal longings that have been abandoned or flattened out in Swift’s oeuvre. Lana raises questions for which authentic conservatism can provide real answers. Taylor, less so.

Grayson Quay is an editor at the Daily Caller.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.