There is something to be said for the splendid array of feelings that Lana Del Rey has been inspiring in music consumers and writers. A strong feeling requires that a relationship be built, and that both parties of the relationship are energetically involved in the building and the maintenance. It's like a maintained eye contact across a bar or dance floor, and Del Rey is very good at keeping her eyes on you.
Like all artists and creators, Lana Del Rey imagines an audience for herself, conjures up a Platonic watcher to whom the creation is dedicated. All artists do this, even if their ideal watcher is not of this world. Then, she creates a world of conspiratorial us-against-them exclusivity that makes you want to be the other party of the relationship. The watcher sustains the art, and Del Rey knows the precarious placement of each exact tiny pin of the machinery of that relationship.
The unified ideal watcher for these videos exists for this music like Colonel Kurtz's beloved "Intended" exists in Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Del Rey's art-sweetheart is the recipient of all her dedication. Each video is a devotion to compel the recipient to further advance down the rabbit's hole of the relationship.
What I didn't understand was why it bothered me. But then I watched the videos and realized that for me, the problem was that I simply am not the intended audience. When I fall in love with music, I fall hard and obsessively; for better or worse, the romance of me and the music runs its course as I watch the artist and she simply creates without looking back to see if I'm watching. Sometimes the relationship fizzles out because I am no longer interested in what she creates, but that doesn't stop her from creating (see: Tori). Sometimes the relationship burns splendidly and crashes, and is immortalized in a photograph of the wreckage that will forever not get better (see: Amy). In neither of these cases does the artist have to look to me for reassurance.
But in Del Rey's thus-far oeuvre, the intended audience is a lover who constantly needs to be re-engaged, re-compelled with forever fulfillment, reassured: "You can be the boss, daddy." The lover/observer, not the artist, is creating the rules, but both are watching so very very closely. To love these songs, I think, requires an exhausting level of interest.
For some different, fascinating thoughts about the complexity of this phenomenon, please see what my friend Amy wrote in this astute analysis: "When she sneers, her mouth curls around the word “You” so spectacularly, it sounds like the edge of a photograph curling in a fire. What was she a picture of? You can’t even make it out anymore. If you start paying attention, it almost hurts to listen to."
(Videos: Video Games, Born To Die)