Certain Songs #884: Lana Del Rey – “Sad Girl”

Album: Ultraviolence
Year: 2014

The hype surrounding Lana Del Rey’s Born to Die was fierce enough to be overwhelming even by 2012 standards, so when she showed up on Saturday Night Live and slowly twirled through a performance that was nearly suffused in fear, it seemed like all of the hype was misfounded.

Still lotsa people who make great records don’t necessarily perform them all that well, so I gave Born to Die a shot, despite the mixed reviews, but while she clearly had her own thing going, it wasn’t my thing, so I figured that was it.

Of course, one of the things I love about popular music is that anything can happen, so when
Ultraviolence came out in 2014 to a much better slew of reviews — not to mention a near-constant barrage of love from Grantland (R.I.P) — I figured I’d give Lana Del Rey one more shot. I didn’t like the Pixies all that much when I first heard them, either.

Second time was a charm, as the songs from Ultraviolence came — well, not hurtling, because that implies velocity — slowly forth and kept catching me completely unawares with its deep and dark instrumental flourishes and unending commitment to making “lush” seem like a completely inadequate word to describe its sound.

But what really drew me in was the chorus of its other woman anthem, “Sad Girl,” which starts off almost defiant, but instantly devolves into an aching tale of sexual thrall.

Being a mistress on the side
It might not appeal to fools like you
We’ve been around on the side
Wanna be something you would do

But you haven’t seen my man
You haven’t seen my man
You haven’t seen my man
You haven’t seen him

And then she slips into a pre-chorus that is so heartbreakingly lovely you almost forget that — technically — you shouldn’t be rooting for her at all, and yet, you kinda find yourself doing just that.

He’s got the fire and he walks with fame
He’s got the fire and he talks with fame
His Bonnie on the side, Bonnie on the side
Makes me so sad, girl
His money on the side, money on the side
Makes me so sad, girl

After that, it’s all about how sad and bad she is as the music swells up around her like a protective shield that’s either insulating her from the outside world or insulating us from truly experiencing all of her emotions, as the entire world gets swept away in a tidal wave of overdubbed vocals and swelling keyboards.

Fan-made video for “Sad Girl”

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