In 2012, Lana Del Rey bombed on SNL (Saturday Night Live), with critics branding her performance diabolical, her lips fake, and her persona too cultivated. She was dragged through the mud and labelled an inauthentic ‘A&W.’ How dare a young woman be overtly sexy AND ungrateful of the attention? It wasn’t a script they were used to, and she was crucified.
Twelve years and seven critically acclaimed albums later, Del Rey headlined Coachella on Friday with the Palm Springs billboards teasing a simple question: “Has anyone else died for you?”. Alongside clichéd bible-belt graphics and the date of her SNL performance in small print, it was clear she wasn’t in the desert to play. Arriving on the back of a motorbike and dripping in old Hollywood glamour, the set was littered with technical problems but wholly authentic. Del Rey is a wonderful poet with a voice like honey, but her art is delicate and nuanced and therefore not always suitable for the big stage. 
After a slightly bumpy start, she found her own ethereal rhythm, and beauty resumed. Jon Batiste and Billie Eilish joined for memorable renditions of Candy Necklace, Video Games and the latter’s Ocean Eyes, but despite their obvious star power, it wasn’t about them. Then, without warning, Del Rey disappeared during the intro to Hope Is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman like me to have, leaving a hologram of her younger self to duet with acclaimed producer Jack Antonoff. It was an eerie yet powerful reminder of the fateful TV debut that could have killed her off years ago. 
She’s rarely performed on TV since. Instead, like a phoenix from the ashes, she returned to the stage in a dress adorned with Swarovski crystals and an arsenal of hits up her sparkly sleeve. Truly iconic behaviour. The set closed out with a final lingering question from her Great Gatsby soundtrack: “Will you still love me when I'm no longer young and beautiful?”, Not that she stuck around long to find out. Jumping back on the motorbike and blowing kisses to the adoring crowd as she rode into the distance, the answer was an emphatic “yes.”
Del Rey’s performance has been labelled lifeless by The Guardian, perplexing and profound by Billboard, and iconic by Rolling Stone. Perhaps it was all those things at once, but love her or loathe her, she has stayed true to herself and proved the naysayers wrong. My how she has proved them wrong. Raising a brazen middle finger up to the men who tried to destroy her, to SNL for jumping on the mockery bandwagon, and to the media for doubting her genius, an abundance of hope has long since quelled the danger. While her last four albums are all exquisite (as is 2014’s Ultraviolence), Norman Fucking Rockwell is a bona fide masterpiece. Dismantling the American dream while loving it to death, her poetry and delivery aligned to perfection, showcasing a genuine talent so at odds with the early smear campaign, it’s laughable. Ultimately, and perhaps most poignantly of all, she paved the way for other women to stop putting on a happy face and say what they really want to say in their music. It’s a tremendous legacy, but while her impact on pop culture is colossal, she doesn’t need admiration to know her worth. And she certainly needn’t be grateful. Fuck the patriarchy, and long live Elizabeth Grant; a modern day icon at the peak of her powers, who still doesn’t care what you think.