What’s so appealing about listening to a woman sing about abject misery over and over again? Maybe it’s that she feels it.
There’s a theory called “hyperreality” that states that over-exposure to TV (and later, the internet) has made current generations numb to reality. Instead of viewing TV or internet images as pictures of real things, we instead view real things as potential pictures to be shown on TV or the internet. We struggle more with the concept of real things in front of us that could physically affect us because we experience most of the world through a lens.
I think there’s a form of hyperreality that affects relationships too. If you spend more time texting your boyfriend than you spend in his presence, is he your boyfriend or do you visualize him as a specific ringtone and a welcome name on your screen? Do you have feelings for him, or feelings for hearing from him? When he shows up on your doorstep, do you feel a jolt of pleasure, or is it like he’s been there all along and it’s just a bit more difficult to run down and unlock the door instead of simply sliding a button on your phone? People have relationships on Facebook that are more meaningful to them than the time they spend together. Their dates exist to provide more pictures for their profile. Even if you didn’t mean to fall into this pattern, it’s so easy it seems unavoidable. A lot of us just become numb.
Numb to what specifically? To distance, I think. And distance suddenly appears to me to be one of the most important parts of establishing closeness in a relationship. Lana Del Rey’s heroine suffers when her men disappear, not because she misses their texts, but because she misses their bodies, their real presence in her life. And that feeling seems so much more real than the disappointment when a guy you sorta liked unfriends you online.
When you’re in touch with someone 24/7, the times you’re together physically blend with the times you’re “practically together” electronically. For Lana Del Rey, it’s more simple: when her man is away, she hurts.
It’s not just this that makes her feel so distinctly, though.