TIME celebrity

5 Controversial Quotes From Lana Del Rey

Day 2 - Glastonbury Festival
Lana Del Rey performs on the Pyramid stage on Day 2 of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm on June 28, 2014 in Glastonbury, England. (Photo by Tabatha Fireman/Redferns via Getty Images) Tabatha Fireman—Redferns via Getty Images

She's "annoyed" her sex life didn't further her career, but that's just the tip of the iceberg

Lana Del Rey is never boring — the eccentric pop star can always be relied on to provide at least a few nuggets of weirdness in any given interview. She’s getting flak right now for the first item listed below, but why are we surprised? She’s always got something offbeat and amazing to say.

1) She’s “annoyed” that her sex life never helped her get a record deal.

Even though one of her new songs is called “F***ed My Way Up to the Top,” Del Rey told Complex magazine that sleeping with guys in the music industry has never helped her career.

You know, I have slept with a lot of guys in the industry. But none of them helped me get my record deals. Which is annoying.

Earlier, she said:

I relate to being the person who people come to for “such a change from the old routine,” but not being the main thing. I had a long-term relationship for seven years with someone who was the head of a label and I felt like I was that change of routine. I was always waiting to become the person who his kids came home to, and it never happened.

It’s important to note that most of the coverage of this controversial quote has focused on the “I have slept with a lot of guys” part, not the effect it might have had on her career. Several big media outlets put the quote in their headlines, which can come off as slut-shaming.

2) Tesla is way cooler than feminism.

In a recent interview in Fader magazine, she made it clear where she stands on the age-old Feminists vs. Aliens debate:

“For me, the issue of feminism is just not an interesting concept. I’m more interested in, you know, SpaceX and Tesla, what’s going to happen with our intergalactic possibilities. Whenever people bring up feminism, I’m like, god. I’m just not really that interested.”

Feminist aliens have yet to weigh in.

3) She kind of has a death wish.

She once told The Guardian that she admired Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain so much that “I wish I were dead already,” which led to a lengthly discussion of mortality:

Interviewer: Is early death glamorous?

“I don’t know. Ummm, yeah.”

Interviewer: Don’t say that

“I do! I don’t want to have to keep doing this. But I am.

Interviewer: Do what? Make Music?

“Everything. That’s just how I feel. If it wasn’t that way, then I wouldn’t say it. I would be scared if I knew [death] was coming, but …”

The singer retracted her comments afterward on Twitter in a series of now-deleted tweets, saying the interviewer had asked her leading questions.

4) Her friend Juliette Lewis didn’t realize that was her on SNL.

In outtakes from this month’s Rolling Stone profile, Del Rey reveals that she was friends with Juliette Lewis before the actress publicly dissed her Saturday Night Live performance:

I was actually friends with her before that but she didn’t know it was me on TV. I had been more blonde before or something. She called me and was like, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry.’ But we got over it. Because the truth is, we’re birds of a feather in a way. In the end, we thought it was really funny.

Because messing up your friend’s hair color can happen to anybody!

5) Every day is Opposite Day.

Because Lana Del Rey is George Constanza:

“I’m really specific about why I’m doing something or writing something. But it always kind of gets translated in the opposite fashion. I haven’t done it yet, but I’ve learned that everything I’m going to do is going to have the opposite reaction of what I meant. So I should do the opposite if I want a good reaction.”

When Rolling Stone pointed out that George already tried this, she says, “Oh really? That’s awesome. Me and George Costanza!”

6) She mixes up sounds and colors.

It sounds like the directions she gave to Ultraviolence producer Dan Auerbach were, um, confusing (also from the Rolling Stone outtakes:)

“I would explain things to him in terms of colors and touchstone words,” she says. “My word for the record was ‘fire,’ you know, blue fire, when a flame gets so hot it goes from red to blue. And I told him I wanted everything to sound like it was in the key of blue. And I think at first he was like, ‘What the f*ck?’”

This was mostly to distinguish from Lady Gaga, who wants everything to sound like it’s in the key of rainbows.

TIME Music

REVIEW: Alvvays Make Sunny Guitar-Pop Gold on Self-Titled Debut

Polyvinyl / Transgressive

The Canadian pop band's sunny debut puts lead singer Molly Rankin in fine company

From laconic, wise-cracking slackers like Stephen Malkmus and Bethany Cosentino to starry-eyed romantics like Stuart Murdoch and Tracyanne Campbell, the history of left-field, literate indie pop is littered with idiosyncratic, effortlessly charming vocalists. Molly Rankin, the woman who leads Canadian five-piece Alvvays, is a descendent of both lines; she’s a madcap schemer and a bleeding heart, equally likely to scamper away after tripping over her own feet and to plead a male pal to reconsider his disdain for the institution of marriage. Her actual genealogy is just as impressive as her musical ancestry: Rankin is a member of the Rankin Family, Canadian folk luminaries who have written and toured across the country for decades. She cut her teeth as part of the family’s band before striking out on her own with a 2010 EP; that solo project gradually picked up friends and nearby musicians and morphed into Alvvays. The band’s eponymous debut full-length is smart, sharp guitar pop, with songs shaped by lyrical playfulness, chiming, melodic leads, and Rankin’s bell-clear, yearning voice.

The band’s songwriting is possessed of both an impressive ear for structure and a remarkable generosity. Songs build in discrete steps to emotional crescendos, then hang there or ascend to an even higher level, rewarding listeners with a new melody or another round of a potent chorus; crisp, clean lines like the ones that mark “Adult Diversion” and “Archie, Marry Me” return for curtain calls, unfurling over top of simple, metronomic rhythms. The high level of execution is a necessity: many bands have written songs like this before, and well, so each new track requires a certain indelibility in order to stand out. The band is also differentiated by lesser peers by the strength of Rankin’s character. She’s immediately familiar and relatable, fully realized in a way that’s quite impressive given this is Alvvays’ debut; she could be the girl sitting across from you in a seminar, speeding with intent down a bike lane, relaxing in a park with a wide-brimmed hat. She spends a lot of time singing about love, and navigates that fraught terrain with an exuberance and palpable anxiety that belies her youth. It’s a perspective that equally suits jangling, up-tempo cuts like “Adult Diversion” and “Atop a Cake” and dreamier, more wistful songs like highlights “Ones Who Love You” and “The Agency Group.” Her voice, pure as spring water and able to easily reach lofty, piercing notes, is best served by the latter pair of tracks; she has a deft hand with heartbreak.

In the moments when listeners are able to tear themselves away from the band’s sticky, simple guitar lines, they’re rewarded with a lyrical wit and intelligence that nicely complements Rankin’s erudite persona. Spend enough time around smart people and you’ll meet characters who clearly derive personal satisfaction from putting together exquisite sentences and dropping ten-dollar words; it’s a precious source of joy, sure, but it’s infectious all the same. The members of Alvvays fit that mold: when Rankin tries to convince a romantic partner to stick around on “Party Police” by telling him that “we can find comfort in debauchery,” it’s easy to imagine the sparkle in her eye and the half-grin plastered on her face. It’s to the band’s credit that their toying with vocabulary and phrasing feels inclusive, rather than smug, and those aforementioned melodies act like gateways into their wordy world. It’s those two strengths, and Rankin’s innate likeability, that separate Alvvays from their peers in a genre that’s always ripe with aspiring stars.

TIME Music

Florrie Drums Up a New Song in “Little White Lies” Video: Watch

The long-bubbling singer's first proper single makes a big impression

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British singer/drummer Florence Arnold, who writes and records as Florrie, leapt to a major label earlier this year after three strong self-released EPs. Her brand of pop music is playful, propulsive, and built around rhythm, bearing the influence of her work as a session drummer for the songwriting/production squad Xenomania. New single “Little White Lies” hasn’t appeared on a larger release yet — though a dub remix by Shadow Child was included on her April EP Sirens — but it’s a neat encapsulation of what makes Florrie’s work so compelling.

The song’s rhythm cribs from the cluttered, quick pace of drum ’n bass, but washes of cool synth tones and an assertive vocal from Florrie lend a more traditional pop feel to the proceedings. The quality that really makes “Little White Lies” stick in your craw is the joy it radiates; when the beat charges in to kick off the chorus, it feels like a necessary piece of release, a burst of energy that can’t be denied.

TIME Music

REVIEW: Ed Sheeran Multiplies His Appeal on x

Atlantic Records

On his sophomore set, the singer-songwriter uses his softness to his advantage

Though he doesn’t look the part of an international pop star and sex symbol, it isn’t hard to understand shaggy British troubadour Ed Sheeran’s easy appeal. His chosen genre, the one that anchors all of his slight digressions into other realms of popular music, is broadly popular, easily digestible, and resilient: when the world ends, it’ll be left to cockroaches and male singer-songwriters on acoustic guitars. But like many of the young people that buy his singles and albums, he’s a polyglot, raised on folk, R&B, hip-hop and rock in equal measure and comfortable incorporating each of those genres into his compositions.

Sheeran rose to prominence thanks in part to his rap skills — he occasionally breaks out a verse, when not employing his smooth, woolly tenor — and even when he’s sticking to a more traditional pop vocal mode, rap’s influence on his delivery is clear: he crams syllables into lines where they barely fit thanks to his dexterity, and plays with rhythm and pace like it’s second nature. That versatility, and a bit of Sheeran’s everyman charm, helped to make his 2011 debut full-length +, and singles like “The A Team” and “Lego House,” a slow-burning hit on both sides of the Atlantic. His follow-up, the simply titled x (that’s pronounced “multiply,” by the way), out June 23 on Atlantic Records, finds him taking even more concerted steps into genres other than acoustic pop-rock, and working with a host of distinctive producers who help to bend and shape his sound.

The album’s most prominent collaborator is reigning chart king Pharrell Williams, fresh off a relatively successful solo album of his own and still riding a hot streak that began last year with Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” Pharrell co-produced x’s lead single, “Sing,” and one other track on the album (“Runaway”), both of which are obvious descendants of the lusty pop-R&B that launched Justin Timberlake to solo stardom over a decade ago; “Sing,” in particular, is hard to imagine without recalling Timberlake’s “Like I Love You,” itself co-produced by Pharrell as part of the Neptunes. Sheeran does his best with these tracks, and his voice shines as it twists around his own guitar and Pharrell’s beats, but ultimately his sale of the lyrical material at hand falls short. Newly free from the relative tyranny of NSYNC, the young Timberlake couldn’t help but drip sex. Comparatively speaking, Sheeran is tame. The same problem plagues songs like the Rick Rubin and Benny Blanco-produced “Don’t,” a vicious takedown of a cheating lover, and the wine-addled “Bloodstream”: these songs have an edge that Sheeran lacks, and the material falters for it.

Sheeran rounds into form when he uses his softness to his advantage, cocooning himself in layers of warm harmony and setting that slippery, surprisingly agile lyricism against slowly building arrangements. “Photograph,” one of several songs on x written with Snow Patrol member Johnny McDaid, rises from a tender, emotive piano melody and becomes a slowly stomping, lighter-ready stadium ballad; Sheeran helps bring it to life with smart use of detail and powerful imagery, two moves familiar from the work of his friend and tour-mate Taylor Swift. (When he closes the song by mentioning a stolen kiss “under the lamppost, back on 6th Street,” you can almost hear the hearts young and old, beating and melting in a darkened arena.) “I’m a Mess” is another highlight, with Sheeran reaching deep and shredding his voice while soaring over luminous guitar chords. It’s a simple song, mostly reliant on Sheeran’s vocal skills and charisma to get over, but it works: when isolated and not made to press against ostensibly mature lyrical material, he displays a deft touch.

But the album’s greatest moment by a country mile is relegated to its penultimate slot. “Thinking Out Loud” shares a lyrical spirit with One Direction’s “Little Things,” which Sheeran wrote for the boy band’s 2012 record Take Me Home, but with what sounds like a few years’ worth of experience added: it’s an ode to the tiny things that drive love, a celebration of its magic, a fantasy of having grown old with a partner. Musically speaking, it’s pure blue-eyed soul, warm and woodsy in the vein of Van Morrison, unabashedly romantic and built around a vein of richly toned guitar. Sheeran is the core, the starry-eyed dreamer. He sings to within an inch of his life. When the lust, anger, drugs, and drink fade, you hope this kind of love remains. When Sheeran focuses on the latter, his success comes into focus, and it begins to seem wholly justified.

TIME Music

Watch Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea Go Mod for “Problem” Video

The world has one less problem (now that this video is finally out)

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Ariana Grande’s summer hit “Problem” is currently sitting at No. 2 on the Hot 100 — just below her featured guest Iggy Azalea’s team-up with Charli XCX, “Fancy” — so now that the video’s out, don’t be surprised if Grande overtakes her collaborator in the No. 1 spot.

But the girls play nice in the mod-styled clip, which sees Grande reprising the choreography she’s showcased in previous performances while Azalea rocks the biggest hair of her career. Play it again, Mr. Saxobeat.

TIME Music

Mariah Carey, Cher Lloyd and Robyn Prove There’s a Diva for Every Demographic

Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey Charles Sykes—Invision/AP

A trio of new releases — Mariah Carey's Me. I Am Mariah ... the Elusive Chanteuse, Cher Lloyd's Sorry I'm Late and Robyn's Do It Again EP with Röyksopp — proves pop's niche power

In the current pop market, there’s no wrong way to be a diva. The latest evidence: three new releases from female pop artists—all issued within a two-day period, all operating outside radio’s Top 10—highlight paths to fulfilling careers that don’t require Hunger Games–style death matches to reach the top of the charts.

Of the three singers dropping new songs on May 26 and 27—veteran American star Mariah Carey, British reality-show alumna Cher Lloyd and Swedish underdog Robyn—Carey has weathered the most ups and downs (remember Glitter?) while chasing the relevance she had in the ’90s and reclaimed in the mid-2000s. After a number of delays and false starts, her 14th studio album resembles a ploy for attention—at first glance. The album’s title, Me. I Am Mariah … the Elusive Chanteuse, is so fabulously over the top, it could almost be a joke; her young children with husband Nick Cannon are featured artists, credited as “DemBabies”; one song has a hashtag for a title, while another—gulp—prominently features a harmonica. (At least it comes courtesy of Stevie Wonder.)

But don’t let Carey’s creative use of punctuation fool you. The album, her first in five years, is low on gimmickry. “#Beautiful” opens with a bluesy guitar riff that assuages any worries about the title’s nod to Internet culture. Contributing a verse to the track is R&B crooner Miguel, one of several party guests Carey shuffles in and out like a master hostess who knows how to keep things lively. The hip-hop kiss-off “Thirsty” features a sterling beat from Hit-Boy (who’s produced tracks for Beyoncé, Kanye West and Jay Z), but strip away its bells and whistles and the song’s hook would sound right at home in a piano bar.

Carey often references the past—the title is from a childhood drawing, while the disco-inspired “Meteorite” quotes Andy Warhol’s “15 minutes of fame”—but she doesn’t dwell on it. Nowhere on the record do Carey and her five-octave voice sound desperate to please, though nothing reaches the soaring heights of 2005’s “We Belong Together.” Carey hasn’t had a Top 10 hit in five years, but even when she (relatively) underperforms, her numbers are nothing to scoff at. “#Beautiful,” which peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, was still certified platinum. Critics may hail newcomer Ariana Grande as “the new Mariah,” but Carey remains an icon. Call her Mariah, the original chanteuse—a diva with staying power.

At the other end of the spectrum is Cher Lloyd, who is half Carey’s age and currently trying to prove that she too is capable of longevity. Lloyd is a kind of pop act that didn’t exist a decade ago. She got her start in 2010 as a teenage contestant on Simon Cowell’s U.K. singing competition The X Factor, covering Jay Z and rapping over Coldplay. During her stint on the show, where she placed fourth, Cowell affectionately called her a brat, and the name stuck—both for better (her hyperloyal, social-media-savvy fans call themselves Brats) and for worse (it cemented her drama-queen reputation, which Lloyd now admits wasn’t far off).

On her 2011 debut, Sticks & Stones, Lloyd incorporated Top 40 guitar pop, dubstep and Nicki Minaj’s hip-hop theatrics. At times, her coquettish persona sounded obnoxious and grating as she sang about never growing up. But on her sophomore effort, Sorry I’m Late, Lloyd decided to do just that. Though it’s odd to hear an artist who’s not yet 21 sing about the pains of getting old, Sorry I’m Late abandons what made her polarizing without losing what makes her interesting. She ditches the rapping for more power ballads in the vein of Pink—whose mix of punky personality and poise offers Lloyd a career blueprint—but reprises the unintelligible grunts and cheeky humor of her sole Top 20 single, “Want U Back.” “I wish I had style, I wish I had flash/ Wish I woke up with a butt and a rack,” the petite star yearns on “I Wish,” which features rapper T.I.

Though Lloyd has access to some of the top producers in pop (Shellback, Max Martin), she hasn’t delivered the kind of inescapable hit required for her to be added to the A list. (She comes very close on “Sirens” and the uplifting “Human.”) But then again, she may not need to. With a very young, very female fan base as devoted as hers is, she has a sizable core audience already in place—as long as they grow up with her.

Compared with Carey and Lloyd, Robyn maintains the biggest cool factor, mostly because she tries so hard not to be cool. After having bubblegum-pop hits as a teenager in the late 1990s, Robyn retreated to her native Stockholm, where, unhappy with her label, she founded her own Konichiwa Records to release the edgy electro-pop she longed to make. There, she wrote theme songs for outsiders and misfits that made her a cult favorite long before Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Kesha (formerly Ke$ha) unleashed It Gets Better anthems championing self-acceptance.

Still, one song from 2010’s three-part Body Talk, “Dancing on My Own,” found its way into a high-profile spot on the first season of HBO’s Girls. It was a perfect fit. The way Robyn’s albums reference public transportation and the way she treats dance floors like testing grounds for new identities demonstrate a keen understanding of what it’s like to be a young person in a big city. Robyn isn’t about popping bottles in the club; she’s about finding herself there. And though she employs many robot metaphors in her music, her observations about technology’s role in everyday life are partly what make her music so relatable and beloved by both the cool kids and the critics who revere her ingenuity and musicianship.

Saturday Night Live writers may have memorably spoofed the fist-swinging choreography of her “Call Your Girlfriend” video, but it’s the song’s distinct take on classic love-triangle stories that helped make Robyn the hipster’s pop star. Her insistence on creative independence impresses those who would discount pop as a soulless, corporate product, and it makes chart performance a low priority.

Her latest work, the Do It Again mini-album, is a stopgap collaboration with Norwegian duo Röyksopp. That likely explains why a handful of its five songs buck the usual verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure of pop songs in favor of atmospheric instrumentals. Robyn barely speaks on “Sayit,” while “Monument” and “Inside the Idle Hour Club” approach 10 minutes in length.

Yet it’s also hard not to see the EP as a reminder that as capable as Robyn is at writing big, classic pop songs with universal themes, she’s utterly uninterested in celebrity or commercial success (and with this outré release may be looking to escape the pressure of following up such an acclaimed album). While the title of her Body Talk series indicates that Robyn is one of the pop stars most committed to getting fans moving, Do It Again doesn’t make it easy for anyone simply looking to quickly freshen up a gym playlist.

That’s not to say listeners won’t find such material—the EP’s title track is a shimmering piece of elastic dance music that could cause whiplash with all its stuttering stops and starts. But by making some of the most interesting pop music—even if it’s not always the most digestible—Robyn offers a completely different path to divahood: opting out of the game entirely.

TIME Music

REVIEW: Coldplay Makes Tragic Magic on New Album Ghost Stories

MilaBlueWingF 2
Atlantic Records

It's a smaller, softer Coldplay — for better or for worse

Coldplay became the biggest rock band in the world just as the very concept began to seem antiquated. Like a mass-market retailer nicking fashion trends and looks from high-end designers and runway shows, Chris Martin and company rose to prominence by distilling the sounds of their ancestors and critically feted contemporaries into hyper-melodic, stadium-sized anthems. On their first two albums, Parachutes and A Rush of Blood to the Head, they sanded down the arty, oft-angular rock of U2, David Bowie, and Radiohead, rendering it gentler and more easily listenable; songs like “Yellow” and “The Scientist” found traction amongst the great middle and were assimilated into the pop canon almost immediately. That sound was taken to its logical extent on X&Y, an ambitious but bloated document that found the band sprinkling their compositions with string arrangements and electronic flecks.

So with no room left to expand, Coldplay enlisted legendary producer Brian Eno to help broaden and refine their sound. The result was 2008’s Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, an eclectic, relatively succinct collection of pop songs complete with digressions into shoegaze, Afro-pop, and crunching rock. Three years later, Mylo Xyloto found the band steering even further into pop-friendly terrain, cribbing from kinetic and heartsick indie bands in equal measure for a concept record about love at the end of the world. As their sound evolved, they remained anchors of the music industry, even as more straightforward strains of pop and hip-hop became indisputably dominant in a commercial sense; their sales remained strong, even as many of their peers struggled to keep pace.

It’s good to remember that history when considering the band’s sixth studio album, Ghost Stories, which finds them once again employing the sonic approach they have perfected, albeit with different source material. Much of the album sounds like Coldplay’s take on an acclaimed vein of gentle, emotionally vulnerable music that explores the overlapping realms of rock, R&B, and electronic sounds: the woodsy, warped hymns of Bon Iver, James Blake’s throbbing confessionals, the muted pillow talk of the xx. There is one major outlier, a pounding quasi-EDM collaboration with the popular producer Avicii; it reeks of pandering. (A team-up with Timbaland, “True Love,” fares a little better.) The frosty, meandering “Midnight” bears this influence most heavily, twisting Martin’s signature nimble, soft falsetto through a vocoder and layering it like dead leaves left on a forest floor, but there are lesser signs scattered throughout the album: the simple beat-driven intro that kicks off “Magic,” the skittering percussion that drives the weepy “True Love,” the haunted choir behind “Another’s Arms.” Martin’s vocals mostly pair well with this new, adjusted direction, but the heightened focus on groove and piano-based melody marginalizes the typically dependable contributions of lead guitarist Jonny Buckland; gleaming six-string hooks of the sort that anchored the best songs on the band’s first few albums are few and far between here.

But for all the sonic shifts that take place on Ghost Stories, the album’s greatest break from Coldplay’s tradition is lyrical. Never one to shy away from a platitude or a vague, potentially universal statement about life and love, Martin’s recent “conscious uncoupling” from his wife, the actress Gwyneth Paltrow, has inspired his rawest, most personal writing to date. The set of lines that opens “Another’s Arms” neatly encapsulates the album’s pained, stingingly detailed tone: “Late night watching TV, used to be you here beside me / Used to be your arms around me, your body on my body.” Every song on the album seems to pack at least one comparable couplet; Martin can’t help but chronicle his despair and regret, lament their shared failure, or glance fondly at the magic he and Paltrow once shared. The loss of grandeur that seeps through Ghost Stories — the lack of scale, the smallness — begins to make sense in this context: as Martin has shrunk his lyrical universe from the broadly applicable to the cringe-inducingly personal, the band’s compositions have shrunk in turn.

While the dissolution of Martin’s marriage makes for undeniably compelling lyrical fodder, his personal experience may be writing checks his songwriting expertise can’t cash: his veering between cliché and uncomfortable detail never quite hits the mark when it comes to adequately realizing his feelings. It’s only when his voice, and the melodies that make up Ghost Stories, are able to bear the emotional weight, that the album achieves the resonance that made its predecessors world-beating hits.

TIME Music

Lana Del Rey Announces Ultraviolence Release Date, Reveals Album Cover

Lana Del Rey, Ultraviolence
Lana Del Rey, Ultraviolence Interscope/Polydor UK

Ultraviolence comes out June 17 and features the lead single "West Coast"

Lana Del Rey described herself as a “gangsta Nancy Sinatra” when she first twirled her way into Internet infamy in 2011, but the newly unveiled album cover for her upcoming album, Ultraviolence, is the first of the singer’s releases to actually resemble a classic rap album.

In addition to the artwork, the “Video Games” singer announced a release date — Ultraviolence drops June 17 — and confirmed its tracklist, which features the very Lana-sounding titles “Sad Girl,” “Pretty When You Cry” and “F—d My Way Up to the Top,” which is sure to be a gem. Take a listen to the album’s hazy first single, “West Coast,” here.

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