Glitz. Red lipstick. A white Mustang. These are a few of the images I associate with the music of acclaimed singer and songwriter Lana Del Rey. But lately it seems like Del Rey is shedding the smooth vocals for a folk-country twang. Everyone’s favorite Hollywood coquette is kicking off 2024 with a different kind of project, as the singer herself put it at a pre-Grammy event: “We’re going country. It’s happening.”

Recently, Del Rey’s public image has become increasingly country. In July 2023, she was spotted working at a Waffle House in Florence, AL. Photos quickly began circulating on social media, prompting many to ask: What was Del Rey doing in a Waffle House uniform? What was she doing on her trip to rural Alabama? Fans of the Lake Placid-turned-California native were puzzled.

Lana Del Rey’s appeal has as much to do with her aesthetic as the music itself. Hits like “Summertime Sadness” and “Blue Jeans” put her on the musical map, but a big part of Del Rey’s staying power in the following years came from the visuals that accompanied her albums. With 2012’s “Born to Die,” Del Rey’s new fanbase saw grainy, vintage homemade music videos featuring pursed red lips and Americana. At the time, Del Rey’s fanbase was growing rapidly on social media, with her popularity on Tumblr proving particularly impactful. The “Tumblr era,” saw a development of a prominent indie pop craze in the early 2010s, and Del Rey was at the forefront. Fans promoted the young singer by posting her provocative lyrics and sultry, Old Hollywood aesthetic images.

Her recent foray into a small Alabama town is a small part of Del Rey’s recent exploration of the country scene. The singer also embarked on a small tour for her last project, 2023’s “Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd.” Instead of the usual big city destinations like New York City and Los Angeles, Del Rey chose to take her tour predominantly to smaller southern cities like Huntsville, AL and Charlotte, NC. Given the financial benefits of keeping a live music show in densely populated cities and Del Rey’s usual M.O, this seems like a very conscious decision.

These are unusual career moves for an established alt-pop singer-songwriter. Del Rey took her burgeoning country interests to the stage when she performed a cover of Elvis Presley’s version of The Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody” at Graceland, the rock star’s famous Memphis estate. She also performed a cover of Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” at multiple shows on her recent tour.

In December 2023 Del Rey released her cover of John Denver’s iconic “Take Me Home, Country Roads” on streaming platforms. The folk-country anthem sounds nothing like Del Rey’s usual Jack Antonoff-produced melodies that riff on pop culture and Americana glitz. Nonetheless, her take on the song is haunting. Piercingly beautiful vocals complement a pared-down, but tasteful production.

Del Rey will officially release her full-length country project “Lasso” in September 2024. She will be working with longtime collaborator Antonoff, as well as producer Luke Laird. Perhaps this is just the latest career whim for the notoriously free-spirited Del Rey, or perhaps it’s a savvy business move. In fact, folk is thriving right now in the music scene. Look no further than Beyonce’s new song, “Texas Hold ‘Em,” released after attending the Grammys in a cowboy hat in February. If Beyonce’s just hopped on the country bandwagon, it’s undoubtedly a prominent musical theme for 2024.

Regardless of her motives, fans have a lot to look forward to from Del Rey in 2024, both through her music and her fast-food antics. Her recent exploration of the American south, both physically and musically, demonstrates Del Rey’s artistic versatility and her openness to taking risks.

"Lana del Rey @ Planeta Terra" by balvani is licensed under CC BY 2.0.