Only a couple of nights after Lana Del Rey wowed the 17,500-capacity Hollywood Bowl, she opted to open herself up to a far more intimate crowd in the 200-seat Clive Davis Theater at the Grammy Museum. Undeniably a special occurrence, this was Del Rey putting herself out there. No flamboyance and little in the way of frills, the singer and songwriter sat down with Grammy Museum moderator Scott Goldman and discussed her journey up to and including her new album.

We’re led to believe that we know Lana Del Rey. Like every other mega-celebrity pop star, she’s the focus of countless tabloid stories and sensationalized gossip columns. Every mistake she makes is magnified, etc, etc. That’s how pop stardom is, for better or worse. On the flip side, she has legions of dedicated, besotted fans (Team Lana or even Gangsters, depending on who you ask) that will back her up if they feel she’s being even mildly criticized, a la Beyoncé’s Beyhive. Just ask NPR’s Ann Powers, who wrote a thoughtful, positive piece about Del Rey’s new album Norman Fucking Rockwell; the artist objected to a couple of things that Powers said within the exhaustive, beautifully-written piece and called her out on social media. The journalist found herself being roundly harangued by seemingly every Del Rey fan in the Team.

But whatever. Powers had every right to write what she wrote, and Del Rey had every right not to like it. That’s how this all works (civility is always important, but yeah). Some people who don’t count themselves as Del Rey fans might have read about that whole episode and made assumptions about her personality as a whole. It could be easy to explore that episode and decide that she’s utterly spoiled and entitled. Thin-skinned. A massive grump if not downright miserable. Even mean-spirited. Why take a writer to task over a positive piece? It made no sense.

That’s why an evening like this one felt like such a rare and special event. Del Rey just being Del Rey. And do you know what? We maybe got some Elizabeth Woolridge Grant. It was real, and it contrasted with some of those previously held perceptions.

The evening was split into the Q&A portion and then a short performance. Goldman did a fine job of pushing Del Rey just enough — occasionally her answers would be short but the host would be ready to ask her to elaborate or, if necessary, shift direction. But for the most part, she was surprisingly forthcoming.

When asked about the numerous namechecks for locations in the greater Los Angeles area, she said that she spends hours every day driving, going for hikes or to the water, or to a rock & roll show. She’s extensively explored the area, and enjoys it. She talked about her growth as an artist, and her love for local bands such as Sublime as well as the classic Laurel Canyon sound.

(Courtesy of the Recording Academy™/photo by Rebecca Sapp, Getty Images © 2019)

It became more fun when Norman… producer Jack Antonoff, formerly of the band Fun, joined her for the last bit of the talk; the pair seemed to take great joy in gently needling each other in a sibling-ish sort of way. It was fun to watch, as they gave away secrets about each others’ studio behavior — their eyes rolled and the crowd laughed. And again, we were reminded how rare it is to see Del Rey so comfortable in this sort of environment.

Later, a Grammy Museum employee told us that she never does this sort of thing, but she played more songs than was expected, which would suggest that she had fun — she certainly seemed to. The music portion of the night was particularly special. It didn’t last long — she played just a handful of songs from the new album and then left “on a high note,” but the songs were so beautifully performed — the title track, “How to Disappear,” “Mariners Apartment Complex,” and a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “For Free” that saw her joined by singers Zella Day and Weyes Blood. The set concluded with “Venice Bitch,” and then she was gone.

Whether those that were at the Grammy Museum on Sunday night now know Lana Del Rey any better, only she knows. But it certainly feels like we do.

Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.

LA Weekly