A formalist analysis of Lana Del Rey’s song Summertime Sadness

Summertime Sadness from Lana Del Rey’s album Born to Die displays a rollercoaster of emotions the song writer might have gone through while writing the song. As the song begins we listen to a very high spirited singer, head over heels in love with her “summertime sadness”. They are separated by whatever reason that is not yet revealed to the auditors, but the singer craves for that one last touch of love, a kiss before she is swept away from her love and to reassure her beloved that he/she is the best. The buoyant singer is now dressed up in a red dress contrasting to the pale moon, which symbolises how she is trying to lift up her  spirits by dressing up, getting her hair done even while she is still surrounded by the pale moonlight, showing the sadness shes impersed in both internally and surrounding her externally. But even on this eerie night with a pale moon, she is trying to seek happiness and somehow relieve herself from the melancholy that’s surrounding her, she even takes off her heels, a simple act of pleasure for girls, yet she fails to achieve the state of complacency.

Right from the pre-chorus of the song, it’s slowly revealed how the singer is starting to feel low again, and that her rollercoaster of emotions is tipping low. She feels the unease slowly creeping into her, she feels it in the air, she feels even the telephone wires are being ominous, they are sizzling as if something bad is to happen to her; then we see her drowned in a new set of emotions where she feels strong. She believes that nothing can scare her anymore, as if things that she was terrified of had already happened to her. Even when she’s burnt with the feeling of loss, she is not ready to give up  nor is she complaining about her beloved, who has abandoned her. She is reassured that even after losing her loved one, living through that loss, even though the fires are fast burning around her, she is no longer scared, she will keep herself afloat. 

Throughout the song she sings about her summertime sadness. Contradicting the popular belief of having seasonal depression during winters, Lana has a summertime sadness, for her summer is the cruelest. It points to the possibility that she might have lost her beloved in a summer. It could also signify her getting reminded of the warmth of the summer time memories she created with her beloved, that is making her write these saddest lines and and through these summer days she is reliving her happy memories. The refrain of the lines

Kiss me hard before you

My summertime sadness 

I just wanted you to know 

That baby, your the best

Shows how the loss has scarred her deep. She is deeply affected, but never angry at her summertime sadness, for her he/she is still the best. She is still keen for a chance to see her summertime sadness again, to give a tight kiss one last time. Maybe she regrets a missed chance, maybe she craves to experience their last meeting again. 

From the second verse of the song, we get a glimpse of her summertime sadness. While she’s driving down at high speed, she feels an electric wave passing through her, she is not scared of her speed as she has her “baby by her heavenly side”. This is the first time it is revealed, her summertime sadness has passed on to the heavenly side. Which shows why she was never angry at her beloved, for leaving her. The last bridge of the song describes the feelings Lana has reserved for her beloved. She sings,

Think I’ll miss you forever

Like the stars miss the sun in the morning skies

Later’s better than never

Even if you’re gone I’m gonna drive, drive, drive

She is deeply mourning the death, she is driving her life forward only keeping in mind the destination where she could meet her beloved again.

While watching the accompanying video of the song, we get a clear image of her summertime sadness. The video is open ended and gives space for a lot more speculation. One of the conclusions that we can arrive at is the fact that her best friend/lover committed suicided, as we see a girl in white dress jumping off of a cliff. She is mourning the death and waits to pass on to the heavenly side and meet her again. She is in her red dress, driving down in about ‘99. Her suicidal tendencies or her anticipation for her death is clear from the countdown, “1..2..3..4..” resonating in the background. She wants to meet her bad baby on the heavenly side as fast as she could. This conclusion gains strength furthermore with the first words you hear when you listen to the song which says, “know that i love you forever, ok bye”. While correlating the lyrics with the music video, another possible explanation comes up. It can also be seen as a dead person’s message to her friend she’s leaving behind on the earthly side. It’s a message that reassures her summertime sadness, that she is happy and is not tense to take the leap. She is ready to take her own life. She is all dressed up, yet she takes her heels off, signifying how she is rectifying even the smallest discomfort she faces, she is no longer ready to suffer, she decides to move on to the painless world as she dawns her life with a countdown. She’s singing to her friend as she is leaving for the other world, the song signifies that last few moments of her life, as we see Lana’s happy memories playing on as if on a loop. 

It is an enigmatic song filled with the deep sense of loss for a loved one. The song could be about her personal journey of loss of a beloved or her a beautiful suicide note she is composing before she passes on to the other world.

Categories: News