As it did with Taylor Swift earlier this year, New York University’s Clive Davis Institute has introduced a course on Lana Del Rey for this fall. Taught by journalist and author Kathy Iandoli, the two-credit course, “Topics in Recorded Music: Lana Del Rey” runs Oct. 20-Dec. 8.
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According to an NYU rep, the course will examine Del Rey’s contributions to 21st Century pop stardom, her relationship to feminism, her musical influences and artists she has influenced, and her connection to social justice movements such as #BlackLlivesMatter, #MeToo and #TimesUp. Del Rey was honored with the Decade Award at Variety‘s Hitmakers event in December.
The course description reads: Over the course of eight critically-acclaimed albums, the six-time Grammy nominated artist has introduced a sad core, melancholic, and baroque version of dream pop that in turn helped shift and reinvent the sound (and mood) of mainstream music beyond the 2010s. Through her arresting visuals and her thematic attention to mental health and tales of toxic, damaged love, Del Rey provided a new platform for artists of all genders to create “anti-pop” works of substance that could live in a mainstream once categorized as bubblegum.
Speaking with Variety, Iandoli says, “In so many ways, I feel like Lana Del Rey is both a blueprint and a cautionary tale, a complicated pop star who resonates so much with her fans, not because of how she makes them feel about her, but rather how she makes them feel about themselves. She has changed the parameters of baroque pop and now more specifically “sad girl pop” through her music, by expanding the subject matter which at times is controversial and challenging. There are so many pieces in this mosaic that we have now come to know as Lana Del Rey, and this course examines every dimension of it.”
Chaired by veteran music writer and musician Jason King, the Davis Institute has included classes taught by Questlove, “Dilla Time” author Dan Charnas, Q-Tip, legendary producer-engineer Bob Power and many others.
Of the Del Rey course, King tells Variety, “When we offer artist-themed courses at the Clive Davis Institute, we are always asking: how does this artist’s work help students think through larger and complex cultural, social or political issues or movements? Lana Del Rey refracts so many changes in contemporary culture, especially as the role of contemporary women in pop music keeps shifting. Studying Lana Del Rey means thinking more critically the growing popularity of so-called anti-pop. It means finding ways to consider the increased interest in mental health and issues of psychological damage, and to evaluate changes in they 21st way we think about identity, especially in terms of race, gender, nation and class. Lana is especially relevant, and controversial, when it comes to changing ideas about intersectional feminism over the past decade.
“The point of our artist-themed classes at the Clive Davis Institute is to encourage students think more deeply and critically about the icons they admire and to develop a historical and contextual understanding of those artists,” he continues. “Students are expected to approach the study of Lana Del Rey with the same critical lens with which they approach the study of Led Zeppelin or John Coltrane or Bob Marley or Stevie Wonder or Joni Mitchell in other Writing/History/Emergent Media Studies courses we offer. There is a growing body of academic research and scholarly discourse on Lana Del Rey as well that seeks to assess her cultural meaning and impact, and students read and think through some of the work in class.”
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