Decoding “Young and Beautiful” by Lana Del Rey

I’m going to be “decoding” Lana Del Rey songs — beginning with her most popular and going from there. Much of her music has been misunderstood and quickly judged by critics with closed minds. Also, there are many little details, including the music videos, that many may have missed out on. And I will also add my own, personal insights, because all art is up to interpretation. Let me know what should be added in the comments!

Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful?

Will you still love me when I’ve got nothing but my aching soul?

I know you will, I know you will, I know that you will.

“Young and Beautiful” is the first time I was exposed to Lana Del Rey. It was used in the soundtrack for The Great Gadsby, released in theaters in 2013. Such exposure is likely what first skyrocketed her career into mainstream success.

Baz Luhrmann is given credit as co-writer alongside Lana Del Rey, written from the character of Daisy’s perspective. However, it was later revealed by Luhrmann in an interview that the song had been written prior to being connected to the film. Luhrmann changed around some of the lyrics before taking it on as a soundtrack piece. The only lyrics Luhrmann changed was one line of the second verse:

  • Original/demo: “Channeling Joplin, Jimmy Page now.”
  • Official: “Channeling angels in the New Age now.”

Also, the title of the song was originally “Will You Still Love Me When I’m No Longer Young and Beautiful” — cut shorter to “Young and Beautiful.”

Demo version:

Critical reception

The critical reception to this song was overall very positive. Ten years later, it still remains as one of her most popular and widely known songs. It is both fitting to the film as well as Lana Del Rey’s musical aesthetic. It was a brilliant way of captivating new fans (like I was at the time.)

Song meaning

“Young and Beautiful” is classy and elegant, with a heartwarming message. It carries themes of both nostalgia and luxury. It embraces the material while also containing a spiritual yearning for something more.

This song is about being in love while contemplating if this feeling will last forever or eventually fade, ultimately having faith that love can stand the test of time. Lana sings about her worldly conquests and riches — “I’ve seen the world, done it all, had my cake now.” She also mentions the lustful desires that come with a young romance.

She acknowledges that love can be a fleeting feeling, that people age and the only thing you can count on is your soul. You may lose your looks, lose your ability to do everything that you used to, lose your sense of passion and desire… however, the love will still remain. There is something quite somber about these facts of life, which gives this track a haunting tone. And yet, the message of love lasting beyond all of the worldly things that deteriorate in time is so incredibly beautiful.

This song is absolutely pure, especially compared so much of her other work. It’s very sweet. It’s also very powerful and strong.

Music video

The music video is simple yet very powerful. Lana Del Rey wears large hoops, red lipstick, and brown curls. She sings to the camera with a lot of heartfelt emotion. It also cuts back to a maestro conducting a symphony, who we only see from his back. The style of editing adds to the nostalgic flair of the piece.

I think that this music video is extremely fitting for, again, both the movie and the LDR aesthetic (of her first album, at least.) I really enjoy the simplicity of it. Her makeup and jewelry, along with the big band, gives it a sense of grand elegance. But the repetition of scenes represents what the song is genuinely trying to express, that there is power beyond flashiness.

I also appreciate how there are no movie scenes included. Often, soundtrack music videos are used as trailers for film promotion, but this one does not do that. This song should be separated from the film, as it was originally intended to be. It gives the song more power.

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