Lana Del Ray brings ill- fated pop (and literary) icons to life in downhearted ballads, immortalizing their stories in extensive vamping and repetitive melodic phrasing. Whether rocking “Ultraviolence” alongside Jim Morrison or singing the “Body Electric” like Walt Whitman, Lana Del Rey paints old Hollywood to life in much of her music.
This is a running theme in the second-released song from her upcoming LP “Lust for Life.” On April 16, Lana Del Rey dropped her eponymous single “Lust for Life” featuring The Weeknd.
Several pop culture scholars have connected the haunting music video’s imagery and lyrics to the 1932 suicide of Peg Entwistle.
Entwistle was a successful Broadway actress who got her first major role in David O. Selznick’s Thirteen Women; however, her role was cut in the final production of the film. The distraught actress followed the lengthy trail to the then “Hollywoodland” sign, climbed up the “H” and jumped to her death. She achieved the fame that eluded her in life as the only person in history to commit suicide of the Hollywood sign.
The opening lines of “Lust for Life” alludes to the Hollywood sign’s “H” as Del Rey sings, “Climb up the H/Of the Hollywood sign, yeah…The world is mine (do it, do it)/There’s nobody here.” These words linger throughout the song. Though it seems as if Del Rey’s painting a couple stealing moments together on this iconic symbol, a closer look at the lyrics suggests otherwise. Entwistle stood atop that scaffold over 80 years ago. In that fateful moment, the world may not have been hers, but life was in the controls of her grasp. The eerie lyric “do it, do it” echoes Entwistle’s inner voice, egging her on to jump.
The “H” is exactly where several filmmakers claim to have seen Entwistle’s ghost. An ethereal Del Rey inhabits this “H” in the “Lust for Life” album trailer. The pop siren says, “Luckily for me, I live right inside the middle of the H of the Hollywood sign and this is how I spend most of my nights, perched high above the chaos that swirls within the City of Angels below.”
Another visual used in the music video is the ladder that appears behind Del Rey in a later scene from the “Lust for Life” album trailer. This symbol connects to Peg Entwistle’s suicide; allegedly, Entwistle brought a ladder to help her climb up the “H.” In a recent interview with online music magazine Pitchfork, Del Rey’s album trailer director Clark Jackson explains the purposeful placement of each item, quoting, “We also wanted to put in a whole bunch of hidden tie-ins to the rest of her album. In the end there are not very many items represented there, but each of them means something—each thing was placed on purpose.” Jackson said he wanted Del Rey fans to question, “‘Why a ladder? Why the seven planets?’ As songs and the rest of the album are released, they will become more clear.”
In addition, Del Rey references dying young, a common topic in her music. She sings, “Then, we dance on the ‘H’…Till we run out of breath/Gotta dance ‘til we die.” The Weeknd sings, “They say only the good die young/That just ain’t right.” Peg Entwistle was only 24 when she died, so this parallels the fallen star.
While Lana Del Rey has not admitted that there is a connection to Entwistle’s suicide, the substantial amount of evidence links the suicide to Del Rey’s visuals and lyrics. The audience will have to wait for the rest of Del Rey’s album, which is set to release in the spring.