They thought death was worth it, but I
Have a self to recover, a queen.
-Sylvia Plath, “Stings”
Even amidst the buzz surrounding the release of Adele’s 25 this month, I’m still caught up in two other albums released by major female artists this year. Florence and the Machine and Lana Del Rey both (like Adele) released their third major-label albums in 2015. Florence and the Machine’s How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful and Del Rey’s Honeymoon each mark a sonic departure from the albums that preceded them. Beyond that, Florence Welch and Lana del Rey are two of my favorite female artists, and listening to these two albums on constant repeat—Florence’s since May, Lana’s since September—has led me to wonder what these two very different singer-songwriters have in common, and why both have a similarly dark, magnetic appeal for me (and, I suspect, many others). Placing their latest albums in the context of their work as a whole, I can see that part of what’s intriguing about both of these artists is their blurring of the lines between authenticity and performance, mythmaking and confession. Both perform femininity and embody it in ways alternately troubling and inspiring.
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