Lana Del Rey’s “Video Games”: The Return of Sadcore?

As a child of the ’90s, I can’t tell you how excited I am to see indie nostalgia begin to turn from new wave and post-punk to shoegaze, lo-fi, and dream pop. We’ve seen artists like Yuck and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. draw upon the noisy indie rock of early Yo La Tengo, and The Horrors’ recent work is indebted to the heavily distorted guitar work that My Bloody Valentine and Ride pioneered.

But what’s been missing from this emerging trend toward ’90s nostalgia is the more feminine side of that era’s alternative music. Remember how you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing Fiona Apple’s sultry “Criminal,” Jewel’s heavy-hearted “Foolish Games,” or Liz Phair’s delightfully empowering “6’1″?

Brooklyn’s Lana Del Rey certainly remembers, and she’s bringing the lady-indie aesthetic back into the spotlight. Her debut single “Video Games” is an exquisitely sung, beautifully orchestrated, and unabashedly emotional affair. It’s a tale of a bittersweet romance, in which Del Rey gives all of herself to her lover, and receives little in return. And it’s certainly reminiscent of the ’90s oeuvre of Jewel and Fiona Apple, both in its gorgeous chamber-pop arrangement and in Del Rey’s powerfully understated songwriting.

In fact, “Video Games” recalls another musical trend unique to the ’90s: the minimalist and starkly emotional “sadcore” genre. This diffuse movement included such artists as Red House Painters, American Music Club, and Cat Power, and largely faded into obscurity at the turn of the decade.

Does Lana Del Rey signify the return of sadcore? Or does “Video Games” coincidentally converge with this distinctive style? Either way, it’s undeniable that “Video Games” is a great debut track, and Del Rey is definitely someone to keep on your radar.

The 7″ single of “Video Games” (b/w “Blue Jeans”) will drop on October 10th. You can pre-order your copy via Stranger Records (the first 100 will be signed by Del Rey). Check out the video here:

  • Ryan Schwartz


  • suddenlyissoon

    I have a hard time believing you could lump this song in to sadcore. Don’t get me wrong, I like it a lot but it’s not reaching Carissa’s Wierd levels. They are the measuring stick for true sadcore.

    • Adam Jazairi

      Actually, I think that “Video Games” shares a lot in common with Carissa’s Wierd’s work: namely, minimalist orchestral arrangements, expressive vocals, and sad lyrics, all of which are common features in sadcore. While Carissa’s Wierd and Lana Del Rey are obviously very different artists, I’d argue that they belong to the same genre. We’ll see where Del Rey takes her sound, but in the meantime, it’s interesting to speculate that she might be reviving an obscure indie rock subgenre (whether consciously or not).