“Money, Power, Glory” says I can fuck (with) you, but I will also destroy the whole world that makes “you” possible
WE WANT IT IN CASH, RETROACTIVE AND IMMEDIATELY, AND WE WANT ALL OF IT. This demand, made in a flyer by the New York Wages for Housework Campaign, finds a curious echo in Lana Del Rey’s recent “Money, Power, Glory,” despite her protestation that she finds feminism “boring.” Here she too demands “money, power, glory,” swearing that she’ll alternately take “you” and “them” for “all that they got.” You motherfuckers have everything, and you did nothing to get it but steal from the people who did all the work but got nothing in return. This track, ostensibly about a hypocritical religious figure, could just as easily be read as a feminist or reparations revenge anthem.
Typically, revenge anthems—like love songs—are too limited. Why punish one cheating bastard when you can eviscerate the whole lot at once? Why demand one person love you when you could destroy the couple form as such and never have to worry about it again? Having already worked her way through the recognition and critique of emotional labor in “Video Games,” where Del Rey professes the creepiest possible version of devotion in order to pass through it to something much weirder: “It’s you, it’s you, it’s all for you / Everything I do / I tell you all the time.” I tell you all the time because emotional labor is its repetition. Where Britney’s “I was born to make you happy” captures an older existential image of love as destiny (albeit no less creepily than Del Rey), “Video Games” makes it clear that love is a repeated performance, one that is often miserable.
When emotional labor reaches its breaking point, not in irony or overperformance but in a realization of its revolutionary potential, everything love represents hypothetically becomes a real demand. It is the transition from “playing video games” to demanding that the entire structure that separates virtuality from reality be dismantled. “Money, Power, Glory” is the recognition that the material inequalities of the world play out in such a way that their dismantling must in the first place be their recapture—and that will include “dope and diamonds,” inebriation, and exploitation. Contra Audre Lorde’s argument that “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”—or, indeed, the singer Lorde’s claim that “that kind of luxe isn’t for us”—Del Rey understands that the master’s house and the master’s tools are all there is, and if they enjoy it so fucking much, despite doing nothing to get it, then a transitional demand for as much excessive pleasure as possible is only fair in its unfairness.
Alternating between demanding everything from “you” and everything from “them,” Del Rey goes for both agents and structures, and the fantasy of expropriating the expropriators becomes less of a dream than a real, living threat: “Alleluia, I wanna take you for all that you got / Alleluia, I’m gonna take them for all that they got.” The slide between “you” and “they” sees theft as both personal and systemic: I can fuck (with) you, but I will also destroy the whole world that makes “you” possible.
Heaven is no longer a place on earth with you, as it becomes clear that the material world is all there is. Everything that you have ill-gotten is going to be taken from you—at gunpoint if necessary—as the full working out of Del Rey’s American fantasy project surely implies.