“Fishtail” by Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey once again teamed up with Jack Antonoff in composing this offering from the former’s album, “Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd”, which Interscope and Polydor put out on 24 March 2023. That is to say that it is Del Rey and Antonoff who wrote and produced the song “Fishtail”, with its other writers being AK and Ann Tomberlin.
WHY “FISHTAIL”, LANA?
It has been reasonably put forth that the title of this song has two meanings. First is in reference to the act of fishtailing, a colloquial term associated with automobile driving whereas, most simply explained, the driver makes erratic movements.
That would be an analogy for the disposition of the addressee in terms of his relationship with Lana. In other words, she seems pretty convinced he currently doesn’t have her best interests in mind, despite what begins as a loving romance and one which, on the surface, may still appear as if everything is gravy.
Secondly, it has been pointed out that “fishtail” is the name of a particular braiding style. Del Rey appears to be a braids’ aficionado, as a quick Google search reveals she has rocked numerous styles throughout the years, including the fishtail, which looks like two or three big braids combined into a single ponytail, if you will.
But more to the point is it serving as a plot device in this song. Braiding someone’s hair can be, as in this case, interpreted as a very-personal sign of affection. So with the addressee offering to do so to Lana, her reaction is that he shouldn’t if he “(doesn’t) really care”. She perceives having her hair braided by the addressee as such a significant act that if he is halfhearted concerning their love, then in her mind it would be best if they avoided him doing so altogether.
And so it is, more or less, with the thesis sentiment of this track. The way the situation reads is like one of those scenarios whereas maybe the vocalist is seeing another lady. And to him, doing so may not seem like a big deal. But to Lana, she is interpreting it as a sign that he is not as committed as idealized or as he once was, which is causing her to become depressed accordingly.
But that’s just one way of breaking down “Fishtail”. Or let’s conclude by saying that whereas it’s pretty clear that Lana is pissed off at her sweetheart, why is never specified per se. For instance, there’s one line where she references “summer bruises on (her) knee” which, if taken literally, would point to physical abuse. But the song also concludes by more clearing implying that he’s cheating. In any event, the vocalist now believes that her lover is not genuinely interested in her wellbeing.
“You wanted me sadder, you wanted me sadder (Baby)
Can’t you see it?
For me, you are the one
And if I’m not the one for you
Don’t you say it
I was on the stairs
Ella Fitzgerald in the air
Feelin’ hella rare
Baby, if you care
Baby, don’t you dare say
You’ll braid my hair, babe
Don’t you dare say that you’ll braid my hair, babe
If you don’t really care
You wanted me sadder”
SHOUTOUT TO ELLA FITZGERALD
Del Rey references the late, great Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996) in the chorus of “Fishtail”. It sounds like the vocalist does so to point to the idea of being a fan of Fitzgerald’s music. And in the process, it may also be that Lana recognizes, in a roundabout, a love song Fitzgerald dropped in 1959 titled “So Rare”.
“Lana’s ‘Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd’ is such an amazing album and ‘Fishtail’ in particular is an incredibly powerful song. It’s clear that the lyrics and message resonate with many. The beat is truly infectious, and it’s great to see how much everyone is enjoying it.
The line ‘not that smart, but I’ve got things to say’ is a standout moment that showcases her poetic talent and self-awareness. It’s also great to see how she stays true to herself and doesn’t let anyone else dictate her emotions or happiness.”
– Kojo Enoch