Because she was on the West Coast, Lana Del Rey said, she thought it made sense to unveil her new single midway through her performance Sunday night at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
Titled, um, "West Coast," it's a characteristically bleary number that sounds like Stevie Nicks' "Edge of Seventeen" slowed down to a narcotized crawl; there's a bit of "Wicked Game" by Chris Isaak in there too, as, indeed, there is in all of Del Rey's music.
But Coachella's location wasn't its only appeal to the singer. She also called it "the sexiest concert of the year," and if there's one judgment Del Rey is prepared to make, it's that one.
Wearing a filmy above-the-knee dress that ruffled just so in the desert wind, she put plenty of sex into her 45-minute set, which surrounded "West Coast" with tunes from 2012's "Born to Die" and its companion EP, "Paradise."
She tossed her long brown hair and crouched down to the stage; she made a production number out of lighting a cigarette and taking a few languorous drags before "Summertime Sadness," the slow-mo ballad that spawned a surprise-hit remix last year.
For all its breathy innuendo, though, Del Rey's performance wasn't something offered up for the approval of the men in her audience. Like Miley Cyrus on her current tour, she seemed far more interested in connecting with her female fans, who responded to her moves with an intensity that suggested identification, not objectification.
When she came down from the stage to greet people mashed up against a barricade, it was the young women who reached out to touch her (and, in at least two cases, to offer Coachella-standard floral headbands, which Del Rey gamely donned).
What made the crowd's reaction especially remarkable is how little of herself Del Rey actually revealed, particularly compared with Cyrus, who might be pop's most open book.
A heady pastiche of humid trip-hop beats and lush old-Hollywood sonics, Del Rey's music is almost totally opaque, signifiers atop signifiers. And her onstage comments Sunday bordered on the comically vague.
"So amazing," she said after singing "Born to Die." "Your energy is so, so good."
Yet all that borrowed emotion is as potent as it is mysterious.
Near the end of the show, Del Rey turned her back to the audience to confer with the members of her band about how many minutes they had left onstage.
"They can give us a little more time, can't they?" she asked, holding her microphone close enough to carry her pretend-private question out over the polo field. Then she sang a beautiful rendition of her breakout song, "Video Games."
It was hard to imagine what more time would have exposed.
Twitter: @mikaelwoodCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times