Late last night, Lana Del Rey released her new single “Coachella – Woodstock In My Mind.” With it, she became the fourth major-ish artist to release a song with “Coachella” in the title just in the past couple of months. What the fuck? Why is this happening now? There is nothing new about the Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival; it’s been happening since 1999. So why are all these songs coming out now?
There are a couple of explanations in play here. It could, of course, be a total coincidence. It could also be an example of a music festival crossing over into becoming something other than a music festival, to becoming a generational totem and a rite of passage. Del Rey sings about Coachella being like Woodstock; maybe, after 18 years, our own big festival is now just as iconic as that of our boomer forebears. Or — and, honestly, this seems most likely — maybe it’s just a way for artists to get themselves booked at next year’s festival. Whatever the case, it’s time to look at those four songs — songs that really have nothing in common except the word “Coachella” in their title — and to rank them, best to worst.
1. Cashmere Cat – “9 (After Coachella)” (Feat. MØ & SOPHIE)
The song: A goofy day-glo EDM banger with a wistful vocal and a bass-drop that sounds like it teleported in directly from some experimental academy work. It’s a catchy song that works against its own catchiness and a grandly silly gesture that’s both arch and sincere at the same damn time.
Is it actually about Coachella? Sort of! The song never mentions Coachella, and it seems like a standard lost-love jam; when it came out a couple of months ago, the “Coachella” in the title seemed like a total red herring. But thanks to the informative Pop-Up Video-style subtitles on the song’s video, we learn that Cashmere Cat wrote it about the experience of meeting a girl in the Coachella VIP section and then not being able to find her again. Something like this could happen anywhere, but it also seems like a quintessential Coachella experience, somehow.
Would it sound good at Coachella? Sure! The deep weirdness of that bass-drop might throw a few people off, but then, the Sahara Tent has a way of making even the goofiest musical tricks sound like party-anthem material.
2. Gucci Mane – “Coachella”
The song: A standard but pretty great trap banger with hazy, nagging production from Drake collaborator Murda Beatz. Gucci released it between Coachella weekends, and that’s presumably also when he recorded it.
Is it actually about Coachella? Not at all! Gucci barely mentions Coachella on the song. Here’s the hook: “Cold weather / Just performed at Coachella / It’s a cold summer, so I’ma paint the Lam yellow.” The rest of the time, he’s just talking about drugs and blowjobs, which are things that you can find at Coachella but which are not Coachella-specific. There’s also a bit of crowd noise, presumably recorded at Coachella, but again not Coachella-specific.
Would it sound good at Coachella? Not really! It’s a pretty good song, but if you’re going to see Gucci at Coachella, you’re going to see him do his hits, and this was not a hit. Did you see he brought out 50 Cent at weekend two? That must’ve been some shit!
3. Lana Del Rey – “Coachella – Woodstock In My Mind”
The song: A hazy torch-song dirge with a few shiny Dr. Dre drums and harpsichord-plucks and a whole lot of gooey strings. It’s more sincere than your average Lana Del Rey song, but it’s got that same narcotized glow that they all have. (Your Stereogum staff remains completely divided on this song; half of us think it’s good and half of it thinks it’s butt. I am Team Butt.)
Is it actually about Coachella? Yes! Specifically, it’s about the experience of watching Father John Misty at Coachella, hanging out with Josh Tillman’s wife during the performance. (It includes the line “critics can be so mean sometimes,” so I guess LDR didn’t see my Pure Comedy review.) And then it’s also about the experience of feeling the glow from that experience but then also seeing news about ramping-up tensions with North Korea — the divide between the optimism of the Coachella kids and the bitter rancor of their parents. (It’s probably easier to feel idealistic about Coachella if your experience is the VIP one. If LDR had almost gotten into a fight with a drunk Australian guy for no reason, or if she’d had to walk a mile to her car through a sandstorm, she might feel a little differently. It might be more of a “welp, we’re all doomed” type of situation.)
Would it sound good at Coachella? No! Too boring!
4. Matoma – “Girl At Coachella” (Feat. Magic! & D.R.A.M.)
The song: A smoothed-out midtempo trop-house jam from a Norwegian producer, with a vocal from the “why you gotta be so rude” guy, who has never performed at Coachella. The lyrics are all about being really mad because the girl you brought back into VIP went to hang out with other musicians. D.R.A.M. is too good to be participating in this bullshit, but he’s here anyway.
Is it actually about Coachella? Yes, sadly! Specifically, it’s about wanting to fuck a girl at Coachella, feeling entitled to fuck a girl at Coachella, and then feeling really put out when the girl at Coachella goes to fuck somebody else (at Coachella). We, the listeners, are supposed to hear this with sympathy, like it’s a cautionary tale or something.
Would it sound good at Coachella? No! It wouldn’t sound good anywhere!