Lana Del Rey – “Doin’ Time” Lyrics Meaning

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Written By Joanna Landrum

Joanna holds a BSc in English Literature and uses her expertise in literary analysis to uncover the deeper meaning of her favorite songs.

“Doin’ Time” by Lana Del Rey captures the essence of a languid summer, reflecting on a tumultuous relationship. While the song oozes the ease of summertime vibes, it delves deep into a narrative of love gone sour, where the singer’s partner gives her love to others but leaves none for the singer herself. The undertones of betrayal, longing, and an eventual realization of self-worth drive the narrative, suggesting the importance of freeing oneself from toxic relationships.

Ready for a deep dive into the hazy, sun-soaked world of “Doin’ Time”? Here’s a breakdown of its nuanced lyrics.

“Doin’ Time” Lyrics Meaning

The opening line, “Summertime, and the livin’s easy,” sets the scene – it’s a warm, laid-back summer, reminiscent of carefree days. But this breeziness contrasts with the story that unfolds.

When Lana sings about “Bradley’s on the microphone with Ras MG,” she’s paying homage to the original song from Sublime, hinting at the past and introducing us to the characters in this narrative. This connection to the L.B.C (Long Beach, California) roots the song in a specific time and place.

The line “Me and my girl, we got this relationship” introduces the central theme: a rocky relationship. The relationship is described as being “on lockdown, like a penitentiary,” suggesting a feeling of confinement, not in the sense of commitment, but more of a trap.

The telling lines, “She spreads her lovin’ all over, And when she gets home, there’s none left for me,” depict betrayal and emotional deprivation. The singer’s partner is giving away her affection and love to others, leaving the singer starved for genuine connection.

“Oh, take this veil from off my eyes” signals a revelation. The “burning sun” could represent a dawning realization or clarity about the relationship. The subsequent line, “I’m gonna play with myself, Show them, now, we’ve come off the shelf,” could hint at self-discovery and empowerment, suggesting that the singer has decided to prioritize herself.

The powerful words, “Evil, I’ve come to tell you that she’s evil, most definitely,” speak volumes about the partner’s character. And the tension growing hotter, with the line “I’d like to hold her head underwater,” indicates bubbling anger and desire for retribution, though it’s likely a metaphor for wishing to end the relationship than a literal sentiment.

The Story Behind “Doin’ Time”

“Doin’ Time” is a modern rendition of Sublime’s 1996 track, itself borrowing from George Gershwin’s “Summertime.” When Lana Del Rey chose to cover it, she brought her signature melancholic style to a song already rich in history.

At the time Lana decided to reinterpret this song, she was recognized for her exploration of complex emotions in relationships. While the original song by Sublime had its dark undertones, Lana’s rendition underscores the melancholy, making it more prominent. She reimagines the narrative, blending her style with the essence of the original, and offers a perspective that focuses on the emotional turmoil of being in a one-sided relationship.

Her choice to revive “Doin’ Time” might hint at personal experiences, or perhaps she felt drawn to the duality of summertime – which can be both a time of relaxation and deep reflection. Through this song, Lana conveys that, like the summer sun, relationships can be warm and nourishing, but they can also scorch and hurt if not handled with care.

As Lana Del Rey has often been lauded for her ability to intertwine nostalgia with contemporary sentiments, “Doin’ Time” serves as another testament to her skill. She transports listeners back to the 90s with a nod to Sublime while making the song feel undeniably current.

The surrounding context of Lana’s other tracks during this period of her career points to a thematic exploration of love’s highs and lows, and the choices we make while ensnared in its grasp. “Doin’ Time,” therefore, isn’t just a song about a challenging relationship, but also a reflection on self-worth and the journey to self-realization within the parameters of love.

It’s worth noting that the lines about betrayal and desire for freedom aren’t just about romantic relationships. They can apply to any bond or situation where one feels trapped, underappreciated, or taken for granted. In the modern world, where everything seems fleeting, the song is a gentle reminder to prioritize oneself, to seek balance, and to recognize when it’s time to step out of the shadows and into the sunlight.

Finally, understanding Lana Del Rey’s personal history and her artistic penchant for drawing from her experiences makes the song even more profound. While she might not have written the lyrics, her rendition breathes a unique life into them, imbued with her own emotions, making “Doin’ Time” an evocative journey through the languid days of summer and the torrid tangles of love.

In conclusion, “Doin’ Time” is more than just a cover. It’s a reimagining that connects past and present, merging the worlds of Sublime and Lana Del Rey, creating a musical narrative that’s both timeless and timely. It serves as a powerful reminder that music, much like emotions, can transcend time, evolving and adapting to the world around it.