Shia LaBeouf's story is also the story of the Internet's history.

A young, troubled franchise star who took a turn for the absurd and rapidly became a gigantic and multifaceted meme, LaBeouf has had a multitude of infamous online moments that have solidified his position as one of the technosphere's earliest and most enduring gods.

Most recently, he's come back onto Twitter's list of trending topics after being featured on Hot Ones, a show that features celebrities getting candid eating hot sauce. While on the show, he ate a spicy chicken wing and cried, likened the process of making his upcoming biopic Honey Boy to an "exorcism," and also talked about his friendship with Kanye West and the time he wrestled Tom Hardy naked.

Shia LaBeouf Sheds a Tear While Eating Spicy Wings | Hot Ones www.youtube.com

This seems like as good a time as any to bring up something that has haunted me for nearly eight years. "Actual Cannibal Shia LaBeouf"—the song, the dance, and the animated video—is something that appears in my life from time to time, flaring up like an STD or a recurring nightmare.

"Shia LaBeouf" Live - Rob Cantor www.youtube.com

The song, titled simply "Shia LaBeouf," was written by Rob Cantor, who insists that it is nothing more or less than a joke based on how funny Shia LaBeouf's name sounds when you whisper it. He posted the song as a SoundCloud link, which quickly went viral. In 2014, the music video—featuring dancers, the Gay Men's Choir, the Los Angeles Children's Choir, and a cameo from LaBeouf himself—was released. The song tells the story of a person being pursued relentlessly by a bloodthirsty version of Shia LaBeouf. This Shia, hungry for human flesh, is seen brandishing a knife as he chases the narrator (referred to as "you") through the woods.

A blend between horror and parody, kitsch and gore, the video quickly wound its way into my subconscious, where it has remained and festered. In some ways, the cannibal Shia seems to live in the Internet's subconscious, too, a kind of Jungian archetype for the technological era that rebounds as quickly as it fades away into the half-light of our collective attention deficit.

The song is about fear, but fear of what? Fear of the abstract disconnect that arises from the void of the impending apocalypse? Fear of losing touch, of descending back into the primal darkness of the pre-phone charger world? Fear of social media's tendency to cannibalize itself, to swallow our identities and regurgitate them as algorithmic cash cows? Fear of the cult of celebrity, of the onset of capitalism, of climate change?

Actually, after hearing LaBeouf speak about his upcoming biopic, my newest theory is that the song is truly about Shia LaBeouf being pursued by Shia LaBeouf's demons (who take the form of the actual cannibal). LaBeouf has plenty of them, after all. He told Variety that his upcoming biopic is about his troubled upbringing with his abusive father, with whom he lived in a motel in Hollywood while a child star on Disney Channel. "I had a flashlight and was rummaging through the attics of my soul trying to figure stuff out, figuring my past out," he said, explaining the film's inspiration. Or was he running through the woods of his past? Running for his life from Shia LaBeouf? Aren't we all?

I don't know. I only know that even though my therapist says that Shia LaBeouf can't hurt me, I'm walking in the woods and my phone is dead. Then I see him. He gets down on all fours and breaks into a sprint. He's brandishing a knife. Killing for sport. Sometimes there are bear traps, and what we think are safe houses actually contain our worst nightmares. Sometimes we can't outrun the actual cannibal Shia LaBeoufs of our past. Fortunately, I know Jiu Jitsu.

Actual Cannibal Shia Labeouf (Song: Rob Cantor) www.youtube.com

You know those movies that have been parodied, memed, and referenced so much that you feel like you've seen them–but you never have and, honestly, why would you bother?

You know that at the end of Taxi Driver Travis Bickle may or may not hallucinate a violent episode, and you've seen people dress up in Robert De Niro's utility jacket, black shades, and weird Roman soldier haircut at every Halloween party you've ever attended. You know that Scarface's Tony Montana screams, "Say hello to my little friend" while wearing a suit with giant lapels and holding a machine gun. How do you know this? No, you've never seen the movie; the fact is that the sheer masterpiece of a few key scenes capturing the climax of a film can overshadow the entire production. Sure, you want to sit down to watch them "one day," but you just never get around to it.

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MUSIC

A Brand-New Song, and All the Snippets Lana Del Rey Has Released from "Norman F**king Rockwell"

Fans are calling this the "messiest" Lana era ever. But it also could be the best, judging by the quality of the music. Here's everything we know.

In January 2019, Lana Del Rey told the world that her sixth album, Norman F**king Rockwell, was complete.

Since then, she's teased dozens of songs and visual clips—but the album's release date remains elusive, infuriating legions of devoted fans.

It's unclear whether the album is still undergoing a prolonged period of revision, if she's decided to scrap the whole thing, or if it's all beyond her control, though it's always hard to know with Del Rey, who has never been one to follow rules. Still, she's certainly given fans a fair amount of teasers to hold them over in the interim. Here's a timeline of every quote, whispered clip, and blurry visual we have so far.

In January 2018, in an interview with Pitchfork, Lana mentioned that one of her newest songs was called "Bartender," and described it as "super weird."

Then on February 25, Del Rey uploaded a video that featured her hanging out with Jack Antonoff, prompting later-confirmed suspicion that they were working together on a new project.

Lana Del Rey hanging out in the studio with Jack Antonoff www.youtube.com

On February 28, Del Rey visited the Ryan Seacrest Foundation, where she began writing a song called "Starry Eyed" on ukulele, which she promised to finish and dedicate to the foundation; it's also unclear whether this song will be on the album.

Live in Seacrest Studios with Lana Del Rey www.youtube.com

On March 5, 2018, Del Rey first teased the lyrics of a song called "Happiness is a Butterfly," a lullaby-like sigh of a track that has continued to reappear throughout Norman Fucking Rockwell's forked pathway to release. On March 30, she released a snippet of the song on Instagram, which she later removed and then un-archived.

On June 12, MTV released a list of upcoming albums, which featured an obviously false March 29 release date for Norman Fucking Rockwell.

A few months later, Del Rey teased and then premiered the psychedelic, Leonard-Cohen-quoting "Mariner's Apartment Complex," which was released on September 12.

Lana Del Rey singing Mariners Apartment Complex acapella www.youtube.com


Lana Del Rey - Mariners Apartment Complex www.youtube.com

Then on September 18, she released the equally trippy, luxurious "Venice Bitch" on an interview with Zane Lowe for Beats 1. [links] Regarding the song's length, Del Rey said, "I played it for my managers and I was like, 'Yeah, I think this is the single I want to put out.' And they were like, 'It's 10 minutes long. Are you kidding me? It's called 'Venice Bitch.' Like, Why do you do this to us? Can you make a three-minute normal pop song?' I was like, 'Well, end of summer, some people just wanna drive around for 10 minutes [and] get lost in some electric guitar.'"

Lana Del Rey - Venice Bitch www.youtube.com

In the same Zane Lowe interview, Del Rey also said, "Working with Jack [Antonoff], I was in a little bit of a lighter mood because he was so funny. So the title track is called 'Norman Fucking Rockwell' and it's kind of about this guy who is such a genius artist but he thinks he's the shit and he knows it and he, like, won't shut up talking about it… I just like the title track so much that I was like, 'OK, I definitely want the record to also be called that."

Several music sites later reported that these singles were "fan singles" and would not be on the actual album, though Del Rey has not confirmed this speculation.

Then on October 4, Del Rey posted an extended video of "How to Disappear," which she later deleted and subsequently unarchived.

Lana Del Rey - How to Disappear (Snippet) (Instagram Video) www.youtube.com

On October 12, Del Rey posted a clip of her singing a song called "Cinnamon" on Instagram, which she later deleted and then reposted as well.

In response, a fan Instagram account posted a 2017 quote from an interview with Pitchfork where Lana stated, "I had some people in my life that made me a worse person. I was not sure if I could step out of that box of familiarity, which was having a lot of people around me who had a lot of problems and feeling like that was home base. Because it's all I know. I spent my whole life reasoning with crazy people. I felt like everyone deserved a chance, but they don't. Sometimes you just have to step away without saying anything."

Del Rey commented on the post, "the quote [from Pitchfork] is a perfect quote to go along with cinnamon [sic]. Some people don't deserve a chance."

On October 30, Del Rey performed "How to Disappear" and "Venice Bitch" at an Apple special event in Brooklyn, a show that was widely praised by fans including CEO Tim Cook.

Lana Del Rey - How to Disappear and Venice Bitch Live at Apple Event 2018 www.youtube.com

She also released the full audio for "How to Disappear."

Lana Del Rey - How To Disappear (Official Audio) www.youtube.com

On December 5, she officially announced the album's title at Jack Antonoff's concert for the Ally Foundation and performed two country songs which she announced would not be on the new album.

Lana Del Rey - Hey Blue Baby [Live at Ally Coalition Talent Show] www.youtube.com


Lana Del Rey and Jack Antonoff - Ally Coalition Talent Show “I Must Be Stupid For Feeling So Happy" www.youtube.com

On January 1, 2019, Del Rey posted a video of her singing along to a song called "In Your Car," featuring the lyrics "In your car / I'm a star / and I'm burning through you."

Lana Del Rey teases new song "In Your Car" on her Instagram (Snippet) www.youtube.com

The next day, she posted the audio for her song "Hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have — but I have it."

Lana Del Rey - hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have - but i have it www.youtube.com

Producer Jack Antonoff tweeted his support, advising fans to "listen at night alone."

Then on January 11, 2019, she released an extended clip of a video for "Happiness is a Butterfly," which used the same visuals she had previously released alongside teasers for "Mariner's Apartment Complex" and "Venice Bitch." The video, relatively dreary and mellow compared to Del Rey's earlier work, featured Ashley Rodriguez and Alexandria Kaye and was directed by Lana Del Rey's sister Chuck Grant.

On March 23, 2019, Del Rey performed "Mariner's Apartment Complex" live for the first time in New Orleans, taking to an onstage swing and thanking the audience for "indulging [her] little folk sensibility" in the process.

Lana Del Rey @ Buku 2019 (Mariners Apartment Complex, Video Games, High by the Beach) www.youtube.com

Most recently, on April 3, 2019, Del Rey posted a snippet of a song that fans have named "You Don't Ever Have To." Some fans speculated that it's a part of "In Your Car," but this remains unknown.

In the midst of it all, she also released a Gucci ad with Jared Leto and has been teasing a book of her poetry, periodically releasing haikus and typewritten pages and even putting out a call for indie bookstores who might want to sell it. When asked about the price, Del Rey said that the book will cost $1, because "my words are priceless."

It's anyone's guess as to when Norman F**king Rockwell will drop, but Del Rey has always been adept at draping all of her work in auras of mystery. She's a master of contrasts, always throwing critics for a loop by combining kitsch and rawness, strength and vulnerability, apathy and passion. She's also always been great at making us wonder about the extent to which her appearance and art have been meticulously manufactured.

Maybe she's leaving a paper trail of sorts that resembles her own fractured consciousness. Maybe she's painting our schizophrenic reality, one defined by upheaval and exponential technological innovation. Or maybe she's just a free spirit whose artistic vision "gets messy" when it comes in contact with reality, as a friend once said.

Regardless, judging by the quality of the fragments that we do have, when the album finally does appear, it'll have been worth the wait.


Eden Arielle Gordon is a writer and musician from New York City. Find her on Twitter @edenarielmusic.


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