Lana Del Rey: perhaps one of the most controversial hipsters in pop culture today. Some love her, most hate her, and I am certainly a member of the latter. After this weekend’s crash and burn performance on Saturday Night Live, more and more people are coming to agree with me. People think she is awful and fake, something I have been saying for months. To my chagrin, she was one of the most blogged about and over-hyped indie artists of 2011, despite a very monotonous sound and contrived image.
Let’s start by looking at the music video for her hit “Video Games.” First off, I would just like to complain about how this song was written about an ex-boyfriend whom she would just watch play video games. What kind of girlfriend are you when you’re not indulging in the gaming, too?! Okay, moving on. The music video is basically a combination of vintage-looking footage of her looking entirely bored and poor-quality footage of…well, random things that I assume are supposed to look cool. Going with the vintage look is just so played out and contrived, vying to be hipster and begging for a preteen re-blog on Tumblr. This is just one example of how she/her manufactured image is trying to appeal to what is cool right now: all things vintage, indie, and hipster.
Okay, so her music video is lame and she herself seems so bored and uninterested that it is a major turn off (why would we be interested in your music if even you aren’t?) but that could all be fine if she were very talented and, even better, a great performer. So, let’s take a look at some live performances. Before tanking on SNL, she performed on the UK’s Jonathan Ross Show, where she did…well, horribly. I understand that “Video Games” is a slow song and it is therefore hard to incorporate some choreography with the performance, but do something. If nothing else, at least maybe pull an Adele, a-la the “Rolling in the Deep” music video, and sit on a stool; slightly swaying and awkwardly moving around your free hand just isn’t doing it. Furthermore, her voice is shaky and blasé, and she really fails to impress in terms of talent. Needless to say, I did not have high hopes for the SNL performance.
The performance, in which she sang both “Video Games” and newer “Blue Jeans,” was just as boring as her vocal delivery. She again barely moved and continued with the awkward swaying and hand gestures. I did notice, however, that she must have heard some criticism about certain lines because she altered her delivery for this performance a bit, though it somehow sounded even less refined. I really don’t mean to sound so rude and insensitive, but I literally laughed out loud at certain points. Genuinely, I cannot see the appeal. And, yes, I understand that she is a new artist and still hasn’t really gotten comfortable with being on stage and that it is perhaps unfair of me to be so critical. But, with that being said, does she have any place on as sought-after a stage as that of SNL? She is only the second artist to ever get booked for an SNL performance without having released an album yet; she proved that she was not deserving of that honor.
The last item I would like to complain about is also the one that irks me the most about Lana Del Rey. It is, in fact, that she is not at all the Lana Del Rey we all believe her to be. A few years back, she attempted to become a pop star under her birth name of Lizzy Grant. After trying and failing, she and her marketing team completely remade her persona: dyed her hair, got her lip injections (unconfirmed, but almost unarguable — check an older picture for comparison) and gave her a new name. They dressed her up in everything hipster, took pictures of her looking vintage from head to toe, and used grainy footage and the like to remake her into the definitive indie girl. She signed with Interscope and her new image has been, in my opinion, so cliché and contrived that I can’t even begin to appreciate her as an artist.
Now, I can understand why people would think this is too harsh and that it is very understandable for her to do all of this in order to make it in this industry. But, musicians are artists and they should artistically express themselves; they should not do and be whatever and whomever they think they should in order to garner fame, attention, and money. Especially because she is supposed to be an alternative icon, she is the epitome of a hypocrite by selling out and being so seemingly fake and forced. Everything about her seems contrived and manufactured by marketing professionals trying to make a profit — right down to her tagline of being a “gangsta Nancy Sinatra” (whom she admits is not even a musical influence of hers). Lana Del Rey is a creation of music industry experts who know what is hot right now; she is not a genuine artist, and for that I cannot respect her as one. Hopefully she will fade away soon despite the upcoming release of her debut album Born to Die, but until then I will be turning to the likes of Zooey Deschanel for all my indie-queen desires.