Lana Del Rey: Born to be Criticized

In recent times, the music world has never attacked and picked apart an artist or band like the corporate music media bullies have done to Lana Del Rey. A writer at Spin magazine spent the majority of his review of Born to Die carefully dissecting Del Rey’s “objectively ridiculous lyrics” like they were a newly discovered George Gissing novel. This writer at the should-be-defunct magazine isn’t alone in his shallow criticism of Del Rey. Whether it is her fake name, her fake lips, her fake nails or her fake career, the vampire half-wits that make up the popular music press are relentlessly feeding on some mythical character they’ve created on their iPad, and in their unfounded hatred of Del Rey they’ve missed her inherent charm. With all this childish chatter about Del Rey, Sasha Frere-Jones of The New Yorker asks, “Why is pop music the only art form that still inspires such arrantly stupid discussion?” Male performers are never placed under such scrutiny, so why is Del Rey such an enticing target?

Del Rey is the anti-Gaga. And this bothers people. Unlike Gaga, Del Rey doesn’t need to piece together some goofy outfit and dance around stage like an Adderall addict to distract the audience from the cacophony that is blasting from somewhere on the over lit stage. It takes a certain brave soul to stand in front of a television camera without holding an instrument, not hiding behind a piano or some fish net mesh covering one’s face and just sing. This is what Del Rey does. This what Del Rey did on SNL. She sings.

Lady Gaga’s lyrics are Facebook fodder filler for soon-to-be-graduating high school seniors to sing along with while they hold the plastic red cup in one hand and their iPhone in the other. But Lady Stardust gets a pass and Del Rey gets crucified. I use Gaga as an example because she has lulled the video game players and the texters and the Twitter twits and the Starbucks suckers to sleep with her loud and screechy songs. There are a million other examples of female performers that write horrible lyrics that never get examined with a coolness thermometer by Spin or Rolling Stone or Juliette “fuckin’ a” Lewis.

I understand the argument. Del Rey has connections. She has a cadre of musical doctors around her to keep an eye on her pop culture vitals; she signed to a large label for her debut instead of releasing it on Matador or Merge; she signed a deal with a modeling agency; and, more importantly, she cut ahead in the pretty pop performers’ line and made it to SNL as an almost complete unknown. I suppose it’s a matter of time before Pavement writes a song about her.

Will we be talking about Lana Del Rey a year from now? Probably not. But don’t count Del Rey out. She will tour and do countless interviews and perform on late night shows around the world, and maybe she’ll perform on American Idol. During this journey she will find her voice, her lyric writers will probably get younger and hipper and better, and Del Rey will give the writers at Spin something new to explicate and criticize while they continue to hand out free passes to whatever flavor of the year infects their iPods.


February 18, 2012. Essays.

One Comment

  1. vodkacaviardreams replied:

    She is incredibly talented and her voice is so haunting. She’s incredible, I hope she gets the credit she deserves

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