Lana Del Rey Broke Music Forever (Not In A Good Way)
Everything is pretty much a lie, and I know this. As a photographer, I’m a dealer in lies. Inherently, I think we all know that photographs are largely untrue, but we believe in their authenticity simply because we want to. The same applies to our heroes. I’ve often thought it was best never to meet the people you idolize for fear that IRL they’d destroy the illusion of their awesomeness. Sometimes its just better not to know.
I was sent Lana Del Rey’s Video Games video and watched it over and over before the album came out. It was so sad, so disjointed and amateur but poignant nonetheless. The grittiness I love about LA was beautifully captured in this grainy, shaky, poorly edited montage of stock footage and the enchanting Del Rey herself–pressed against a wall, hardly made up, like she was singing in her apartment. I had a crush.
SNL happened. Two spiraling, uncomfortable, performances where she couldn’t hit one note on key and butchered her songs in a way that sounded like it might have been a joke on us the whole time. The internet roiled and simultaneously defended and crucified her. Buuuuuut, she had our attention a week or so before her big album drop. And it doesn’t always matter what people are saying as long as they are saying your name. (In her defense, I can imagine she was scared shitless, and I don’t pretend that I could ever do better.) I kept listening and looking up her older songs. Nothing special, but I enjoyed the melancholy, her unending sadness, and her “nowness.” She was referencing a lifestyle I understood and I appreciated what I thought was an autobiography.
And here’s where it all goes to shit. Lana Del Rey (sexy name!) is Elizabeth Grant (ho-hum). She was born to a wealthy father who bankrolled much of the marketing of her “brand.” The best producer money could buy (Eminem, Lil Wayne) shined up her sound and pro-writers were hired to add weight to her lyrics. Lip injections gave her that signature (and over the top) pout. She was preened and primped and engineered to look like one of the cast of Mad Men if they were dressed by Urban Outfitters. She’s cashing in on every money-making trend in the last 3 years. She’s vintage now-ness. Courtney Love tragic but ironic Buddy Holly glasses-smart. Vice Magazine meets W magazine. She’s a manufactured product for the hipster set. And this is what breaks my heart.
I expect lies from main-stream music. In fact, I would say that when I listen to mainstream music I’m doing so for the lies. (Like all rappers are ex-d-boys turned billionaires, Brittany Spears is a Catholic hussy, etc etc). She’s certainly not the first recording artist to use a press team. But Del Rey’s PR Army isn’t selling her as a slick, polished version of herself. They are selling her as one of us–lost and creative, genuine and broken, sad and smart. Armed with an iPhone and a whiskey-tinted voice, she came to Los Angeles and made it big because of her raw, obvious and intense talent. But she didn’t. She’s the product of a creative team who is hoping she can ride the lucrative wave of vintage-cool and our own romantic ignorance that you can get famous for just being so goddamn good at something that everyone takes notice.
So what about the album? It’s too slick. It’s been ruined by what I know. The lyrics are great sometimes and so incredibly lousy at others. (LOUSY.) There’s no consistency with her (or her team’s) writing ability. There are too many string sections and radio-friendly 808s and reverb. On the other hand, she has an amazing voice. Her range is exceptional and on some songs its hard to believe all of the sounds she makes can come from one person. While she doesn’t have the vocal strength in every song, she’s young and I feel like its in her future. This is one of my favorites:
Walmart doesn’t pretend it’s a local market. It’s a giant soul-sucking behemoth that destroys cities like a capitalist DeathStar. However, everyone knows that’s what it is and then chooses to accept it or not. Walmart doesn’t read your diary and tap into the hipster subconscious and dress itself like your fantasy girlfriend all the while working on exciting and meaningful film projects while making you think that you guys could be, like, a couple and so you you start telling your friends about Walmart and how you think you and Walmart might really have something special. Meanwhile, Walmart is behind your back just asking everyone who knows you what you like and who your heroes are so it can get closer to your wallet. Walmart wouldn’t do that BECAUSE THAT SHIT’S TOO EVIL EVEN FOR WALMART.
Lana Del Rey, you have broken my hard, hard heart, and I have no one to blame except your entire team of PR agents, consultants, stylists, celebrity producers, paid-for Interview Magazine advertorial writers, hired lyricists and your rich dad.