"Born To Die" – Lana Del Ray

Why does everyone hate Lana Del Rey so much?

I know it is much easier to tear down than build up, and people are often too cowardly to voice a differing opinion when the inflamed mob is of one brain-addled mind. Even so, it is like people have gathered together the cyber equivalent of an angry mob with flaming torches, and pitchforks, and have come to destroy the beast that threatens the joy of their idyllic pop existence.

And I am at a loss to work out why. Lana Del Rey, once Lizzy Grant, is hardly the first artist to rethink her musical direction, reassess and reinvent and boldly march off into new uncharted territory. Or possibly territory thoroughly explored by others, but determined to place her own unique stamp on it. Possibly she is a corporate construct as some allege, but again, she would hardly be the first.

So why the vitriol? Why has the pack mentality so completely taken over in the case of an artist who has simply tried to do something different to what she had done before? As Kristen Wiig cleverly said when impersonating Lana Del Rey on Saturday Night Live:

“Based on the public’s response, I must have clubbed a seal while singing the Taliban National Anthem.”

The real Lana Del Rey

Now I am not sure about the seal, but the Taliban National Anthem is most definitely not on the album. But what is on there is a collection of sultry songs that while they may suffer from perhaps a little too much production at times, are passionate slow-burning paeans to lost love and the hard times of life. While “Video Games” does certainly tower above everything else on the album – no other song really matches its goose bump-inducing melancholia – this is not the sonic dirge that many critics allege it to be.

Is it wildly innovative? Not especially (but then not every album can be, or has to be from any artist). Is it in the same league as Amy Winehouse’s smoke and whisky musical tour de forces? Again, no. But Ms Winehouse was a genius, whose like we shall not see again for quite some time. But does this diminish this album by comparison?

Of course it doesn’t. Lana Del Rey has crafted a set of songs that speak longingly of a hope for a better life. Slow sultry songs that do what these types of songs do best – decry the paucity of the human condition as we long for a better world we suspect isn’t possible, but which we desire with an aching urgency that it paralyses us at times.

Maybe her debut album won’t set the world on fire (although I am sure, like any artist, she is hoping it will). But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a valuable piece of music with some value. If anything, the hype that build up around the extraordinarily good “Video Games” probably doomed this album from the start since nothing on this earth can really live up to the vaulting hopes and expectations of consumers craving that new and exciting something or someone. And it’s highly likely that Ms Del Ray’s marketing team should not have promoted her to the hipsters first and then the mainstream record buying public second. It’s the former group that have turned on her, accusing her of being a corporate creation with minimal talent and not many prospects.

“Video Games” was released last June as part of a calculated strategy to establish her as a major talent-to-watch via viral marketing. There’s nothing wrong with that, nor especially new. In face, viral campaigns are now de rigeur for aspiring artists in any field. But should she have gone this route? That is now open to question given the backlash she’s encountered.

Still, flawed marketing strategies aside, what you can’t really hold her responsible for is people proclaiming her, which they effectively did on the basis of magnificent song, as the great white hope of musical innovation. Yes she started a marketing campaign to raise her profile, but she was not responsible for the mania that grew up around her as a result. That is entirely the creation of the hipster masses craving their next exciting pop culture fix.

Masses, who it should be noted, then proceeded to turn on her like rabid dogs when what they expected wasn’t delivered exactly as their fevered minds had conjured it up. That isn’t Ms Del Rey’s fault, its the pop culture addicts jonesing for their full length album fix.

So maybe the album isn’t a world beater, or a defining pop moment like Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Was it really meant to be? It is her first major musical statement as this artist,  and perhaps she, like many artists before her, needs time to grow into her art. Or like many other young pop ingenues before her, shake off her misguided Svengalis and sculpt her career the way she wants it.

Maybe then she won’t attract the ire of those who feel they have been sold a lemon, musically wise, and can concentrate on expressing herself the way she wants to, authentically and true to herself. But regardless of where she goes from here, I think the arbiters of pop culture taste need to ask themselves why they react so angrily to one artist releasing some music, because really that is all she did, and she doesn’t deserve the hatred of the screaming banshees she has attracted.

Related Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: