When a new singer hits the scene, we often feel we have to choose sides: For or against? Chances are, for every "OMG I looove her," you'll also hear "Ew, I hate her." Such is the case with Lana Del Rey, times 1000.
Lana Del Rey's ascension into pop-culture consciousness has taken a circuitous path. Millions have been mesmerized by the video for her gloomy, "sadcore" track, "Video Games," with its sweeping strings, melancholy lyrics and footage of Hollywoodized Americana: Neon lights, skateboarding, Paz De La Huerta drunk. But rumors that the singer (real name: Lizzy Grant) is a manufactured gimmick — along with an underwhelming performance on SNL — have created heated backlash, with celebs on Twitter calling her "horrible." All this happened before her album even dropped.
Today, writer Sasha Frere-Jones reviews Lana Del Rey's new album for The New Yorker, and also analyzes her image, the Internet brouhaha surrounding her creation myth, and addresses concerns of her critics. In attempting to draft a post about the singer, based on the article, two Jezebel editors found themselves at odds. Transcript below.
Dodai: The Sasha Frere-Jones New Yorker article about Lana Del Rey is pretty good. He basically calls sexism on a lot of the hate:
People seem to feel that Del Rey is trying to trick us, though it's impossible to figure out exactly what that trick would be, as we are dealing with an entertainer and her audience… [detractors question] the influence of her father, Rob Grant, who is a successful Internet entrepreneur … how Grant's top lip got so big so fast. (Grant says she's undergone no surgical procedures.) Surely no equivalent male star would be subject to the same level of examination.
Jessica: No, probably not. But this is hard for me, because I really hate Lana Del Rey. I don't like her music — I'm depressed enough without depressing music — and I don't like that the whole thing feels like some sort of "pre-fabricated indie" affair. And the Restalyne (just a guess) combined with her apparent artistic reinvention just makes it seem all the more "fake."
Dodai: Right, but…
Jessica: But no, SFJ is right, we don't analyze male stars like that.
Dodai: Take Ziggy Stardust...
Jessica: There's also no cult of the male ingenue or chanteuse. Lana plays into that.
Dodai: Yeah, I guess i just feel like… I mean Rihanna's real name is Robyn Fenty. Jay-Z and Diddy and everyone is manufactured, whether they did it themselves or the label did it. None of it is supposed to be real, it's pop music.
Jessica: Well, right, yes. Does SFJ discuss the idea that this may have a lot to do with the genre she's trying to work?
Why is pop music the only art form that still inspires such arrantly stupid discussion? The debates that surround authenticity have no relationship to popular music as it's been practiced for more than a century. Artists write material, alone or with assistance, revise it, and then present a final work created with the help of professionals who are trained for specific and relevant production tasks. This makes popular music similar to film, television, visual art, books, dance, and related areas like food and fashion. And yet no movie review begins, "Meryl Streep, despite not being a Prime Minister, is reasonably convincing in ‘The Iron Lady.' "
Jessica: Ha. I don't disagree with any of this, but I'm trying to figure out "the problem." Or my problem, anyhow... Maybe, then, it's not that Lana is constructed or fabricated. It's the product itself. I don't care if it's fake, it's just grating?
Dodai: But more than Kreayshawn or Katy Perry? (née Katheryn Hudson?) Or, hell, Beyoncé?
Jessica: For me, yes, but that's a matter of personal taste. Truly.
Dodai: Maybe we should do a point/counterpoint post. I really like "Video Games." I am not the biggest LDR fan, but I do feel like a dude can cultivate a look and give himself a ridic name and not get the same tear-down. Bono's real name is PAUL.
Jessica: Oh it's not her name that bothers me at all.
Dodai: Ha, ok.
Jessica: Maybe it's this! From the SFJ piece:
…a character she has described as a "gangster Nancy Sinatra" and "Lolita lost in the hood."
Jessica: It's not that the artist is a character, it's that the choice of character is unappealing to me.
Dodai: Okay. I don't think that is why people are attacking her, though. But I mean if you don't like it, that's fair. But that part doesn't seem manufactured, it's not even reaching that far for a twenty-something NY/LA girl's taste.
Jessica: I'm mulling. Maybe it's also that the character/act isn't convincing, and that's where one feels "tricked."
Dodai: Or maybe you just hate women! Hahaha!
Jessica: Well, yes! I'm waging war from within! And I am not going to lie, the lip bothers me. Good cosmetic work, great, go for it — but bad cosmetic work bothers me in general. The poor construction of a character combined with the poor use of injectionables is just too much. Makes it impossible for me to buy what she's selling.
Jessica: And I hate women.
Dodai: Britney, Christina, Timberlake all had post-Disney nose jobs, Brit and Christina had lip injections and implants. And Lindsay's fucking lips! But I feel like if you pick a character, like Ziggy Stardust or Alice Cooper… The guys do whatever to transform themselves. Kid Rock! Rick Ross pretends to be some kind of international playboy in his videos and was a corrections officer before he got a record deal. NICKI MINAJ! Butt implants! Wigs! Lolita in the hood, personified.
Jessica: Listen, you are winning here. And no man would have to deal with this level of scrutiny. I'm still not sure what bugs me about Lana that doesn't bug me about pretty much anyone else, but there's nonetheless something about her that I just can't get behind. Maybe it's the music itself — "deep" and "artsy" — contrasting with how I perceive her, as a fabrication.
Dodai: YOU HATE CULTURE.
Jessica: I do hate culture. I eat frozen dinners for breakfast.
Dodai: I can't believe we had this whole discussion and I didn't bring up Gaga.