Props to Barry Divola for beating me to Lana Del Rey. I'd been meaning to do some thinkin' out loud on Del Rey's eerily compelling mash up of the last 60 years worth of musical sound salad but Barry got in first today.
Totes worth a read, here.
Before Barry however there was the Hipster Hivemind which, having been embarrassed by a few moments initial enthusiasm for Del Rey's high-spec re-engineering of the Rebecca Black fame engine decided to throw the switch from lip curling snark to attack dog savagery. Barry can fill you in on that. All of it I missed, cos I'm just not hip enough.
I found Del Rey's self titled album on the new release page at Rdio.com and hit it up because, well, she looked hot. (An unforgivable crime against the integrity of all pop culture, apparently). A couple of moments listening to opening track, however, and I was sold. Literally. I decided to buy the album rather than just streaming it.
Choice in music, like choice in humor, is subjective. A lot of <del>haters</del> critics hated LDR. I loved it, and many, many plays later, still love it. Lana Del Rey is a creation in the same way that Dr Dre, Gaga, the Sex Pistols, AC/DC, Elvis, all of them were created, or perhaps just curated by their labels, managers, audience and so on. Lizzy Grant, the singer who inhabits the form of Del Rey, has crafted a character from an early Easton Ellis novel; a trust fund ingenue who takes her nihilism with champagne and pearls rather than the warm coke and greasy chicken-n-chips that sustains the inhabitants of, say, a Hilltop Hoods track. She is the culturally incorrect voice of the one percent. Or perhaps the one percent's girlfriend.
Staging her act on the wrong side of that American class divide was... er, brave. I suspect it directly fed into the backlash that began before her official fifteen minutes.
Anyway, that's my reading of the Del Rey character. The music, I just dig on, which is why I was kinda taken aback when I realised how controversial that entirely subjective choice was. First inkling came when a music critic friend pushed back when I tweeted a line about the Del Rey album being cool. (The crit, Amanda writes great gig reviews, informed and genuine. She is so genuinely contemptuous of LDR that I wanted her to write a coupla hundred words here in counterpoint, but couldn't raise her in time.)
After dueling with Amanda I decided to check the Discovr Music app to see what sort of Del Rey links it thru back at me. For similar artists it gave up Lykke Li, Florence and the Machine, Foster the People and James Blake. So far so meh. The blog entries about her however where a revelation. Uniformly toxic. And angry. And very very determined that whole world should know they would be forever Marked as of the Beast if they didn't immediately grab a pitchfork and a burning branch to help destroy this monster once and for all.
This chick had upset some entitled fuckin' hipsters, lemme tell you.
The near uniformity was vaguely familiar, but it took a minute until I recognised the tone. The same, ominous hum of an approaching swarm I'd heard a hundred times before. At the Instrument. Except rather than coming in to astroturf the comment thread with, say climate change denial, this swarm was inbound on Lana Del Rey, her breathy voice and collagen lips. Barry Divola again:
...even before she had released her debut album, Grant had already been through the deified-then-crucified story arc. A big reason for this was the fact that her rise was a direct result of that YouTube video. She who is born by the internet dies by the internet. Even the media started referring to her as a meme rather than an artist. In The New York Times, Jon Caramanica opened his story with the line ''It's already difficult to remember Lana Del Rey, but let's try'', as if her career were already over and he was writing about her as a pop-cultural artefact.
The artefact has proved infuriatingly resilient. As Barry points out she was meant to come down to Oz in February and play at the Oxford Art Factory, a comparatively tiny venue in Sydney. Five hundred punters, tops.
That tour was postponed due to the explosion of interest in her. Five months later, she's not only doing two sold-out nights at the Enmore Theatre (total audience 4000) but she's also on the bill at Splendour.
I wont be at either. But I would've liked to see how Lizzy Grant pulls off the Lana Del Rey character in front of a live audience.