What’s the matter with Lana Del Rey?

I have had ‘Video Games’ stuck in my head for the last week. I don’t particularly like it, but there it is. I’ve not really paid attention to the hype; I was vaguely aware of her on Jools Holland a few months ago and I knew that ‘Video Games’ was a cooler song to say you liked than, say, ‘Moves Like Jagger’ (some people have no taste. I love that song.) But this week, the hype has upped ridiculously, due to the release of her new album ‘Born to Die.’ Although I don’t care for the song, or Del Rey’s persona, I’ve been pretty puzzled by the vitriol she attracts. There are whole websites dedicated to dismissing her.

I understand that if someone becomes successful (and it looks like ‘Born to Die’ will be the number 1 album  in the UK this week), criticism invariably follows. But some of the stuff I’ve seen this week has been utterly ridiculous. You’d think, if people hated her so much, they’d stop talking about her; maybe the online critics doth protest too much. After all, it’s much cooler to hate something everyone else loves, right?

The main criticisms seem to be as follows:

1) She’s changed her name from plain old Lizzy Grant to Lana Del Rey. This is apparently proof of the fact that she’s fake and should be dismissed instantly. But there hasn’t been outrage at the name changes of Stefanie Germanotta (Lady Gaga) or Myra Amos (Tori Amos). Hell, even Caitlin Moran was given a different name at birth- no one questions the validity of her writing because of this. And forgive me, for I’m a bit young to remember, but nobody was doubting the work of David Bowie, Prince or Freddie Mercury because they changed their names, were they? Show business has always been about creating and maintaining alternate images, so I don’t get the sudden anger in this particular case.

2) She’s from a rich family, she hasn’t had to try as hard; her dad was able to financially back her career. Lots of singers have been fortunate enough to be born into well-off families. Lady Gaga was sent to very exclusive New York schools. Beyonce attended stage school, which her parents probably paid for. Parents generally support their offspring, it’s kind of a given thing, right? Whilst Lana Del Rey’s dad might have gone above and beyond in the supporting stakes, it’s really no different to those parents who encouraged their children to be in the Mickey Mouse Club (Britney, Christina and Justin, to name a few.)

3) She’s changed her face! Those aren’t her lips! Why are we discussing this? Is she famous because she might’ve got collagen injections? No, there must be more to it. She signed up to a better record label to the one she was with before, who saw something they could market and ultimately make money from. It’s not because she had fillers put in her face.  (And yes, I’m guilty of discussing her facial change. It’s only after looking at stuff on the internet that I’ve come to these conclusions. I feel bad.) Loads of singers have plastic surgery. Cher changed her nose, loads of singers had breast implants. It’s not unusual in this day and age, is it?

4) She doesn’t write her own songs! Neither does Beyonce. Or Britney.

So, really, those are pretty shallow reasons to hate someone and declare them ‘fake’, right? I mean, I don’t really like the whole ‘gangster/Nancy Sinatra’ look she’s going for and I really dislike some of the lyrics in her songs, as they seem to be trading on a whole schtick where her entire life centres around the man in her life, rather than being a person in her own right. That disturbs me, as I thought we’d moved away from a lot of those sentiments.

But I can’t deny that ‘Video Games’ is catchy. I wish it wasn’t, but seeing as I’ve spent the week humming it and I’ve watched the video a couple of times, it clearly has something. And Lana Del Rey can sing, although whether that’s after it’s been played with in a studio and not as her voice actually is is debatable. But really, at the end of the day, she’s just a young woman who is succeeding in a career that not everyone could cope with and that is very hard to achieve. So, you know, maybe it’s just jealousy.

I do think ‘Born to Die’ is a terrible title for an album though. It smacks of teenage goth.

3 thoughts on “What’s the matter with Lana Del Rey?

  1. ameliaflorencesimmons says:

    Interesting piece. I like her, but I do have to say a couple of things. Firstly re: the name change – it’s not that she changed her name, but more the fact that she tried to make it as a recording artist under the name Lizzy Grant, with her former face, and it didn’t work. So she came back and tried again. Some people would think ‘the girl’s got tenacity, good for her’, but because of the way the story was run – the press ‘leaking’ old photos and info on her past self, it suddenly seemed a lot darker and seedier than it actually was, and smacked of desperation.

    Re: the writing of her own songs. I think the problem here is that she puts herself across as this deep, indie artist. Beyonce doesn’t. Beyonce is what she is, and knows it – she doesn’t do interviews with independent magazines and skulk around in vintage collarless shirts. Lana does, and because of this, people expect a little more than the average singer.

    The issue is that, for one who makes herself out to be different (or possibly her management takes care of this?), she’s really just the same as your average manufactured pop star. Whether subconsciously or not, you’ve popped her in this category yourself, with all your references to her related to, say, Justin Bieber, or Britney.

    These days, I think we expect our ‘indie’ female singers to follow in the mould of Marina Diamandis, Natasha Khan, or Florence, and those of us looking for integrity in a singer find that she lacks it when the surface is scratched.

    But those are just thoughts – as I said, I personally quite enjoy the songs, although the album is a bit dirge-y to listen to all in one go. And I definitely don’t think she deserves the vitriol being flung at her. It’s sad to see that people, instead of commenting ‘I don’t like her music very much’, are going ‘I HATE HER, GRR’.

    • stephaniepomfrett says:

      You know, that linking her with manufactured acts was entirely subconscious- how weird! I do wonder how much her record label had to do with the leaking of the Lizzy Grant stuff… I’m pretty sure if they wanted to suppress stuff, they have means of doing so. I also think she wants to be seen as seedy and dark- certainly that’s how it comes across in the video for ‘Born to Die’ at times.

      And you’re right, re: song writing and Beyonce. I just think it’s a bit of a desperate stick to beat her with, if someone is going all out to discredit her.

      I wonder how indie music will continue to fare, with the way the music industry is at the moment. I don’t think LDR will be the last of these kinds of acts.

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