It’s a bit difficult to get away from every aspect of Lana Del Rey at the minute, even more so because she’s releasing her debut LP in the midst of the traditional dead-season. But can we just address this whole thing about, er, her? Where she came from, and all that? Because is it really that shocking?
When Del Rey seemed to come out of nowhere with her slow, perfectly pitched indie ballad ‘Video Games,’ it was everyone’s favourite song, topping every Best of 2011 poll you could just about find, apart from the Guardian reader poll which took the mick by making Matt Cardle number one. That was hardly a protest against Del Rey, but maybe some people did honestly vote against her because of the massive row that’s bubbling over how authentic she really is.
Some short time after the release of ‘Video Games’, it was revealed that Del Rey – who was said to have been scraping a living in a NY trailer park – was actually Lizzie Grant, the daughter of a successful estate agent. Oh, and the apparently handwritten ‘Video Games’ was actually penned by Eg White and Guy Chambers, who’ve previously worked with ADELE, Florence Welch and Katie Melua. So maybe a bit of a cheat there, but does it really matter who writes the song if it’s actually good? Would you rather have had Grant/Del Rey write a song herself only for it to be terrible, unlistenable rubbish? Proabably not: for a little while we were all just a bit enchanted by ‘Video Games’, and I don’t think it matters who wrote it.
But let’s face it, it’s not that we’re really bothered about is it? It’s the fact that we feel a bit cheated, the fact that we might have found someone who appeared authentic, the real deal, only for it to blown away. Although, on closer inspection…. a perfect ballad, a massive pout, wonderful styling, a teensy-bit-too professional-looking video, the accurate PR campaign…. My god! The signs were all over the place. Out of these the part I find most offensive is the fact that Grant has had collagen implants in her lips to enhance that pout of hers – but the story of me against plastic surgery seems a bit diminished today, since everything about Del Rey is fake, so the lips are just a little segment of her brilliant PR styling.
But seriously, is this really that shocking? Indie-types are always on the search for authenticity, yet it is seriously lacking in today’s music scene. If we search around the pop-end of things, where Del Rey is poised to make it big, then we have Lady Gaga prancing around in unrealistic costumes, Beyonce pretending that the Princess’ fairy-tale wedding is still highly achievable and Rihanna wandering around Belfast as if there was never any tension in Northern Ireland. Now that’s good fantasy! Good job a farmer attempted to bring her back to earth.
But even if we turn our heads to the indie-world, escapism and inauthenticity is everywhere. On the escapism end, we have SBTRKT constantly wearing his trademark mask, hiding from the world (what’s under there? What is he hiding?) and Florence Welch pretending it’s 1968 all over again at Abbey Road with some psychedelic video editing. And let’s face it, most lad-rock is rife with inauthenticity. The whole point of lad-rock is to look authentic, but isn’t this just a bit of a front for the style of music they want to play? Do Liam and Noel Gallagher really want to keep plugging away at lad-rock when everyone knows that they have made it big? Likewise, The Enemy once sang that they’d live and die in these towns, but they must have a few bob now: are they really being authentic with that message now?
Of course, Del Rey’s biggest problem is her overt sexualisation, just enhanced by those lip fillers. Former Titus Andronicus member Amy Klein wrote a scathing report on Del Rey for Brooklyn Vegan in which she labelled the nostalgia and submissiveness of Del Rey a serious problem for women. I am inclined to agree, but only on the basis that we don’t have enough female artists who are not willing to use their sexuality and submission to get them somewhere. Looking at the list of pop-stars before, Gaga and Rihanna (the latter in particular) could both be said to be trading off on their perfect, fantasy-woman looks to snag a (leery male) audience alongside their apparently “empowered” teenage fanbase.
I think that Del Rey is a lovely singer but her image has clearly been tampered with by the record companies. This poses a serious problem for feminists and those who believe talent is what counts (and that’s really all that should count) but if we take a good hard look at what’s out there, it’s hard not to argue that Grant is just playing the game that most artists do now. In these harsh times, maybe we need a bit of escapism – Del Rey is perfect for that.