OPINION: On the ignorance of people and Lana del Rey.
by Marcus K. Dowling
Can we all shut up for a second about Lana del Rey? Seriously. We’re making this entirely too easy of a process for Interscope Records. If any of us hipsters or cool kids really wanted to maintain our ID cards as tastemakers or influencers, we’d know that in this case a healthy does of silence speaks more volumes than any amount of words in anger. Real talk, Lana del Rey is the ultimate emperor in new clothes. Completely self-aware that she’s naked to the world, our exasperated gawking only makes Interscope, more rich and much smarter at a time when money and intelligence are at a minimum in the record industry.
Lana’s the ultimate hipster. American Apparel by way of an overdose on Xanax and Soundcloud links. This is the record industry commandeering this generation’s anti-commercial imperative by creating an ingenue bathed in revolutionary indifference. Lizzy Grant’s ascent as an unapologetic Nancy Sinatra clone failed. Interscope gambled on the reveal of del Ray as an industry puppet being seen as the ultimate irony, self-aware hipsters embraced by a now self-aware industry. That didn’t work so well. Instead, the opposite occurred, Lana del Ray becoming the ultimate portrait of the deepening schism between classic record industry values and 21st century culture and technology.
Putting an unseasoned artist on Saturday Night Live has never happened quite like this. In SNL’s halcyon days, LA punks Fear notoriously stalked the stage at 30 Rock, a performance that still rarely has seen the light of broadcast television. Mainstream artists have fallen short as well, Ashlee Simpson’s famous lip-syncing gaffe a top example. But Del Ray? If you don’t think that wasn’t done on purpose, well, let’s take a fifteen-minute cab ride from Rockefeller Center, because there’s a bridge to Brooklyn I’d also like to sell to you.
Lana Del Ray is the quintessential hipster. She’s an awkward, internet-created outlier, photographed through so many Instagram filters. She’s the kind of chick that college kids who adore Phoenix, giggle at Juicy J and awkwardly dance to Brenmar remixes pleasure themselves to on Lil B’s Tumblr. Prettier than your favorite blonde barista serving you a tall fair trade latte at your favorite indie coffee shop, more intriguing than the girl in the high-waisted genie pants at your favorite dance night, she’s intentionally awkward, and thus for Interscope’s needs, intentionally perfect. She’s not supposed to sing well as a live artist. 90% of the wonder is just to stop and stare, to be caught in the essence of someone carefully crafted to care enough to not care about your caring that she doesn’t care at all. It’s the ultimate of all of the ironies we’ve bought and sold and loved in the last decade, the apex and denouement of the generation that heralded sea change in the global mainstream.
Lana del Ray performed “Video Games” live, and, as expected, it sucked. Being shocked that Lana del Ray is terrible as a live performer is to turn a blind eye to our own existence. Hot chicks never look like they do when we see them online. There always fatter, weirder, thinner or more Photoshopped than we expected. The music industry daring to be stupid and airing our generation’s dirty laundry? Not as dumb as all of us getting mad about it. The recorded album? It’ll sound great. The hubub? It won’t make people clamor to see her live, it’ll make people listen to her recordings. And they’re awesome. Disposable ringtone rap has evolved into disposable singer-songwriter pop. Lana del Ray sucks. You’re ignorantly playing into marketing plans by caring.