It’s no secret that Lana Del Rey is not exactly who she says she is, so why are we still listening to one of the most overrated acts in pop music?
In addition to a lineup that included a plethora of talented musicians from the Pacific-Northwest, the 2015 Sasquatch! Music Festival featured a number of inspiring and talented female musicians. One name on the poster, however, stuck out like a pure white dress at a music festival: I’m talking, of course, about Lana Del Rey.
Lana Del Rey’s performance last weekend at The Gorge was a spectacle to behold. The star of the show pranced across the stage in a virginal white dress, looking as if the girl next door was performing in a dream. As is customary with Lana Del Rey, her pure look was juxtaposed with an opposing element, as she was predominantly presented in grayscale video on giant screens, creating a much darker persona.
This is part of the Lana Del Rey Experience: her brand is that of a walking contradiction, a good-girl-gone-bad. When she first came onstage, her form was that of an angel. But only two songs into her set, Lana Del Rey transformed back into Lizzie Grant, lighting a cigarette and escaping into smoke that blended perfectly into the noir pastiche presented on screens that flanked the stage.
Hidden behind the palatable and (supposedly) publicly acceptable brand of good girl Lana Del Rey is the woman born Lizzie Grant. The failed singer re-branded herself as Lana Del Rey and has since become the contemporary master of selling hypocrisy via compact disk. And yet the Girl Next Door brand shines on, forcing the character to live a sort of double life.
Take, for example, the time she blurted out “fucking hell,” on a radio show after seeing her old self perform on video, only to apologize later for the profanity. It was at this moment that the paradox of Lana Del Rey was most clear: the public does not approve of Lizzie Grant, nor do they want to hear her sing. As the misunderstood good girl that is Lana Del Rey, however, she has found a platform designed to sell sex, drugs, and rock and roll only until financial realities dictate it is financially unadvisable to do so.
And what an innovative fucking statement that is.
Now, let’s be clear for a second: I don’t have a problem with Lana Del Rey poetically waxing about her vaginal escapades in order to create an edgy persona to sell more records, that’s her prerogative. I am simply calling her what she is: a product.
Now others may be tempted to use other more colourful words to describe Lana Del Rey, but I’m only reporting what my eyes and ears tell me, and if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and swims like a duck, it’s a duck. And Lana Del Rey is a pair of duck lips from behind which a modestly attractive woman with little musical talent leverages an artificial image and stories of promiscuity to sell media.
Are you honestly going to tell me this is any different from the way a pornstar chooses a new name, creates a brand of sexual empowerment, and leverages an often artificial image in order to sell media?
Of course you will.
The truth is, Lana Del Rey is as fake as the ID I first bought alcohol with. Her name isn’t real, her age is off by one year, and after a closer look you’re certain she’s made of plastic.
And she’s not just fake in the sense that the music world is being deceived into buying a product, that happens all the time, and it’s rarely worth my attention. But Lana Del Rey’s hypocrisy and supposed talent is just too much to ignore. Not because I give a flying fuck about her, but because I know for a fact that there are armies of superior female role models out there making music of substance that deserves to be heard.
As far as music festivals go, the 2015 Sasquatch lineup actually leads the way in terms of female representation, with 33.3% of the bands in the lineup including at least one female member, a figure which dwarfs many other major festivals in North America. And while that percentage itself is not necessarily a positive statistic for women in music as a whole, it makes it clear that Sasquatch is trying, despite other industry standards, or lack thereof.
Which brings me back to Lana Del Rey, her glamorous mainstage set on Sunday evening, and the choice to juxtapose her with Annie Clark of St. Vincent. A scheduling decision that stunned me to the point I completely forgot about Ex-Hex performing only a short walk away.
Instead, I sat on the hill and stared at the paradox that is Lana Del Rey, and wondered what Annie Clark would think of opening for the Collagen Queen herself.
Or what Father John Misty would say when told that Lana Del Rey once said of him “Other than Cat Power, he’s my greatest modern day inspiration. I just love him so much.”
“One the main things I hate about her, is her many petty vogue ideas. By the many half-wits of distinction she keeps around. And now every insufferable convo, features he patiently explaining the cosmos, as if she’s in the middle.”
Remind you of someone?
If you’re like me and you research the products you’ve being sold, you know there is no limitation to Lana Del Rey’s self-promotion engine. This often involves Lana forcing herself into a conversation in which she doesn’t belong, much like the 2015 Sasquatch! lineup. When The Guardian asked Lana Del Rey about the tumultuous years of her life, she suggested her experiences with bikers and other passes through were inspired by Bob Dylan.
It sounds pretty dangerous.
“Yeah, I was lucky, but I also have strong intuition.”
Does she still do it?
The fact is, Lizzie Grant is a horrible role model, a tough brand to sell, and a marginal singer at best. And if you’re brave enough to subject yourself to this live cut, you’ll know why.
Many years after that video was recorded, Lizzie Grant returned with a new face, a new voice, and a new name, and Lana Del Rey was born. Almost immediately, the oddly-titled Born To Die was released. Despite the title’s declaration, Lana Del Rey even survived a painful performance on Saturday Night Live, narrowly escaping the career suicide she seems to lust for.
The thing is, Lana Del Rey has an penchant for comparing herself to musical greats, especially those that tragically left this Earth too soon. Like everything to do with the product that is Lana Del Rey, the title Born To Die was as calculated as her notorious follow-up line years later, telling The Guardian’s “I wish I was dead,” without any provocation, only to double-down on her wish when Jonze replied “Don’t say that.”
Naturally, this infuriated everyone with a soul, most notably Frances Cobain.
“The death of young musicians isn’t something to (sic) romanticise. I’ll never know my father because he died young and it becomes a desirable feat because people like you think it’s ‘cool’. Well, it’s f–king not. Embrace life, because you only get one life.” Cobain responded on Twitter.
This was the point at which Lana Del Rey’s ignorance and hypocrisy came full-circle. Having moved on from glamorizing drugs (Yayo & Hundred Dollar Bill, anyone?) Lana quickly graduated from her Good Girl image to sell her Pepsi cola pussy to glamorize the suicidal rock star, positioning herself alongside tragic musical figures who need only one name introductions – Elvis, Janis, Jimi, Kurt, and most recently, Amy.
But the undeniable reality is that these musicians are recognizable only by their first name because when their bodies passed on, their music remained. And ever since then, their music has stood the test of time in a way the three-named fraud can only dream of.
Barring self-fulfilling prophecy, Lana Del Rey will exit the industry with nary a whimper. There will be no ‘Black Velvet’ written for her, and instead “Lana Del Rey” the brand will join a grave of inferior products that sold themselves as something they were not.
And at that moment, we will all look back and wonder what the fuck we were doing wasting our time paying attention to Lizzie Grant when artists like Sleater-Kinney, St. Vincent, Ex Hex, Sharon Van Etten, Courtney Barnett, Thunderpussy, Of Monsters And Men, Little Dragon, AlunaGeorge, Sisters, M0, Natalie Prass, and a slew of others were all performing instead.
Words by Kevin Vanstone.