Lana del Rey has taken the world by storm. Now, unless you have had your head under a particularly soundproof rock for the past six months, you already knew that. But it seems as though the tide may have turned for the aloof songstress.
Twitter fawns over every appearance and any criticism is met with claims of being a ‘hater’, surely the worst crime of all. But I have to wonder what the true appeal is, because in my eyes she's nothing special. She's the hipster Adele, and if you didn't shudder at the mere thought of that then maybe you should leave. Many of us revel, unabashed, in the warm waters of Adele's emotive warble, beautifully composed songs which stay with us in hums and endless radio-play. Del Ray (aka Lizzy Grant) has raised her hand and taken offence to this, clearly feeling that, while ballads are in right now, affecting delivery is for the birds and while the unashamed bashing of cooler-than-thou hipsters has become a favourite past-time, the unironic appropriation of Lana del Rey as the web's favourite alt-songstress has come to pass. And it's absurd.
Now, there is obviously a long history of singers with questionable talent but none so violently pushed upon us as something so truly special as Ms. LdR. She has no ‘Macarena’-catchiness to flaunt nor hilariously nonsensical lyrics (a la Carl Douglas), just a half-decent slowed down ballad with wobbly delivery. Defenders say her voice is cold only because “she's obviously, like, trying to hide her true emotions because she's been hurt so many times and stuff”, but I can't help but think that there's nothing behind it. There's no emotion there. Lana del Rey may well be the music industry's Smurfette: created by a jaded industry Gargamel to weed out those with taste from those who define ‘taste’ as Hype Machine's Most Popular list.
There's no emotion there. Lana del Rey may well be the music industry's Smurfette: created by a jaded industry Gargamel to weed out those with taste from those who define ‘taste’ as Hype Machine's Most Popular list.
Whilst the lyrics themselves are palatable, especially by today's standards, it's the voice that most perplexes. It sounds forced, a caricature of a bygone era. With follow-up singles showcasing nothing but the same, one can only presume that an entire album of such studied monotony of voice would lead to something approaching Hari Kiri. Even without the divisive, the eyes of del Rey disturb. They are cold and empty, like a mannequin come real. Perhaps it's an act, if so she should take up acting instead.
Her recent capitulation on Saturday Night Live, comparable only to a drunk aunt mopily singing at a wedding, has leant weight to the notion that, maybe, she might not be as great as everyone thought she was. Defenders have said “But she's only young!” She's 25. “Blame her managers for putting her up for something she isn't ready for” - it takes far more talented singers years to reach a platform like that and she's reached it off of one so-so single and no album. If she's not ready for the heat she should get out of the kitchen – there'll be plenty to take her place.
Lana del Rey is by no means the only artist to recently arrive on a wave of hype only to drift off on the current of apathy...
There's Tyler, the Creator, the ADHD'd rap impresario with a penchant for commercially viable murder and rape. Not since Eminem has the young white populous felt a hardcore rapper so relatable. Quite what it is that they feel relates them to Tyler is questionable: is it the hats? It's the hats. That's it. Snapbacks aren't the only unfortunate by-product of the Odd Future revolution, there's also the wholly ironic KPBSFS movement (Google it) which gave thousands of children a pithy axiom by which to live/put in their Twitter bio next to a heart-symbol by. His album BASTARD was supposed to sell millions but underperformed dramatically despite cashing in on the whole disappearance of Earl Sweatshirt saga, something which displeases me no end as Earl has infinitely more skill and charisma than Tyler but has been reduced to one mixtape and a marketing tool for Odd Future's sales.
Kreayshawn (birth name Natassia Gail Zolot), pint-sized racist anti-rapper, may well have been a sign of the coming apocalypse. For a time people (me) had hoped she was just the Neil Hamburger of fashion rap, turning a mirror onto the industry for its vapid posturing and brand-name callouts with her mute hipster side-kick. Turns out she was the real deal. In this case, authenticity killed the cat (sorry). If you like your rap waifs, that androgynous monotony swagger and more than a hint of sadness, then she's your bag. If not try, literally, anything else.
Drake – Controversial? Yawn. My regards to Pitchfork favouritism, but your girlfriend's favourite rapper is nothing more than a preening ode to marketing. Dour delivery of obvious punch lines, excruciating choruses on inexplicably popular hit records - the rise defies explanation. The fact that his significant other Nicki Minaj would rap rings around him screams everything you need to know. Lil' Wayne is preferable in that at least you can tell that he's as bored rapping his songs as we are listening to them, whereas if you squint your ears (that can happen) you might get the faint feeling that Drake actually believes that he is not terrible. And that is the saddest thing of all.
...the cumulative effect of all those off-hand blog posts and Tweets lead to industry buzz which leads to the deplorable artists receiving the kind of omnipresence we all hate. An industry built on artists whose career amounts to nothing but a meme, is a house built on sand.
It seems that in the Teens (no, I can't work out what to call this decade either) it would seem that the writer is king. That can be the only explanation. Today, your big-time music blogger is the label head. The Twitterer, the A&R executive. They have the power and the privilege to push even the lamest of ducks, without even realising it. While the majority of individual blogs are not worth the internet paper they're written on, the cumulative effect of all those off-hand blog posts and Tweets lead to industry buzz which leads to the deplorable artists receiving the kind of omnipresence we all hate. An industry built on artists whose career amounts to nothing but a meme, is a house built on sand. What is the important next step, and the step to ensuring that the music industry survives out the decade before the ‘Buzzband bubble’ bursts, is to see through the marketing and to really see what is important: the music.
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