Popsmart: Lana Del Rey is wackadoodle, but you want it
This week, Lana Del Rey released her debut album, Born to Die. Rarely, it seems, has there been an album both so hotly anticipated and, perhaps, so aptly titled.
Del Rey, for the uninitiated, is America’s latest musical It Girl—or at least was until January 14, when she appeared as Saturday Night Live’s musical guest. Then, the singer worked her way through two songs, including the single “Video Game.” While Del Rey’s voice sounded pretty (although at times warbly and unsure) in a ’60s pop chanteuse sort of way, her demeanor was, to put it kindly, stiff and painfully awkward to watch as she repeatedly shuffled about in a tight circle and anxiously petted her Veronica Lake-worthy hair.
Viewers pilloried the 25-year-old (incidentally, the first artist since Natalie Imbruglia in 1998, to appear on Saturday Night Live before the release of a major-label album) taking to Twitter to decry this new “wackadoodle” performer while actress and self-styled singer Juliette Lewis tweeted that watching Del Rey was akin to “watching a 12 yearold in their bedroom when theyre pretending to sing and perform.”
Even NBC anchor Brian Williams chimed in via an email to his network, calling out Del Rey’s appearance as “one of the worst outings in SNL history.”
Pop-music conspiracy theorists, meanwhile, insisted that Del Rey—who prior to 2011 recorded music under her real name Elizabeth Grant—was little more than a prefab femme-bot, the inauthentic product of major label tweaking and tinkering, rebooted under a new name and image.
Sorry, America, but Lana Del Rey is exactly what you wanted—why be such a hypocrite about it now?
The daughter of a wealthy Internet investor, Del Ray is, after all, the creation of an entertainment world in which people can theoretically transform themselves from mirror-gazing hairbrush crooner to American Idol in the span of just a few months—if not weeks or days.
In this universe, such a debatable lack of talent or charisma is hardly a detriment. Just ask Rebecca Black.
It’s been less than a year since the Southern Californian became a household name after her mother paid $4,000 to a vanity-record label so that the teenager could record a heavily Auto-Tuned single and release an accompanying video. Black was globally ridiculed after the resulting video for “Friday” went viral on YouTube, earning its unofficial reputation as “the worst song ever.”
Despite such pop-culture vitriol, however, the teenager also found relative success. Katy Perry is a fan, regularly covering “Friday” in concert, and the song, which also received the Glee treatment, peaked at number 58 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.
Black, set to release a full-length album later this year, also snagged the “Choice Web Star” honors at the 2011 Teen People’s Choice Awards. And why not? She’s practically YouTube royalty at this point: “Friday” was the video-sharing site’s most-watched clip of 2011.
Likewise, Del Rey largely owes her success to the Internet. Her videos—including the vintage-styled “Video Game” clip, reportedly edited using the singer’s MacBook—have garnered more than 13 million YouTube hits while the single, previously only available as a digital download, spent three weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Singles Sales chart.
Criticize Del Rey as much as you want, because the truth is otherwise evident: We wanted her, we got her, and we don’t really care about her authenticity—not very much, anyway.
We’ll still buy her records—just as we bought Rebecca Black’s single and just as we did Ashlee Simpson’s music, even after the latter’s SNL lip-syncing fiasco.
We want overnight sensations we can verbally tear down, even as we spend money to keep them going.
Time to just sit back and enjoy the show.