Saturday, 21 January 2012

In defence of Lana del Rey


Lana del Rey could possibly be the greatest cultural ruse in all of history. With well over twenty million YouTube hits to her name and anticipation reaching fever pitch over her forthcoming debut under the del Ray persona, the woman also known as Lizzie Grant has become something of a darling for both the music press and the industry itself. But there are two sides to every coin, and del Ray has also attracted a fair range of detractors in the blogosphere for her ‘fake’ aesthetic and spiel, which many have written off as cynical marketing on the part of her record company, Interscope.
Here’s the thing; as many of you may already know, the forthcoming Born to Die is not Lizzie Grant’s debut album at all (hence the obtuse choice of language in the first paragraph). She actually released her debut LP two years ago, pre-lip surgery but already adopting much of the persona by which she goes by today; songs like Lolita and Kill Kill clearly display the “ghetto Nancy Sinatra” aesthetic which del Ray publically admits she is going for. Whilst not up to the lofty standards of Video Games or Blue Jeans, the record is pretty great. It’s a pity it bombed and stayed on iTunes for only a few months.
This is what brings me to my first issue with the detractors; those that claim that del Rey has an unproven track record are simply incorrect. Whilst it may be the case that del Ray has garnered a massive amount of hype over a relatively few number of songs, those that wish to confirm her status as an artist to be watched have only to make a few mouse clicks to find over 40 minutes of material; material which, in my opinion, more than justifies some degree of hype surrounding her Interscope debut, despite the public indifference it faced upon release.
The second, and main, issue that I have with those that call del Rey out, is the idea that for music to be good it somehow has to be genuine or legitimised, presumably by some bizarre panel that makes a judgement based on a lie detector test. The whole point of art is escapism, and it’s escapism that encapsulates what it is that del Rey (and presumably her songwriting backers, it matter not) is setting out to achieve. The value of a book of fiction is not reduced simply by it being fictional, and nor should the ideas surrounding a musical artist. After all, was it ever really feasible that del Ray was the bizarre Lynch-esque character that she portrayed? It would have been foolish tothink so.
Those that write del Rey of simply as a false aesthetic expose themselves as somewhat counterfeit themselves. What they are, in effect, suggesting is that music is only valuable as some kind of confirmation of a genuine worldview or existence, and that it has to represent something beyond that which it actually is; enjoyable sound. They are essentially posturing. It is my belief that we should judge the value of music on what it actually sounds like, rather than what it says about us, the listener, or the artist.
As far as I’m concerned, you can keep your bona-fide gangster rappers and your heartfelt indie bands. Right now I’m happy to hear a melody and a voice that I enjoy. And if that means I get an interesting piece of musical theatre, albeit one (shock horror) supported by a record company? So be it, I’m entertained.