So many think-pieces, so little time.
by Alex Heigl
Hey, have you heard this song? Were you struck by its casual, off-handedly retro appeal and stately melody? Or did you think it was contrived, cliched, and vainglorious? (Also, have you been able to tear your eyes away from her lips?) Lana Del Rey has reduced the internet to drooling worship or slavering hatred (and their irritating middle ground, chin-scratching analysis) with remarkable efficiency, given that she's only released two singles. In case you're feeling left out, here's a quick rundown of the internet's key thoughts regarding Lana Del Rey.
5. "She sucks, but she's hot."
HipsterRunoff.com hates Lana Del Rey almost as much as they love talking like Dust Off-huffing teenagers. That attitude seems to be pretty common across the internet. Many seem torn over whether to fawn over her hotness or assault her for just about everything else. There's a weird dichotomy here: even as people give her cruel (yet hilarious) nicknames like "DSL Soundsystem," they can't seem to stop talking about her.
4. "She's all style and no substance."
Much has been made about Del Rey's marketed tag line ("the Gangsta Nancy Sinatra"), and the way her aesthetic reference points seem to have been calibrated by a well-trained team of sociologists and fashion designers working out of a loft in Brooklyn. In fact, divorcing her image from her music is almost impossible. And that's a shame, because all of those things are piling weighty critical theory on music that's actually pretty straightforward. I actually like "Video Games," but were I to listen to it sight unseen, would I have immediately thought "This girl probably lists the theme from The Godfather and 'Lollipop' by Lil Wayne as influences?" Of course not, because that would mean I was a crazy person.
3. "Her album won't live up to her hype."
This is more of a sad reflection on the power of internet-hype than any value judgment on her music. Though its cover art looks like a bizarre mashup of American Gothic and Ready to Die (probably by design), but to live up its rabid hype, the thing would have to sound like a mashup of Abbey Road, Exile on Main Street, Enter the 36 Chambers, late-period Billie Holiday, and a Take Five bar. And that is scientifically impossible, because we all know Take Five bars cannot be improved upon.
2. "She sucks live."
Del Rey had a series of craftily-publicized live shows around NYC recently, and people were seriously unimpressed. Stereogum's comment on her first "secret" show in Williamsburg (a place that should by all means function as her Castle Grayskull): "She chewed a lot of gum." Rolling Stone was a little kinder in their review of a more recent show, praising her "husky, come-hither sexuality" and "bratty, girlish petulance" (both of which sound like descriptions of roadside-diner waitresses, though maybe that's apt), but noting that she seemed "shaky and inconsistent." Either way, what we've heard of her album already sounds like music to quietly sway back and forth to in a dimly-lit room, rather than something to produce a shake-the-rafters live show.
The only people who appear to be driving the Lana Del Rey debate are music critics and amateur sociologists. While writing this, I asked the Nerve interns, "What do you guys think of Lana Del Rey?" Their answers: "I don't really get her" and "I know who she is." That was it. No treatises on artificiality vs. authenticity, no references to the Dylan/Zimmerman dichotomy. Zero. Which is great — let her songs speak for themselves. I know that's nearly impossible these days, and it's an unfair double standard that seems to plague female artists more than male ones (why is that? oh, right), but seriously: settle down, internet.