Friday, December 23, 2011

Lana Del Rey vs. Hipster Snobbery

Ever since Minna introduced me to Lana Del Rey (formerly Lizzy Grant), I've been trying to understand the creature that is this woman. Is she real? Is she fake? Ultimately, I've come to the conclusion that it doesn't matter (at least not to me). At first, I wasn't sure I wanted to write about her, as Minna already has, but reading "Lana Del Rey: 2012's Zero-Talent Star" by Simon Sweetman was the catalyst to my finally doing so. Simon comes off as an elitist prick, as do most hipsters (when it comes to Lana and others). I'm not going to pretend to love Lana. I don't, but I can see the good with the blech. First and foremost, she has a fantastic voice. Of course, whether a voice is good or not is subjective, but hers has a power and warm raspiness that most people, including her harshest Youtube critics, applaud with words like "She's fake and I don't like her, but you can't deny she's a talented singer."

Katy at the start of her career in 2008
He calls her the "indie-cool Katy Perry" and says that she's "just as fake" as the POPster. This immediately comes off as a holier-than-thou statement. Katy is a talented musician - she can read and write music, and has! She composed Thinking of You completely on her own with a guitar, and her voice is pretty. Yes, she sounds mediocre in arenas, but so does everyone except Celine (God love the French-Canadian chanteuse), so if that's his basis of accusation, he's already starting off on the wrong foot. Wearing bright colors while singing commercial bubblegum POP doesn't make an artist fake. S/he's only fake if his/her aesthetic and sonic styles don't reflect his/her own taste, and taste is also subjective. Katy actually likes bright colors and bubblegum POP - it was her decision to make music people could dance to at her shows after seeing a lack of movement on her first tour, which was filled with mid-tempo numbers off her first record.

Now, back to Lana. I don't mean to get sidetracked. I just can't stand when music snobs define good/bad music with their flannel half-way up their a$$. (Disclaimer: I do love me some flannel.) Speaking of snobbery, Simon calls her "the bored daughter of a millionaire; Daddy probably paid for new lips to give her a new look. He probably paid for a better producer to try to give her a better sound." Um, so what? If someone comes from a moneyed background, does that mean s/he doesn't deserve to be an artist? If someone is an aspiring singer from a wealthy family, does that automatically imply s/he is just a bored kid looking for a hobby? What a prejudiced outlook! People who come from money don't deserve flack just because they're privileged. Rich people have passions, dreams, and capacities for diligence just as much as those in lower tax brackets. Way to look for the worst in people! If Simon's daughter wanted to be a singer, and he had the means, wouldn't he help fund her album and pay for a producer to get her on the road to a record deal? Allegedly, Taylor Swift's Dad did, as did Beyonce's, and I know I would do the same for my daughter if I had one. It's called LOVE and support. If you have the dough, why not help out those you care about most?

I understand that there's a big question regarding Lana's artistic authenticity. She poses as a Florence & the Machine style singer-songwriter with a penchant for the visual arts, when it's likely that her songs were written by others and her look was assembled by label execs. This controversy only makes her more intriguing in my eyes, but I can comprehend why it bothers others. Obviously, if would-be fans suspect that a singer is falsely presenting him/herself, they'll have second thoughts about fully investing in the artist. I feel so attached to Marina & the Diamonds because her music speaks to me. I know she wrote it from her own experiences, and so I connect not only to the songs, but to her. Listening to her music makes me feel I'm not alone in my sentiments. However, if I found out that she had lied about penning the tracks, I'd feel gipped and cheated, as if someone had exploited my emotional vulnerability to make a dollar. That's not a problem for me when it comes to Lana because I don't love her songs. I only like Video Games and Blue Jeans. (While I do adore the Born to Die video, I, like Simon and many others, think the melody sounds like a severely sub-par version of Video Games.)

If Lana did not in fact compose her own material and construct her own aesthetic, then I wish she and her label would be honest about it. People would be more apt to give her a chance if she was truthful about the origin of her songs and image (not hipsters, who love their singers to write their own tracks, but everyone else). I think Lana does emotionally connect to her music, even if she hasn't had a hand in creating it. Writing one's own songs is overrated. I love Celine Dion, the songstress who stole my DIVA virginity. Celine doesn't write her own music. Still, every time I see/hear her sing, I melt, because her emotion for each track translates. Celine picks songs that she can relate to as though she had written them herself. With that said, I will never connect to Celine or her songs as deeply as I do to Marina and her tracks because Marina's experiences are the origin of her songs. However, I don't write Celine or anyone else off just because they don't make their own music. If the allegations regarding Lana are accurate, then honesty would go a long way in winning over non-hipster fans. Those people won't care who wrote the songs or that she grew up in a mansion as opposed to the trailer park she claims she's from, as long as everyone's showing their true colors. 

Nicole Atkins giving us good face in the corn fields.
WERK that beanstalk.
Back to Simon. He says that we shouldn't waste our time with Lana, and instead focus our ear buds on worthy artists, like Nicole Atkins. However, it's important to note how positive an impact Lana could have on the music industry, particularly in America. Over here, our airwaves are filled with Dr. Luke tunes. As I've said before, I love them, but there's not much beside them. No matter how manufactured Lana may or may not be, her music is far more instrumental and left-field than the electro-pop currently dominating the charts. If she succeeds here, she will open the door to mainstream exposure and success for alternative POP acts, like Ms. Atkins herself, thereby diversifying the POP landscape. This would only be a good thing. Yes, Lana looks ultra glamorous with her retro-styled hair/makeup/clothes and cosmetically enhanced lips. I feel guilty for liking it all because I believe that, as an aspiring member of POP-culture, she should help redefine beauty standards. Still, it's better to have a slight dose of freshness (i.e. her music's sonic qualities) than none at all, so I'll take what I can get. Ultimately, it will pay off in dividends for all the Simon Sweetman-endorsed-100%-real-artists hoping to penetrate the mainstream. Without the Lana Del Reys, the Nicole Atkinses of the world will slip right past those whose source of new music is commercial radio (a.k.a. the majority of people). Almost completely unnoticed, they'll land somewhere far far away, unable to find the massive success they deserve.



That's it. I'm officially off to Urban Outfitters
to buy some American Flag clothing.

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