Lana Del Rey Lights Up the Internet

After the dust settled, someone on Twitter suggested that maybe Lana Del Rey's marketing plan had been an accident—that "Video Games" had been meant to go first to Europe, then find success and be resold back home. But instead, her video crashed like Superman's rocket into America's blogger heartland, and its small-town inhabitants peered in as if they had found something powerful and alien.

It was marvelous, this something, but it had to be fake. So the Internet went to work debunking Lana Del Rey, and the story of Lizzy Grant, sometime pop star wannabe and the secret identity behind this strange visitor's studied glamour, emerged. Along the way, her saga picked at some old, barely grown scabs, unraveling fans' and blogs' neuroses regarding cosmetic surgery, label duplicity, theatricality, the presentation of female pop singers, and the glib misogyny of online "bros."

"Video Games" was the perfect lightning rod, its air of mystery and game-playing aloofness of a piece with its singer's well-constructed identity. It's partly about being what someone else wants you to be, and a good chunk of the people blogging and commenting on it seemingly wanted to be—like so many others on the Internet—the least fooled, the people who see though hype and backlash alike and find the truth. The record gave them the opportunity, whatever their opinion. Lana Del Rey was a memetic bubble like Rebecca Black's "Friday"? Very well, then. "Video Games" was anti-feminist? If you say so. The singer is unhappy? Of course. A beautiful love song? It might as well be.

Nicole Nodland

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Lana Del Rey
"Video Games" (#7 single)

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This fear of being fooled is hardly a new phenomenon, but it's one of many things that Web discourse amplifies and accelerates. The same networks that let crowds celebrate and create around what they love also empower them to strip new culture down, probe it for weaknesses, and demand to know everything about it. People like me, who grew up in a culture of more limited information, are prone to see this as the passing of pop's "mystique," but stars with style and charisma will always find ways to perform it, and the mess and bombast of Twitter now helps define—not demolish—pop cool. No, the Lana Del Rey imbroglio points at something potentially worse: an impatience with performance and a lack of trust in self-reinvention.

Del Rey, after all, isn't the first to take more than one shot at finding a pop persona that worked. Imagine a 1969 Internet reacting to David Bowie's breakthrough with "Space Oddity"—a single as mannered, languid, and beguiling as "Video Games," and a performer as in love with artifice and with plenty of past to dig up. Would his career have benefited from blogs tearing apart his inconsistency and torrents bundling his hit with "The Laughing Gnome"?

Self-reinvention and persona play are the glue of pop and the ghosts that haunt and anger social media. And those concepts are also what Del Rey's single is all about. For me—and there are kinder, just as convincing interpretations—the singer in "Video Games" is a solipsist, casting herself as a master manipulator and her lazy, drifty relationship as a great love. So I hear a record about fakery and self-projection, which is more timely than how "authentic" the woman who made it is.

The song's passivity and pretense come through in the music, too. Listened to once, "Video Games" is a catchy lullaby, but the production and performance is built around a host of small artifices, all backing up the big one. The backing swells when it's called onto but mostly rests on woozy splices and cuts, synth washes, and chintzy plucking. Del Rey hits us with a studied, torchy voice that's dropped for the record's best, creepiest hook, slipping into faux-naïf Marilyn style when asking, "Is that true?" In other words, "Video Games" sounds classicist at first, "retro" in a vague way. But the closer it gets, the more obvious its theatrics become, even before you take Del Rey's image-building into account. It's uncanny valley pop about an uncanny valley love affair—almost convincing, but just wrong enough to chill and fascinate.

 
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22 comments
scaryklown
scaryklown

I first heard "Blue Jeans" on NPR's All Songs Considered. I downloaded that song and "Video Games" from iTunes and still love them both. Maybe she had a bad night on SNL, or maybe she isn't great live; I still enjoy the MP3s, regardless. Her past incarnations, what she has or hasn't done to her lips, other supposed machinations - couldn't care less.

Choocheroni
Choocheroni

How about, "She writes bad songs and cannot sing." That would suffice.

buttertop
buttertop

She signed to Interscope in July 2011 before Video games and blue jeans were even uploaded, the Lana Del Rey story goes she exploded on the web a diy artist that made such an amazing tune/ video that within a month millions of people had viewed it and everyone was talking about it......Obviously not, she signed with interscope and Sure Fire Media were hired to market lizzy online......... so it's more about the deceit that was used, it's too much.

We then find out that the transformation from Lizzy to Lana had happened over a period of about 2-3yrs Lizzy's previous producer speaks about her buying the rights to her first album so she can wipe out any links to her family name and no longer be Lizzy Grant (it was removed very quickly from itunes, whiffs of a new deal on the cards). So she comes on the scene as a retro girl from a trailer park and uses this poor background as the reason she couldn't have possibly afforded plastic surgery. We then find out her dad is a multi millionaire and she isn't so poor that she couldn't buy the rights from her previous label and fund her blatantly facial surgery.

Bottom line if the girl was really that good it would be all okay but she's not and I'm not just going to fund her little fantasy world when she can fund it herself

Jack Joseph Cambest
Jack Joseph Cambest

butters - music is in the ears and brain of the beholder. In my 55 years, I've listened to a lot of music. I like The Chieftans even though I have no idea where they came from or who their fathers were - for all I know, they could all be axe murderers. I love listening to Kate Bush even though I don't understand most of what she sings about and haven't a clue as to where she came from or how wealthy her parents are (were?) - same deal goes for Alanis Morissette, Enya, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Adele, Alan Parsons, Dave Matthews, Tori Amos and many other music makers. The bottom line is that I like listening to Lana sing and enjoy watching her do it. At least for me, it matters not that she used to be someone else, or that she had her lips plumped up, or that she has a rich father. I knew none of this before I listened to her for the first time. What really matters to me is that I listened to her sing a song that I had never heard before and I immediately liked it. Then, she sang another song and I liked that one too. Knowing about her background doesn't make me like her music any less.

So butters, you can stand up on your soap box all day long and criticize whomever you want - but, all the histrionics you could ever generate will have zero bearing on my taste in music and/or which artists I choose to like. Sorry...

Fontanez Jennifer
Fontanez Jennifer

What is the point of this reply? You act as if butter's post was meant specifically to address you. If none of the background info he posted has any bearing on your music listening choices, then neither should his post have any bearing on you to warrant such a defensive reply. He did not appear to be trying to dissuade anyone from listening to LDR. Is your confidence in the music you like secretly so shaky that you have to take personal offence to any criticism of it?

Guest
Guest

The original video went up in April, months before she got signed. Once it went viral YouTube noticed the copyright violations & took it down. You're seeing conspiracies where there are none.

Chris H
Chris H

were you this upset about the strokes and Julian Casablancas' famous daddy?

MadDogM13
MadDogM13

Yup. They had connections, got famous, and sucked too.

Manfred Smellington
Manfred Smellington

Her SNL performance was the first I had heard of her, and I found the performance of "Video Games" to be so wonderfully weird that I was transfixed. It felt a bit like a scene from a David Lynch movie in the way it was glamorous looking, but then slightly off center in so many ways. I've since been surprised to see all of the negative reaction online, and in particular I find the questions about her "authenticity" to be hilarious, as if it's not immediately obvious that her image is crafted the moment you see her. Anyway, after listening to a lot of her other music I can now see that her SNL performance was relatively poor, but it intrigued me and I'll be paying attention to what else she has to offer.

whatevs
whatevs

Hey Tom, the thing with Lana isn't *self*-reinvention. It's called corporate re-branding. There's a difference. She herself (and her wiki) admit the name and re-invention were the fruits of a 5-year plan with her managers and lawyers.

I makes me want to vomit that you compare her to David Bowie. Give me a fucking break.

Fontanez Jennifer
Fontanez Jennifer

"I makes me want to vomit that you compare her to David Bowie." People (critics and fans alike) ALWAYS pull that shit stunt in arguments about these overhyped artists. And they truly sound like they're impressed with themselves for doing it. I mean God, how many times were people defending Gaga's over-the-top theatrical stunts by invoking Bowie's name? And now, already, I've seen the poor guy's name invoked in numerous, numerous LDR arguments. Every pop star is the new fucking David Bowie, apparently. When all else fails, remember to point out that "Bowie did it too!!!1" (because there could never be a such thing as difference in context). Fer fack's sake...if Bowie had been dead the last few years, his corpse wouldn't be able to rest. For that matter, Kate Bush gets a lot of facking comparison mentions too.

jumpingtoconclusionsarewenow
jumpingtoconclusionsarewenow

"Lana Del Rey came from a series of managers and lawyers over the last 5 years who wanted a name that they thought better fit the sound of the music."

you question someones credibility... I question yours given the linguistic spin you put on her words. many bands have managers and lawyers who have opinions. in no way does it suggest this was some sort of contractual obligation.

even bands like Fishbone have been subject to pressure of record labels and management.

some people listen, some people don't that's very common in the music industry. A simple practice like using controversy to sell an artist........

Fontanez Jennifer
Fontanez Jennifer

Whatevs was putting no such "spin" on LDR's words but pretty much sharing them verbatim. Pretty simple words that speak for themselves. Why do you treat it like it's "bad" to bring it up? And no, hardly every artist, including Fishbone, becomes the product of heavy hype-marketing, wherein the artist starts off more popular by name (and media attention) than by their music. They don't all respond to industry pressure the same way, particular where fame isn't their #1 goal. And who cares about other artists anyway? When the discussion is about THEM and what they are doing, people will express their reactions there.

Whatevs
Whatevs

Hey I tried adding the link they wouldn't let me. Try googling "repeat fanzine lana del rey interview" like the commenter below said. Here's the quote.

"2. Was it a conscious decision to be a solo artist, and where does your stage name Lana Del Rey come from / why did you choose to use this instead of your real name?

“No. I wanted to be a band but the label I was with and the team I had around me absolutely wanted me to be a solo artist. Lana Del Rey came from a series of managers and lawyers over the last 5 years who wanted a name that they thought better fit the sound of the music. My music was always kind of cinematic so they wanted a name that reflected the glamour of the sound.”

Manfred Smellington
Manfred Smellington

Do you have a link to this admitted "5 year plan"? The only thing I see on Wikipedia is that she says her management told her she should use the name Lana Del Rey after her 2010 album using her real name and so she did.

buttertop
buttertop

tried to add a link but they probably wont approve it so google:

repeat fanzine lana del rey interview

it's an interview she did about the choosing of the name

buttertop
buttertop

this is the interview where LDR speaks about her team choosing her name

http://www.repeatfanzine.co.uk...there was a link on wiki but people keep deleting the facts.

You should also search for the interview with her previous producer David Kahne he has a lot to say about her transition from Lizzy to Lana and how she bought out the rights to her music and removed it from itunes so no one would know her back history before she launched herself as Lana del rey with interscope.

whatevs the return
whatevs the return

I guess they deleted that part from her Wiki.

Link to 2010 interview:http://www.repeatfanzine.co.uk...

Quote

". Was it a conscious decision to be a solo artist, and where does your stage name Lana Del Rey come from / why did you choose to use this instead of your real name?

“No. I wanted to be a band but the label I was with and the team I had around me absolutely wanted me to be a solo artist. Lana Del Rey came from a series of managers and lawyers over the last 5 years who wanted a name that they thought better fit the sound of the music. My music was always kind of cinematic so they wanted a name that reflected the glamour of the sound.”"

whatevs
whatevs

They deleted that part from the wiki.

http://www.repeatfanzine.co.uk... (June 2010)Here's the interview part: .

Was it a conscious decision to be a solo artist, and where does your stage name Lana Del Rey come from / why did you choose to use this instead of your real name?

“No. I wanted to be a band but the label I was with and the team I had around me absolutely wanted me to be a solo artist. Lana Del Rey came from a series of managers and lawyers over the last 5 years who wanted a name that they thought better fit the sound of the music. My music was always kind of cinematic so they wanted a name that reflected the glamour of the sound.”

whatevs
whatevs

Plus, what the hell do you call charisma??? Did you watch SNL this weekend? The woman has the charisma of a paper bag. She looks great - as a *model*. did you use the word "performer" to describe her? Pffff.

I feel like writers like you and The Guardian folks project on to her something she doesn't have. The woman can't perform or sing live, and she's essentially wearing someone else's idea. Before you compare anyone to David Bowie, do us a favor, respect the man and his legacy. David Bowie was a performer whose myriad reincarnations were supported because he obviously left no doubt in his performances.

Get over it.

 
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