In another era, Lana Del Rey would just be another pretty pop singer with a second-rate voice and big, unrealized ambitions, a major-label footnote maybe worth a page or two in a book about the foibles of the early-’10s music industry. But this is The Age Of Trollgaze, and so her “mysterious” origins and melted-cover-girl looks get fetishized and obsessed over by members of the peanut gallery who fancy themselves as “indie,” but who are just as into the notion of hatefucking unavailable women as their brethren who read The Superficial and its ilk—even the most anodyne mentions of her music on any site with a comment section will devolve into incoherent referenda on her physical self, an inevitability almost as concrete as debates on political blogs turning into arguments over whether George W. Bush or Barack Obama ruined the country more irrevocably. The songs are often overtaken by these tussles enough that they are merely termed “fine,” or “shitty,” or somewhere in between those two on the one-word-judgment spectrum.
Del Rey’s debut album Born To Die comes out, finally, early next year, and the ready-for-radio version of its title track appeared on her YouTube channel last night after being performed in Europe a few times over the past month. How does it fit into this debased, hashtag-riddled age that we are currently living in? Our mathematical analysis, below.
THE ARTIST (5 points): “Lana Del Rey is a hot female indie singer.” (5/5)
THE SONG (5 points): We open with an overwrought string part worthy of a Susan Boyle album, which suddenly drops out in favor of Del Rey, buried in the mix, gasping a couple of times as a call-and-response with a sample that sounds borrowed from a hip-hop song. All good—until she starts to sing. Del Rey’s voice, which tries to go for “sex kitten” but which more often sounds like that of a particularly put-upon alley cat, meanders around a sing-song melody that repeats over and over and over—for four minutes and 44 seconds. Yes, her vocal imperfections are not unlike those of stylists like Stevie Nicks, but unlike Nicks, Del Rey’s inability to stay on pitch sounds like the failed attempts of someone trying really hard to do so. And when she uses her upper register, you kind of want to hand her an oxygen mask.
Furthermore, what has happened this year that every “buzzworthy” artist is averse to songs that contain something resembling a bridge? No, repeating the chorus over dropped-out instrumentals, as Del Rey does here, doesn’t count, especially for a track that brushes the five-minute mark. (4/5)
THE VIDEO (5 points): A looped clip of Lana and a tattooed bro hugging, topless, in front of an American flag. What it lacks in budget it more than makes up for in “meaningful” blinks by our false-eyelashed heroine and, no doubt, repeated views by those desperate alt bros in constant search of “nip.” And there’s apparently a video with a tiger coming soon. Hooray? (4/5)
DIVISIVENESS (5 points): 694 likes and 14 dislikes on YouTube, but lots of people are still waking up. (INCOMPLETE)
VIRALITY POTENTIAL (10 points): OMG NAKED YOU GUYS PUT UP THE BATSIGNAL (8/10)
“FUCK THE HATERS” QUOTIENT (10 points): The secret of Lana Del Rey’s persona is this: For all the nasty Internet comments written about her, nobody hates her (or “her”) as much as she (“she”) does. There, I’ve solved the Internet for you. Time for a muffin. (1/10)
BACKLASH POTENTIAL (5 points): At this point we’ve hit the backlash to the backlash to the fifth or sixth power. (5/5)
THAT EXTRA JE NE SAIS QUOI (5 points): When Del Rey performed this last month, the climactic line of the chorus was “Let me fuck you hard in the pouring rain.” In this version, “fuck” has been changed to “kiss.” Pre-emptive move to placate radio programmers, or our heroine realizing that her meticulously crafted persona doesn’t have nearly enough sexual agency to initiate outdoor fucking in a downpour? (4/5)
TOTAL: 31/50: Not trollgaze. But, you know, that doesn’t make the song any good at all.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 2, 2011