December 7, 2011
Better than...I ever even knew. Then again, what do I know?
"I have my fingers crossed that LDR lives up to all this hype. Girl's got talent," said my friend after I told her I was seeing Lana Del Rey last night. This friend keeps up with things enough to know who Lana Del Rey is, but she's not what you'd consider to have a vested interest "in the scene." She is not a music writer, either professional or amateur and her Tumblr does not contain "thinkpieces." And yet, amidst the shitstorm of discussion about Lana Del Rey in 2011, it was the first thing anyone's said about her in a long time that actually made me think.Because it's possibly the first time since "Video Games" became a hit of some quantification or another that I've heard somebody talk about Lizzy Grant as if the fate for Born To Die -- her debut album for Interscope due out on January 31 -- wasn't already a foregone conclusion. The conclusion of course is that of a karmic depantsing, an embarrassing exposure of an artist way out of her depth and willingly manipulated.
Of course, that she had been reduced to a discussion rather than a person who sings songs people like is our own fault. But it's a discussion worth having, and it's not about "indie cred" or her handlers: it's about sex. Because the indie rock echo chamber in which Del Rey is such a divisive figure doesn't want to talk about it. If we're to take tastemaker Gorilla vs. Bear's frankly revolting "Cool List" of skinny white females, emaciated white dudes and some rappers as any indication of what this scene values -- and we probably should -- the fact that the completely non-carnal likes of Panda Bear and Grimes rank in the top ten make it abundantly clear that indie rock is getting the sex symbols it deserves.
So of course Lana Del Rey's often heavy-handed incorporation of '50s Hollywood glamour, classic gender roles and hip-hop affectations would make people uncomfortable. Though hardly explicit about it, "Video Games" feels like every bit as much of an indictment of antisocial behavior as Dismemberment Plan's "Doing The Standing Still" and a simultaneously searing and vulnerable frontal attack of masculine failure along the likes of Elastica's "Stutter."
Even amidst the Disneyfied strings and grainy YouTube footage of celebrity malfeasance is a seriously dissatisfied woman, one who lusts after the possibility of a muscular, emotionally stoic Don Draper type (the penultimate song of the night was "You Can Be The Boss"). Or James Dean. Or even the Marlboro Man, who knows? But the subject of "Video Games" seems to be an unmotivated, out-of-work actor slumped in his Studio City apartment littered with empty Blue Moons and XBOX discs, wholly uninterested in her exaggerated, possibly surgically enhanced sexuality, the manchild affirmed and celebrated by Judd Apatow and his ilk. Coincidentally, yesterday also marked the reuniting of alt-rock lotharios Afghan Whigs; most of the people losing their shit about the announcement seemed to be women.