Why have singer-songwriter Lizzy Grant and her press people taken to depicting her as a “Lolita in the hood” and a “gangsta Nancy Sinatra”? Perhaps she doesn't feel she is very interesting.
At least, not interesting enough to her critics and the music industry. Grant is now known as Lana Del Rey, and has a very talked-about song called “Video Games” that appears to chronicle desperation itself with lines like: “Put his favorite perfume on,” “It's all for you/ Everything I do” and most harrowingly, “Only worth living if somebody is loving you/ Baby now you do.”
She could just as well be singing about becoming a different person so her songs will be noticed. But many have scowled at this notion. Still, to risk being hated over being ignored — who could blame her?
If you don't think the average indie rock fan's attention span sucks, think of some recent artists with at least five albums, whom everyone respects. Now subtract all the male acts. Congratulations, your list contains one person: PJ Harvey. (Certainly not Liz Phair.)
A.D.D. or sexism? Both? Having been accused of having work done, Del Rey is certainly the only “indie” artist in memory to have sparked controversy over the veracity of her face. But amid the squawking over her image, something has been overlooked: her music's actually good.
Though she hasn't yet released a full-length, tracks like “Video Games” show her to be at least as strong as another 2011 breakout, the not made-over Kurt Vile. But even with her retro signifiers, we wouldn't be talking about Del Rey if not for her backstory. I know because there's plenty of other quite good female music this year that we're not talking about.
Sure, barely-reviewed Mild Mannered (Cleveland) and Standard Fare (Sheffield) are practically unknowns. But what about the spectacular album from Miranda Lambert's side project Pistol Annies, Hell on Heels? Though it was a top 5 Billboard album, only garnered a paltry six reviews on Metacritic? Or that perfectly good Dum Dum Girls album, Only in Dreams, which happens to be superior to their debut?
Sure, Wild Flag's eponymous work has been well-received, but in any other year it would be considered a lesser (and abnormally humorless) Sleater-Kinney album. St. Vincent's Strange Mercy, meanwhile, is a lot less confrontational than you've read. In fact, it's less daring than Lana Del Rey.
But one doesn't have to choose! I'm a fan of all three of these artists, and an even bigger one of the more obscure folks named above. If the privilege of a hype like Lana Del Rey makes you ill, don't get angry at the artist successfully making herself heard in yet another shitty industry for women. Get angry at the critics who only reserve their attention for the more privileged records.