Of all the a-list pop femmes to have released LPs this year, Lana Del Rey is perhaps the most maligned. Thrust to pre-eminence by debut single ‘Video Games’ back in October 2011, Del Rey basked in a golden surge of press esteem, for a time, but then in January, and in particular post that shaky ‘SNL’ cameo, came the (in hindsight, inevitable) scythe-like swing in the internet’s Del Rey fixation. Having once seemed like ‘the real thing’, Lizzy ‘last chance’ Grant – in the eyes of certain cynics – became the representative of all that’s false in popular music: a derisible major label marionette, a mimic, a sham-starlet.
Certainly, Del Rey is a creature of contrast, a ‘walking contradiction’. The persona she presents is – whether contrived triple-bluff or otherwise – a many-framed mirror maze of reality v façade, artistry v commercialism, “living for the fame” v realising a “vision” of life v art.
She sells herself (or rather, is sold by others) as the shy ingénue playing a pained martyr to love, but at the same time isn’t averse to signing off on brand partnerships and photo shoots of questionable taste. The visual that leaves us with, in the end, is of the girl who (as per the lyrics in her ‘Ride’ mini-movie) dreamt of being a “beautiful poet” but was primped and prettified by her ‘people’, and ended up draped over the bonnet of a Jaguar. Add to that the masochistic motifs in Del Rey’s music, and the portrait that paints of the passive, pallid female, and all the LDR backbiting starts to make sense.
But that’s just one way to look at it. And as I said, the Del Rey/Grant aesthetic is far from one dimensional. And it’s not like she’s asking girls to emulate her; she’s pragmatic about the fact that she’s a ‘loner’ who’s less than content with her own life, and in this interview recommends fans “pick their role models wisely”.
And it’s this kind of duality, this uncertainty, that makes the still-animated LDR conversation such an object of fascination, and that lends an extra sweet-sour piquancy to tracks like ‘National Anthem’, an exemplary pop single by any standards. The Lana Del Rey myth well may be just that, but even if it isn’t true, it’s a beautiful lie nevertheless.
See all of CMU’s Artists Of The Year for 2012 here.