Lana Del Rey was far less than good last night on Saturday Night Live. She warbled, often seeming to forget how, yes HOW to sing her songs. And while some places have said she was pitchy or off-key, it was more that Elizabeth Grant seemed unable to sing the songs the way she had on the YouTube videos for both "Blue Jeans" and "Video Games." Her stiff stage presence has come under fire, but I don't care about that nearly as much. SNL has a small stage despite its vast reach, so Del Rey's stillness is fine. The problem really was the singing. And it wasn't that she was even that bad, you see, she just wasn't anywhere near the hype that had built over the entire preceding Summer of 2011. Is that okay? Yes. If we each thought about it, we'd probably be just as nervous and stage-frightened to have been thrust suddenly into the live spotlight after months of harmless web-based fame. But, here's the thing that IS troubling. I think I, yes, me, could sing her songs more to the exact tune of the videos than she did. And that's all she had to do. She didn't need to take chances, or try vocal histrionics, or bust out Rhianna-style dance moves. All Del Rey had to do last night was sing the songs the way they are on YouTube.
She did not. She lost the melody multiple times. She garbled words. She seemed almost drugged to the point of disaffection. So, it brings to mind the greater Lana Del Rey issue: Is she any good... really? Her inability to perform either song well, or even just warm up by the end and rock on, is troubling because she is an internet phenom artist. Is it possible that she can't sing these songs? She did it once. Or. She succeeded in creating the pieces once. That's my main question. Can she do this or is she strictly a studio, carefully produced artist? The bigger issue, though, is what she really is and what she really wants to be. Grant (again her real name) released an album in 2010 called Lana Del Ray (with the "a" instead of the "e") that was bank-rolled by her father, and after being available for a short time, completely disappeared. By all accounts it was a fairly non-exciting pop album, but even I can't be sure. Then, one year later, "Video Games," a new image, a new style, a new persona (potentially) and lots of pseudo-indie-web-cred.
Who is Lana Del Rey really? Is she this new iteration, or is she a more traditional pop artist? (Videos from her new album would point to latter.) I'm starting to think that she's the musical equivalent of a Barbie Doll. She's poseable, but not very. You can dress her up in lots of pretty costumes and you can put her in lots of interesting settings wherein she, too, becomes interesting. But, I don't mean to rag on her either. She has put out at least 2 great songs. And whether she's the Second Coming, or just a flash in the pan, "Video Games" made my best songs list for last year. Still, if she's an entirely fabricated creation, who would let her go out and do so little, so seemingly doped up and unsure? I mean, the least she could've done is tear in half a picture of the pope. Especially if you're nervous... MAKE IT A JOKE. At least then, people can say, well, she wasn't too good, but she sure can cover her ass with more than a jig. <= Because Ashlee Simpson is once more briefly relevant!
We will see how Lana Del Rey bounces back. My guess is that she'll be fine, but her album will meet with mixed reviews here in the States. And with time, she'll hone her live performing skills, and she'll decide how to sing her songs, and she'll own this. Because, here's the thing, if she can really sing, if she really loves music, then she's earned this. And if not, then she may just be a repackaged attempt to sell some records and make some rich asshole richer. It's a tough call, but considering that most of SNL is as inconsistent, it seems unfair, at least, to lambast her right now. And if you haven't seen them, take a look at the videos below.
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