In the weeks following Lana Del Rey’s unpolished performance on Saturday Night Live, critics have run to the press with every reason not to like Del Rey. The evidence used to bolster their point is that she doesn’t write any of her own music, her lyrics are immature, she is the epitome of what happens when people get too famous too quickly, as well as a whole slew of rumors that drag her childhood, family and physical appearance into the ring.
Why then are we still talking about her? The answer is simply that she is captivating. Lana Del Rey has come up with a fresh definition of what a pop star can be, and no one can look away.
Pitchfork wasn’t thoroughly impressed with Del Rey’s debut, but their job is to grade on musical merit not public opinion.
The ultimate disappointment of Born to Die, then, is how out of touch it feels not just with the world around it, but with the simple business of human emotion.
If Del Rey’s debut album Born to Die feels out of touch with the real world, Sasha Frere-Jones of the New Yorker would respond by reevaluating the purpose of pop-music.
The debates that surround authenticity have no relationship to popular music as it’s been practiced for more than a century. Artists write material, alone or with assistance, revise it, and then present a final work created with the help of professionals who are trained for specific and relevant production tasks.
I’m inclined to side with Frere-Jones. Del-Rey is something of a spectacle, and regardless of who is responsible for that creation, it is more fun to enjoy the magical tricks than to spend the whole time trying to figure out how it was done.
Even Liz Phair got in the mix, supporting Del-Rey’s efforts as a female in a predominately male music scene. In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, Phair gave her perspective on the matter of Lana Del Rey when taken in its widest view. Phair wrote:
Let me break it down for you: [Del Rey is] writing herself into existence. She’s giving herself a part to play because, God knows, no one else will and she wants to matter in this life.
Despite her apparent flaws, Del Rey has something interesting to say, and anyone who is too headstrong not to listen is missing out.