Lana Del Rey and How Symbols are Sometimes More Important than their Meaning

Posted by Billyjam, March 14, 2012 10:45am | Post a Comment

In this fast paced online information age - with its non-stop constant overload of new facts (and fiction) been Tweeted and shared in some digital fashion every single micro-second of the day - it is often hard for individuals to get beyond that condensed 140 characters version of a particular story. But yet, based solely on that short (often editorialized) synopsis of a much longer in-depth story many will embrace that opinion put forth and jump on the bandwagon of popular thought on said topic. A case in point I believe was back in mid - late January when singer Lana Del Rey suddenly trended (around the time of fellow trending items as Rick Santorum and Jeremy Lin)  as one of the most talked about individuals of that week or so. The trend was all related to her reportedly bombing on Saturday Night Live during her January live concert performance on SNL.

However her presentation on SNL was is secondary though since most folks who joined in the public mud throwing at this new pop star did so without having seen the actual TV show. Some did (mostly after the fact and in edited form) but a great many of these self-appointed critics who joined in the cacophony of critique (haterism?) hadn't even seen her SN: bit at all.  But that didn't stop them from joining in and critiquing the artist for such things as appearing stiff and nervous and just standing still as she sang during her SNL performance. They also echoed the other criticisms leveled against the artist  to such as she came from a privileged background, or that she changed her name and her image in her makeover bid of becoming a pop star.

As someone who saw the Saturday Night Live show when it aired I can honestly say that it wasn't that bad and definitely not nearly as bad as most were suggesting at the time. Sure her rendition of "Blue Jeans" was not perfect and yes she did come across as a bit nervous during her live version of "Video Games" but there has been a lot worse that did not garner near the same negative outburst of a response. Some have suggested that maybe it's because she is a woman that people seem more comfortable in slanging hate her way than if it were a man.  And as for the crime of changing her name and/or image to become a pop star - well that's hardly new in the pop music industry, nor is coming from a well-to-so background - Lady Gaga is one recent example that comes to mind who reinvented herself and came from a well-to-do family. And as for not dancing or moving around when she was singing her songs; so what? Many others have done similarly - especially several decades ago back in the sixties - a period that Lana Del Ray seems to be evoking in her music and style -  such as Marianne Faithful and Lulu. I have included videos below of both of these artists  from that time period in pop along with Lana Del Rey's recent spot on SNL for you to view and compare.

Recalling how it was immediately after this viral hate job on Lana Del Rey that they artist had such performances scheduled as her two Amoeba Music in-stores, in support of her Janurary 31st release Born To Die (Interscope), I was curious to get another perspective. I didn't make it to either of the in-stores (Hollywood and San Francisco: Feb 7th and 9th respectively) but I had seen some of the videos of her diehard fans who seemed both totally under her spell and completely unfazed by the backlash against the artist. So I asked Amoebite Audra at the San Francisco store who co-organized that Amoeba in-store what she thought of Lana Del Rey and the whole online hate job on the artist?

"Meeting her and observing the outrageous reactions of the fans was truly a singular experience I won't soon forget," said Audra who was clearly intrigued by the public reactions evoked by the artist.  "She's such an interesting symbol of our time; a total blank canvas that everyone projects exactly what they want to see upon. I think the number of people that project genius upon that canvas is almost as disturbing as the number that project talentless train wreck upon it. The truth to me, of course, is somewhere in the middle. What I observed at the in-store was a young woman who has figured out how to save grace after a media disaster: make your fans happy by giving them personal attention they never get from "stars." It doesn't matter what Gawker or Huffington Post says about her stiff and unseasoned TV appearance after an experience like that. Those fans are hers now and forever after that in-store." said Audra adding, "Now as to her true talent, ever read Kafka's short story "Josephine the Singer, or the Mouse Folk"? Sorry, everything relates to Kafka at some point for me. The point is that it maybe doesn't matter how talented she really is. Symbols are more important than their meaning sometimes."

Lana Del Ray "Video Games (on SNL)" (2012)

Marianne Faithful "As Tears Go By"

Lulu "To Sir With Love"

Relevant Tags

Lulu (4), Lana Del Rey (22), Women's History Month 2012 (10), Amoeba San Francisco (94), Audra (38), Women's History Month (40), Marianne Faithful (1)