OnlineRock Blog

22 January 2012

Lana Del Rey Keeps Critics Buzzing with TV Debut

By Ana Diaz

Last weekend Lana Del Rey, the blogosphere’s current topic of choice, made her American television debut on Saturday Night Live with a performance of “Video Games” and “Blue Jeans.” Blame it on the bright lights or the live TV jitters but the performances were admittedly less than stellar as Del Rey struggled to recreate the atmosphere of her studio recordings.

SNL perfomance of “Video Games”

For those unfamiliar with Del Rey, she is one of 2011’s most talked about new comers (
though, after Saturday’s performance those numbers are fast decreasing). She made a noticeable stir in the indie music scene towards the end of 2011 when the release of her now highly popular single “Video Games” created a polarized buzz online.

SNL Performance of “Blue Jeans”

Del Rey originally entered the music scene in 2008 with the release of an EP titled Kill Kill under her previous moniker of Lizzy Grant. In 2010 she released another EP titled Lana Del Rey under that same stage name. These two initial releases introduced Del Rey with a classic lounge sound that, although enjoyable in their own respect, lack the sultry sex appeal that captivated fans in 2011. Unfortunately, the album was only available for purchase for a short time before it was pulled, most likely by her management to avoid confusion as they revamped and renamed her to the artist we now know as Lana Del Rey.
So why exactly is there so much buzz about Lana Del Rey? It obviously goes beyond the simple fact that she performed less than favorably on live TV. Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine is often viewed as a hugely talented singer and even she had an off day on SNL. Let’s not forget Ashlee Simpson’s mishap. At least Del Rey was singing in her performance.
The Hipster Runoff’s current banner. 
The Internet literally cannot get enough of LDR.
It seems as if her transformation from Lizzy Grant to LDR is what’s bothering her critics the most while simultaneously inspiring her fans. Many see this as a tangible example of how she is supposedly manufactured and artificial. The idea of reinvention is incredibly frightening and alluring in the world of modern independent music. There exists a deep fissure in the music community when it comes to this topic. A makeover is potentially the best way to capture a new audience but it’s also the easiest way to get accused of selling out. Despite Bob Dylan’s current stance as a music legend, his switch from a folk protest singer to an electric guitar wielding rock star was also met with loud criticism and heavy accusations of selling out.

Regardless of whether Lana Del Rey’s reemergence as a “gangster Nancy Sinatra” is an act or not, it has achieved its purpose. People are talking about her, but more importantly they are listening to her music. Chances are this botched live performance will incite more people to listen to, if not buy, her upcoming album, even if it’s just to criticize. 

Born to Die will be released at the end of this month.

Editor's Note:  The ironic thing is that LDR would not be nearly as popular without her critics, who contribute to her buzz as they rip her apart for being unbuzzworthy. In fact, her critics and detractors probably contribute more to her popularity than her fans, bringing attention to her for the very things they say shouldn't be a part of an "authentic indie equation" - her style, sex appeal, marketing and media presence (all the while strengthening all of these things).

If nothing else, Lana Del Ray is an icon of the times, a case study in the unfolding properties of independent music making, mainstream marketing strategies and the immense power of the Internet to popularize -and capitalize- on trends. More importantly, no matter what anyone thinks of her or her music, she has undoubtedly transcended her own art to become a blurry battlefield of ideologies for the people who have an opinion on her - Lana Del Rey reveals more about our society by the heated reactions to her than through her actual music.

And her story begs the question -not a new question, but asked in a new context- where is the line drawn between authenticity and plasticity? It's hard to say with Lana Del Rey, but nevertheless, she has become a symbol that we each internally measure our values against. In that sense, there's no reason not to at least appreciate, it not hail, Lana Del Rey as the accidental torchbearer of our current confusion, drawn out by so many different voices in an increasingly digitalized world, who are able to express themselves through more platforms than ever before.



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