I'm sure you all have heard about the new indie darling with her bee stung lips, sultry siren voice, eerily beautiful songs and retro aesthetic. I'm also pretty sure that you've noticed that right when the hype began taking off, the fall was soon to follow. Stories about her being a product, a fake, a dupe meticulously styled and marketed by her record company crept into the discourse when we learned about her (not so secret) past as Lizzy Grant (seriously, watch that vid and this one and tell me her singing and style are entirely different now compared to before the 'rebranding') and then there was that pivotal SNL performance that garnered her nothing but ridicule and /rolleyez.
Now, one can't argue with taste, so I'm not going to try and turn all of you into rabid Lana Del Rey fans. However, the backlash against her makes me sick and has nothing to do with liking or disliking her music. It is just another case of patriarchy.
The gender issue is apparent in almost every bit of nasty commentary you read, but because we are SO used to reading reviews along the same lines, we just don't notice the misogyny. Read this article attentively and prepare to have your mind blown. For some reason, it is almost inconceivable for a female singer to make a claim to success without someone attributing that success to powerful men who pull the strings behind the curtains. Not always explicitly so, no, we have evolved past the age of in your face offensiveness. Sadly, the offense hasn't disappeared altogether, we have just gotten better at hiding our disdain behind seemingly objective criteria.
It might SEEM perfectly fine and even reasonable to say someone like Lana uses smart marketing to further her career. I wouldn't even deny it, and neither would she probably. But ask yourself: how often do you state the same about a male (pop)star? How often do you read a critic's review of a film or an album where they talk condescendingly about a woman's performance by
- going on and on about her looks and the visuals while downplaying her professional accomplishments (often implying we have the producers to thank for the substance)
- putting a large emphasis on her mentors and inspirations who are mostly male, disregarding her own sound and input
- comparing her only with her female predecessors while her performance isn't actually entirely defined by her gender (f.e. people comparing Nicki Minaj to Lil' Kim while her style is a lot more similar to that of Busta Rhymes)
and how often do you read that same tone of voice in an article reviewing the product of male labor? Open a random magazine, read a music review and tell me you don't see it, glaringly obvious, jumping at you from the pages. So yes, when you are a woman performing, you have a 1000% larger chance at having your agency and authenticity questioned (I did the math). And since we live in a capitalist society, it is absolutely ridiculous to assume someone can make it in the entertainment business without streamlining their image and paying attention to the visuals that accompany the sounds. After all, television is our altar of worship. So why state the obvious to bash someone back into the obscurity they came from?
Authenticity is an illusion anyway. Chuck Palahniuk said it best in Invisible Monsters:
“Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I've ever known.”
And so are you, me and everyone we know. But Lana's lyrics speak to my teenage heart. Naked, raw honesty with a good dose of dramatic escapism, and a voice that is expressive rather than perfect. I love her.
Also, this sketch was perfection. Especially the bit about Lana coming across as awkward and distant BECAUSE she is awkward and distant. A lot of writing about her bashes her style and subjects because they "present a regressive femininity". Well, everyone who writes that obviously has never been a (teenage) girl. There's nothing wrong with being a girly girl, and we can be every type of woman we want to be, even if that woman is a passive Betty Draper type. The stuff she writes is real and relatable, whether they speak of a modern and emancipated individual or not. Also, not every woman in the world has the job to represent her gender-peers.Why is it so hard to see us as individuals?
It's utterly delightful (/irony) how a piece like the one I linked above goes out of its way to prove the anti-feminism of Lana while being as condescending as can possibly be towards teenage girls and their tastes. I got news for you, bro, teenage girls are enormously influential, diverse, awesome and have all the potential in the world. Quit disenfranchising them, dickhead.
And now go listen to some Lana!