Friday, 27 January 2012

Yet another uninformed comment on Lana Del Rey

I'd become reluctantly familiar with the Great Lana Del Rey Authenticity Debate weeks before I ever heard of her music. She might be a pop construction, she might be a musician in her own right. She might be from 'the streets', she might have a multimillionaire daddy. People are getting seriously worked up about this stuff.

Some points: looking for authenticity in pop music is a fool's errand. That's the point: pop is a line of coke, not a spiritual experience. It's about fantasy. Nobody refuses to read science fiction on the grounds that the authors have 'never been there'. Don't be ridiculous. Pop is about dressing up and play-acting. The only real question is whether it's any good, depending on what you mean by the term. My two-cents on this: not really. Bad lyrics, sub-Coldplay attempts at profundity. But not awful. If you like her voice, try Hydroplane or Paradise Motel instead.

What's much more interesting - to me at least - is the iconography employed in Lana Del Rey's videos. I watched three, 'Video Games', 'Blue Jeans' and 'Born To Die'. They're all very interesting - drawing on French and other European styles and imagery, yet very determined to present a postmodern version of America. 'Born To Die' makes the American flag central to the performance, as the extended backdrop to a supposedly 'alternative' man and woman. The other videos too include the Stars and Stripes amongst a welter of interesting references: 'Video Games' stages or references a series of 'iconic' political and cultural scenes, while 'Blue Jeans' seems very interested in the way European tropes (in this case, Monaco and Monte Carlo's casinos) are recast in the US - in the form of Las Vegas and petty crime.

The flag thing is fascinating. Is it part of a nationalistic turn in American popular culture, an extension of nationalism dominance, or an exploration of the contingent and contextual nature of what it means to be American? Certainly the lyrics don't help (along the lines of 'I'll love you 'til the end of time'), but there's something going on here. Americans relate to their flag in a way that's probably quite alien to liberal Europeans, but nothing in these videos is incidental. Your thoughts?


Rob Spence said...

It's the name that gets me. Can't believe it wasn't assigned to some smouldering Hollywood Jean Harlowe-alike in the forties.

The Plashing Vole said...

Yes, it would be perfect for a good noir.