We now have the official 2012 litmus test in hype vs. value on the warty, slippery slope of entertainment in America, and its name is Lana Del Rey. The music industry has endlessly regurgitated its own formula to aid their unfettered & continued pillaging of the modern market, but as of last night its latest attempt to hijack our attention and convince us of wildly inflated zirconium value has blown up in their faces, like a billion-dollar Barbie doll melting on the jumbotron at a Toddlers & Tiaras castoff convention.
Undeserving, meticulously crafted viral internet phenomenon Lana Del Rey made her U.S. television debut on SNL this past Saturday night, and the outcome was a painfully embarrassing mess, a collapse of inflated promise. Technically, Lana's performance was an absolute disaster, and actress/musician Juliette Lewis was on point when she tweeted "Wow watching this 'singer' on SNL is like watching a 12 year old in their bedroom when they're pretending to sing and perform. #signofourtimes." (She's since deleted the tweet.)
Yes, it was that bad. Watch it for yourself. Her performance was an implosion of hype, a girl with no place whatsoever on a nationally televised stage laying out her painfully amateurish wares in half-babytalk, singlehandedly dismantling months of genius build-up by Interscope (who will be putting out her Born To Die album on Jan. 31). And while legions of atrocious non-talents pass through the halls of celebridom daily, there's something particularly repugnant about an industry prop so smug and expecting of the shimmering hype pedestal on which she sits – not to mention the full-throttle insistence by the kingmakers that this is the real deal, the next superstar.
She's thus far been limited to internet sensation status, a collagen pout in a sunny corner of the new American Apparel catalogue that she – and Interscope – have taken great pains to distance from Lizzy Grant, the 2010 pop hopeful who, a year later, would become Lana Del Rey with careful grooming, renaming and character design. The would-be alt-indie princess released her breakout single "Video Games" and its accompanying video last Summer, pulling upwards of 13 million YouTube views and selling 20,000 copies of her single, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It debuted and spent three weeks at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Singles Sales chart.
We can deal with Katy Perry. We can accept Bieber's place as a reincarnated, estrogen-infused Leif Garrett and every saccharine teen heartthrob that came before him. Hell, we'll even find a way to welcome back Britney Spears, who made such a cheetos-stained hillbilly tweaker mess of herself a few years ago that most were betting serious Death Pool money on her. We'll chuckle knowingly when the suits adorn her with awards and accolades for music she neither wrote or performed herself. It's pop, after all.
But Lana doesn't have a seasoned army of producers and a Mickey Mouse Club factory upbringing under her belt, equipping her with the bells and whistles to hide her painfully amateurish voice, nonexistence stage presence and not-ready-for-primetime delivery. All she has is hype, blank doe eyes, pouty lips and tired Stevie Nicks affectations.
Oh, and her Twitter profile reads: "EVERYTHING I WANT I HAVE. MONEY, NOTORIETY AND RIVIERAS – I EVEN THINK I FOUND GOD- IN THE FLASH BULBS OF YOUR PRETTY CAMERAS." All caps. Kanye, meet your soul mate.
It's not simply that Del Rey had a bad performance – in fact, her Jools Holland appearance was considerably better than what we saw Saturday night. Her undeserved industry positioning and exposure (she's the first act to perform on SNL before releasing a debut album since Natalie Imbruglia) are the central problem, the continuously ringing bell of inauthenticity that the 2012 internet masses simply cannot stomach – or ignore. She's been shoved hard to the frontburner by an industry that's not only sticking to its 1990s formula of shilling overpriced and undervalued product, but declaring war on its own patrons by propping up insane bills like SOPA and PIPA.
MTV.com, quick to defend a fellow cellophane hologram after the SNL airing, pointed out that the the 25-year-old was nervous. To her credit, she didn't lip-synch to a backing track, but what is it they say about gold medals at the Special Olympics?
The. Girl. Can. Not. Sing.
If we don't
watch the thrones hold the pedestals for those who are truly deserving of the position, for those who have earned their legend with years of hard work and core talent, what we find as a result is a climate of unabashed manipulation, a celebration of the grotesquely vapid Kardashian universe with a runaway profit-to-quality product ratio. We're incessantly reminded that this is what we've been waiting for, that this is worthy of the endless hype cycle.
The choir of voices calling bullshit is rising, beautifully.
Lana Del Rey: "Video Games"
Lana Del Rey: "Blue Jeans"