Was the veneer so thick?
// Niggie Purrhnama & JJ Brewis

Aside from her controversial SNL debut, Lana Del Rey has only played a handful of concerts. She performed in Paris at the Nouveau Casino, where she debuted her song Born to Die along with a new look and a deeper voice. She also headlined an exclusive performance in New York where she chose to sing six unreleased songs. Presumably, this was the singer easing her way on to the stage.

As we saw, it still wasn't enough preparation. For anyone familiar with the music industry, the result of her premature SNL performance shouldn't come as much of a surprise, and it shouldn't change your opinion of the artist’s music.

Since the performance, Lana Del Rey has been labeled by critics as a manufactured wannabe. The question remains, why do we ascribe the importance of authenticity to one artist and not the next? It isn't any feat worth bragging about to see through Lana Del Rey's marketing. The less-than-perfect woman and singer used the well documented resources of her father to get the leg up on the competition. How many other pop musician success stories could be told differently?

Despite the fact that she doesn't write all of her own lyrics, which is hardly an argument against any modern day pop star, Lana Del Rey is still an artist at heart. The music video for “Video Games” is comprised of clips and footage that she chose, collected, and recorded. Some of the footage is of her growing up; other clips are from cartoons and movies that she was drawn to and wanted to see in her video.

When asked by blog Faceculture about the vintage clips, Lana Del Rey said, “I think a lot of the reason why I chose the clips from like the era of the ‘50s and the ‘60s is mainly because I actually just liked the quality of the film that the directors used during that time. It’s not so much about the message of the clips that I used … it’s more about what strikes me visually… what I just find to be beautiful and that … is what leads my narrative.”

As an artist, Lana Del Rey created a world for herself. In the songs that she did write, she really comes through in the music. She created not only audio stimulus, but visual to connect with her audience. What else do you want? She isn't her marketing, and we should know that. Her album is out now, so if you liked the song “Video Games” before her SNL performance, give it a listen regardless. Her live performance does nothing to change the music everyone was so excited by in the first place.

A woman steps on stage in front of the biggest audience of her life, and the crowd is stunned by how beautiful she is. Yet mere seconds into her performance, it is quite apparent she's out of her league, with her vocals completely off-pitch, and her stage presence entirely lacking. It's 2011, and the media is neither forgiving nor forgetting: Lana Del Rey's atrocious Saturday Night Live performance was a spectacle different from anything the show had experienced in the past. While the show had seen a few blunders in their time – the Ashlee Simpson lip synching fiasco, Kanye West's flat singing, or Sinead O'Connor ripping up a photo of the Pope – the Del Rey situation is different in that she is a brand new artist.

Del Rey was booked entirely based on internet buzz and, quite honestly, a beautiful face. Photos of her were everywhere, viral videos posted on every major site leading some to believe she could legitimately be the next big thing; we bought into something before we'd really tasted the product. SNL's booking of Del Rey so early into her career was a serious misstep, considering that playing the show is often a milestone for a developed or established artist. Perhaps the shakiness of the deal was good for ratings, knowing that the world's eyes would tune in to this up-and-comer.

That said, it's hard not to question the judgment behind the booking, when everyone from musician Juliette Lewis to NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams expressed distaste in Del Rey's performance. Popular New York record label DFA Records tweeted, "Lana Del Rey plays Saturday Night Live next week. LCD Soundsystem tried for 6 years to play Saturday Night Live. Isn't 'too soon' ok advice?" Del Rey was only the second artist, following Natalie Imbruglia in 1998, to appear on the show without an American release behind her. The entertainment climate has changed significantly in those 14 years, and the gamble could have gone either way.

Del Rey is perfect in any other medium – her videos glossy, her recorded singles catchy. Records can be altered, and money can be poured into any star, and that's clearly the case here. Del Rey is the daughter of wealthy investor Rob Grant, and early last year released material under her birth name Lizzie Grant. With poor reception, that material was pulled, and Lizzie Grant underwent a rebranding – styling the now Del Rey as a modern day Nancy Sinatra with vintage frocks and lip injections.

This part isn't really Del Rey's fault – she's the newest in a series of label rebranding projects
that effectively restarted the careers of artists like Alanis Morissette and Lady Gaga before her. With a fresh look that was missing in the music landscape, Del Rey with her floral headdresses and pouty face made a mark when her mug showed up in music magazines and websites.

However, her SNL performance is a huge road sign that reads "Do Not Pass". Anyone can sound half-decent on an album; look at recent releases from Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. The difference with those artists is that they're releasing vanity albums for the sake of it, where Del Rey was marketed to music fans who know better. People feel tricked in the game of style versus substance, and that's going to be a hard one to bounce back from.

//Niggie Purrhnama & JJ Brewis, writers
//Graphics by JJ Brewis

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© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: editor@capilanocourier.com