Lana Del Ray is a singer/Internet lightning rod, a prematurely experienced internet lightning rod, a lightning rod. (However, "Video Games" was the perfect lightning rod, a viral sensation.) [Emphasis mine.] Lana Del Rey is a starlet to music bloggers, a YouTube sensation turned Billboard chart-topper, Enya for the Twitter set, a comment-section-stoking singer, an internet sensation, an Internet sensation, an Internet phenomenon, an Internet singing sensation, a singer of songs that are very popular on the Internet, a person who makes music that is much discussed online, a tabula rasa, a punching bag, a reflection of our collective nightmares about American cynicism and disingenuousness. The divisive Internet sensation was, well, divisive: bloggers are obsessed with her. She is the new singer music bloggers love to hate, the Internet's most hated singer, a sacrificial lamb, 2k11's #1 human meme and 2012's buzziest artist you need to know, in one. Lana Del Rey is an important search term to refer viewers to a website.
"Video Games" hit the 1 million mark on YouTube. It attracted almost a million and a half page views. Two million views. Viewed 2,644,000 times. Nine million. 13 million. It currently has a staggering 20 million views on YouTube. No, more than twenty-one million views on YouTube since it was posted, last August.
What went down from 1 to 21 million views generally is agreed upon, sometimes in different words.
The Gospel according to Vulture:
The visual for "Video Games" — edited by Del Rey herself — makes the most of her aesthetic, splicing sultry webcam shots of Del Rey in with video clips of Paz de la Huerta falling down. Predictably, it garnered some attention. After receiving a "Best New Music" designation for the track, Del Rey gave a selective interview to Pitchfork, avoiding questions about her management and volunteering her thoughts about sleeping with the boss ("It doesn't get you anywhere"). Then came a second webcam video ("Blue Jeans") and last week, an industry secret show at which Del Rey was photographed dreamily, cementing her status as indie music lust object. Next came the backlash.
The Gospel according to Gawker:
Have you heard of singer Lana Del Rey? Well, probably not, because she doesn't even have an officially released single yet, but the hipster music blogs are all abuzz about her. Her music is great, but they still hate her because she's not "authentic." But that's not the problem at all.
The Gospel according to Idolator: A lot of people listened to it (us included), and a lot of people hated it (us not included).
The Gospel according to Business Insider:
At some point this year, through some mixture of her own design and the hivemind at Interscope Records, Grant was reborn as Lana Del Rey, who is basically the musical equivalent of a smoke-filled room… A cocktail of submissive sex-object and mid-20th-century American vamp, Del Rey's manifesto might be the first of her two commercially released songs, "Video Games"… [which] along with B-side "Blue Jeans" has sparked an arms race on the Internet over questions of authenticity and appropriation in Del Rey's music.
The Gospel according to The Awl:
You see, Del Rey is no regular old buzz beast. Plucked from obscurity in record time and with a boarding-school pedigree, she is a breathing projection of the most sensitive issues in navel-gazing today, chief among them authenticity, popularity and the intersection between the two. Given all of the wild imputations, interpretations and polarized reactions—again, despite Del Rey having done little more than release a very popular YouTube video—a more accurate “gangster” likeness may well be Hillary Clinton.
The Gospel according to the Village Voice:
The Internet went to work debunking Lana Del Rey, and the story of Lizzy Grant, sometime pop star wannabe and the secret identity behind this strange visitor's studied glamour, emerged. Along the way, her saga picked at some old, barely grown scabs, unraveling fans' and blogs' neuroses regarding cosmetic surgery, label duplicity, theatricality, the presentation of female pop singers, and the glib misogyny of online "bros."
The Gospel according to Liz Phair:
Lana Del Rey seems to be bothering everybody because she allegedly “remade” herself from a folk singing, girl-next-door type into an electro-urban kitty cat on the prowl (of course I like her), and they feel she is inauthentic.
The Gospel according to Spinner:
The singer has divided the indie-rock community, striking some as an icy-cool purveyor of vintage style and modern ennui, others as a prefab pop princess posing as a more substantive artist.
The Gospel according to Hitfix:
She’s already been run through the hipsters’ meat grinder and they’ve largest dismissed her. Except for the few who love a tale of reinvention, most indie rock writers who were on to her when she still went by her birth name Lizzy Grant have vilified Del Rey and branded her a creation, who based upon last night’s look, is part Jessica Rabbit, part Veronica Lake, part Kate Bush (that’s the good part) and, to the haters, all parts artifice.
The Gospel according to the Telegraph:
Interest in the artist – who has only two songs to her (current) name – is propelled by the charge against her: that she is a big fat phoney. Let me explain. The 24-year-old New Yorker is actually called Lizzy Grant – she admits the name Lana Del Rey was made up by “a series of managers and lawyers”. She tried to make it as a mainstream artist in 2009, releasing a three-track EP. This failed, so she went away, wrote some more songs and returned transformed. Bigger hair, bigger eyes, bigger lips, bigger tunes.
The Gospel according to Spin:
The myth, as it is presently understood: Lana Del Rey is an extended vanity project bankrolled by her dad's money and honed, over the years, by a series of lawyers and managers who have shaped her image and plotted her career path. She is merely a canvas of a girl, and a willing one at that. Bloggers and journalists take pains to note that her real name is Lizzy Grant, that Lana Del Rey is "fake," as are her lips.
The Gospel according to Spin, as witnessed by Rob Harvilla:
Yes, Internet, and God bless you for devoting most of the past half-year exclusively to pointing this out, Lana Del Rey is a pose, a persona, a version 2.0, at least, the contrivance of a messy, wayward, unformed, aspiring pop star rummaging through closets and clutching at borrowed pearls.
The Gospel according to Grantland:
An army of bloggers, rushing to something too inchoate to really be called judgment, spent the rest of 2011 putting Lizzy's past on that Summer Jam screen. Down with the Great Deciever! Occupy that crazy frescoed-out church from the "Born to Die" video!
The Gospel according to Blockhead:
The thing is, I’ve read a ton of shit about people saying this character was manufactured but that’s bullshit. Sure, it’s not her real name but the idea behind that person was in Lizzy before I even met her. Hell, just how she was dressed coming into the studio was enough for me to know that. She looked like a pinup model straight out of the trailer park. She always seemed to have to idea of this throwback Nancy Sinatra meets “Madmen” meets current white trash thing as her entire theme. She was obsessed with images of swimming pools, drinking tab soda and just a certian low brow elegance that wasn’t common in music.
The Gospel according to the Internet according to NPR:
If you read music blogs or magazines like the The New Yorker, you know her story: singer-songwriter transforms herself in model fashion, takes a new name, signs to a major label, has a viral hit, fails on national television, is crucified by critics, comes to embody all we hate/love/worry about when it comes to young women/popular music/the Internet.
(This is me talking now, because the thing is, in my world where not a lot of stock is put into YouTube comments or Hipster Runoff, the discourse about the discourse is much louder than the supposed discourse, which I'm not even sure actually exists in such a neatly summed up package. The frequent moralistic air that accompanies the hand-wringing over what people say can come off as tone deaf, as the hand-wringing still perpetuates what people say. Talking shit isn't very nice, but neither is the shit-talk relay. And check out that race track! What race track? Some posts at Vulture and the Voice attempted a link trail, but for the most part, this backlash is as nebulous a concept as Lana Del Rey is to her alleged detractors. It is a useful device, something to springboard off and measure her against, her Joker and straw man in one.)
One thing the Internet did to Lana Del Rey (two times):
The Internet hype machine thrust her into the spotlight before she’d had a chance to work out kinks in her live performance, sharpen the fuzzy contours of her persona—in short, put her face on.
The huge backlash to Del Rey is happening before her first album has even been released. This reveals a cultural obsession with the "authenticity" that fans, artists and corporations all prize above all else.
One thing Lana Del Rey did to the Internet:
Lana Del Rey started kicking up a ton of controversy on music blogs before she even had a single out.
One thing Lana Del Rey did to the Internet, one thing the Internet did to Lana Del Rey, and a moral:
Anyone who lives online understands intuitively how to create a recombinant persona out of selective self-revelation and carefully chosen old-movie screen grabs; Tumblr being a not-for-profit enterprise for most people, it's no wonder that the notion of some rich girl leveraging those same tricks to get her sad-eyed fuckdrone avatar a deal with Interscope drove the blogosphere batty and compelled the target market to shoot back. We won't get into the irony of the Instagram Generation carping about authenticity — Check it out, I made this picture of me writing a snippy tweet about Lana Del Rey look like I took it with a light-leaky plastic camera in 1973! — or the long and noble tradition of pop musicians doing a little punch-up on their biographical details in order to set their work in an imaginary context; the point is that Born to Die, Lizzy Grant's second debut album, arrived in stores today, under a cloud, and I've spent four paragraphs reviewing the buzz because talking about the music feels like pretending the case isn't closed.
A moral, one thing the Internet did to Lana Del Rey, one thing Lana Del Rey did to the Internet:
Two things the Internet did to Lana Del Rey, three times:
In posts and comment sections on many of the same blogs that had helped Del Rey take off in the first place, listeners lashed out as though they’d been betrayed, expunging the abject corporate product they’d accepted so trustingly into their hearts. In this blood sport, the blog Hipster Runoff played the (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) head cheerleader: “She was basically a failed mainstream artist who is being ‘rebranded’ behind major label dollars,” one post sniped.
One thing with a moral:
Some more things the Internet did to Lana Del Rey:
LDR was a blogosphere ‘passion project’ that we incubated, and got to ‘tear down’ for the sake of generating, controlling, and commenting our own content. We enjoyed it, sorta like while u r stroking ur peen, but then u finally ‘effing blow’, and you are not sure whether you should admit ‘how good’ it felt.
The Twitterverse reaction was swift and not at all kind.
Comment boards and social networks expressed their shock and dismay at Del Rey's gossamer [SNL] performance.
Article after article, tweet after tweet, the witch hunt grew.
The Internet has not yet killed Ms. Del Rey. But oh, is it trying, with a combination of skepticism about her motives and skepticism about her appearance and skepticism about her identity.
Some things Lana Del Rey did to the Internet:
She nearly [ripped] the Internet apart.
She caused the Internet to explode a couple weeks back.
She makes the buzz over Nikki Minaj seem like a shrew’s fart.
Lana Del Rey finally marginalized ‘the decently-enough-thought-out opinion piece’ into a worthless meme that any one could poop out.
#LDRSNL marked another maturation/retardation milestone for ‘online indie journalism’, bringing the indie blogosphere from a humble place that posted MP3s with generally positive/neutral commentary, and flung us right into the generalist meme-blurb content farm spotlight.
Some things Lana Del Rey did (but it's not very much):
Ms. Del Rey generates so much anger precisely because she does so little. People don’t know what to do with this unformed thing they’ve been told they need to care about; crushing it is easy, almost humane.
Del Rey has managed, like a slow car in the left lane, to make everyone around her angry and over-invested, despite doing relatively little.
The comment-thread-stoning culture of the Web always favors early renouncers; as long as you're dubious about everything, you never end up feeling like a mark.
The arguing about The Meaning Of Lana Del Rey was one of the Internet's most wearying pastimes this year, with nearly every ugly behavior that could be manifested by the Internet's anonymous hivemind coming up at least once.
Some wisdom on exposure:
The Internet, as always, is a double-edged sword.
When success is measured in YouTube views, all publicity is good publicity.
Social networking didn't change the old rule that all publicity is good publicity.
If you printed out every word that was written on the Internet about Lana Del Rey by the time her debut album, Born to Die, leaked earlier this week, the resulting stack of paper would reach from the lowest point on Earth to the moon. OK, that’s probably not true.
Cultural criticism on the internet is dying because we finally realized that the voices behind blogs, twitter feeds, and authentic writing outlets are as fat, bored, uninspired, and jealous as the fat, bored, uninspired, and jealous voices that we thought we had escaped from.
Some wisdom on hatred:
It's not the intense, seemingly inexplicable hatred towards Del Rey that's surprising; it's that we're surprised by her at all.
For all the nasty Internet comments written about her, nobody hates her (or "her") as much as she ("she") does. There, I've solved the Internet for you.
There's something weirdly mean about all the negative press Del Rey has received before Born To Die was even released. It's like high-school level meanness, directed at someone who wants to be a star and is really going for it. It's like being punished for ambition.
Del Rey has started to reveal herself as a real girl, and the Internet musters only unconsidered hateration.
But then again:
But then again again:
The internet has allowed figures like her to come rapidly to the fore of the cultural landscape, whether or not their emergence is planned by a record executive or happens spontaneously from someone's bedroom. It has speeded up the fame cycle.
Everyone rips off everyone else, intentionally or otherwise. The internet just makes it easier to figure out who is ripping off from whom (if there is, in fact ripping happening).
Some feminist morals:
Maybe Del Rey is the victim of a few unimpressed music writers and her own good looks.
The conversation surrounding Lana Del Rey has underscored some seriously depressing truths about sexism in music. She was subjected to the kind of intense scrutiny-- about her backstory and especially her appearance-- that's generally reserved for women only.
Some wisdom from Lana Del Rey in October:
I think people got really bored on the Internet.
Authentic or not, her words are true. She wins.