"In this fucked up world all you can hope for is change, and I'd rather be a hypocrite to you now than a zombie forever."

Monday, 9 July 2012

"I hate Lana Del Rey"; a defense. Also: the gagging of female singers & the death of originality in mainstream music.

For my case I will use Lana Del Rey as my point of reference.

Doubtless that you've heard her name before: Lana Del Rey is a current source of cultural interest. Her album 'Born to Die' is arguably one of the most original sounding debuts to be released among the various crop of "get-on-the-floor-baby-sex-sells-so-get-in-da-cluuuub" tracks that gain the majority of media attention. Her music is melodic, her look is classic and her videos aren't just close-ups of her body parts thrusting robotically towards camera lens 1.
For the aforementioned reasons, Lana is a red rose in a field of lilies in the musical climate of today.

Source: NME.com

Despite the colossal blossom of her music career of late, Lana has faced some harsh criticism from all directions. It's difficult to understand why the American press in particular decided to launch a vitriolic attack against the singer, especially considering the catalyst: a notably shaky performance on Saturday Night Live. A television show that millions of people watch - so justifiably induced some off-key singing.
Perhaps it was just an excuse to use a vulnerable female as bait for their own interest, that is to promote the 'puppet elite' of pop music?
She's no carbon copy of a singing barbie and her music is slightly too edgy to be categorised as bubblegum-bend-me-over-because-I'm-Britney-pop, after all.

 While this doesn't cite Lana as a poster-girl for the outcast, it does highlight the unjust criticism she faces for errors that most other female pop stars get away with. Stars that don't have an 'indie/fake' tag attached to their name or lots of material covering their body.
They get away with: imperfect singing, cinematic and self-indulgent videos, cosmetic surgery enhancing their appearance... and while I'm sure you can think of dozens of celebrities that tick these boxes, only Lana has faced harsh insults as a result of them. As if she is the first celebrity to reach fame by working on her appearance! The press try to convince you that her past makes her fake because she used to be "Lizzy Grant' while it makes Katy Perry more genuine to have once been a struggling "Katy Hudson". 
A little hypocritical, no? Aren't people allowed a past?

Here comes the real scandal: condemning Lana for encouraging the 'male gaze' in her aesthetics. It's the foundation of most big names now and no singer can sell records without selling sex simultaneously. Bloggers and fully-fledged journalists indulge in this criticism, ignoring her low level of crime in comparison with modern day sex-appeal standards. She may indulge in creating an archetype of femininity and passivity but it's evidently a romanticised view of the twentieth century: where chivalry and elegant beauty took precedence over baring all and non-verbally screaming sex to a nation of unwittingly sex-obsessed consumers. Looking at her makes this obvious but so does listening to her poetic lyrics and watching any of their accompanying videos.

Arty or degrading?

 It's high class entertainment for most pop stars to mimic a scantily clad mime artist while mouthing lines about '"rude boi's" giving it to her baby like boom boom boom' or singing about the usually taboo topic of 's&m' but not for any new voices to do so. The experienced producers and executives will make a tune inexorably catchy and as long as the songstress gives a contrived confession of proud female sexuality while panting and posing, the music industry will get big bucks in return.
(I only make criticism of the music industry and not of individuals).

If a newcomer like Lana dares to experiment lyrically or musically and unwillingly succumbs to stage fright however, she is worthy of endless criticism and even a tumblr tag called "I hate Lana Del Rey".  
The sad thing is that most people who 'hate' Lana Del Rey lack both genuine malice towards her and also aren't even sure why they're posting ill-thought out, slanderous words on the internet. Once people learn what the general public allegedly thinks they are keen to agree with it: it'll get their blog hits, their page likes and make themselves feel better about their own lack of fame & fortune. Keyboards give people power now, not creativity.

Favouritism is an inherent part of music journalism but excuse me for not supporting the appraisal of meaningless and unemotional music while also ridiculing a who is woman trying to carve out some individuality; it made Lady Gaga an overnight sensation but makes Lana Del Rey a fraud. 
 If many internet articles are to be believed, her audacity to create a musical persona that is not completely her own personality renders her worthy of outsider status. Don't trust the hipster, she's trying to be weird.
Surely persona's are a part of performance? Katy Perry doesn't wear a cupcake bra everyday and Lady Gaga doesn't always wear dresses made from meat. They do these things for fun, art and our entertainment. Now more than ever before, the music industry is about entertainment just as much as it is about music.

Other criticism includes: Her lips are too big and she's too 'weird/boring'(;the oxymoron is ignored by the press who fluctuate between the two). These are more generic slurs that can be found in the commenting section of various sites and illustrate the dismissal of the different. Breast enhancements are the norm but lip injections aren't - they're weird and wrong. People used to criticise Barbara Streisand for her unconventional beauty and Madonna for her imperfect singing voice but neither had to cancel otherwise fast-selling tours because of it. 
I happen to like Lana's lips because they suit her face but apparently only Jolie and Jagger's natural blessing is an accepted pout. Young people used to have a 'live fast, die young and leave a beautiful corpse' mentality but it has since been replaced with a 'Justin Beiber sucks and I love disney' mentality. These attitudes that are fed to us should be questioned and not blindly accepted because the media should not repress your own opinion.

Of course Lana uses her sexuality to aid her success and why shouldn't she? The celebration of sex and sex appeal is not an exclusively male right and in an ideal world,  people of all genders should be able to enjoy whatever sexual desires they choose without being vindicated for it. Rihanna is worth millions and is called a slut simultaneously. Lana has been criticised for her desire to create a musical persona and lyrical focus on being attractive. Musicians are supposed to be creative but are instead vilified for being anything other than 'themselves' by the music press - or in other words, who the bosses want to sell them as. Despite the sexual revolution happening quite a few years ago, female celebrities still have a gaffa-taped mouth where their voice should be (and a rolled up skirt).

Is this really what empowerment looks like or are we being sold a lie?

Most famous male rap artists write misogynistic lyrics with accompanying sexist videos and it's accepted with little more than a tut and more of a sleazy smirk. Sexism has become a "keep calm and carry on" issue that is staunchly defended by either silence or "it's just human nature" nonsense responses. Oppressing people and spreading hatred is not human nature and we are more than just animals surviving on basic instincts. We think so we make choices

It is not human nature to eradicate the birth of new musical movements in favour of selling the same old remixed songs and looks, nor is it human nature to write hateful messages about people on the internet. In this digital age, all women on magazine covers must look flawless and if you're not a stick-thin-beauty you can be made into one. In fact, you must. Sex is used as another pawn in the game of music sales and Lana is apparently the villain for daring to play with femininity in a way that pleases the male gaze. The real crime being committed is the creativity and subversive role-playing from the likes of Lana who want to decide what messages about women to convey as the artist, not as the big suit. If the major concern about Lana is the 'male gaze' then why is it females who are to blame? Surely logic dictates the culprit to be the 'males' in question? How is a woman to win? If she was not beautiful she would be unpopular so she must be attractive, 

 In my opinion Lana's exploration of the male gaze is a great deal less cynical than PR people forcing a singer to base her entire career around her lifeless, sexy limbs and how much she'd like a man to have his way with them under the veil of sexual empowerment.Women are in a degenerate position of being ridiculed by pseudo-ironic 'get back in the kitchen' comments (a joke has a punchline/wordplay: both are absent) and an illogical notion that all women who dare to speak out against insidious repression are waging a war against men.      

Not just objects

   People are quick to say they don't believe everything they read on the internet but sadly most do - any internet search will promptly provide you with various jokes and headlines made by both writers and ordinary internet users that all serve to mock the singer. Yet bizarrely enough, I've never heard any of these apparent shortcomings mentioned in daily life. People either say she's beautiful and interesting, or that she's boring and they disapprove of her 'duck lips'. Or they're ambivalent because they've managed to not read all of this propaganda and some people are wise enough to disregard it in the knowledge that bandwagons of what you're supposed to like and supposed to dislike are integral to culture. The internet is partially to blame but so is the lack of compassion in society - capitalism is present now more than ever. Nobody is as violently opposed to her as youtube commenters and bitter journalists seem to be and that's because she's no musical anti-christ or totalitarian leader - she's a young woman who sings pretty songs and releases them with cinematic videos that accentuate her artistic intent.

Born to Die - video still

Artistic design used to be common place in popular music but it's now a foreign concept as music videos are just 3 minute displays of half naked women and pretty songs are required to sound just like the last one released by that other singing object. Originality has become disdainful to the ears of contemporary listeners, with those musicians who dare to be 'different' (otherwise known as creativity - a bygone necessity) suffering the shun of the media for being 'weird'. How dare they have an imagination or desire for self expression?  Creative movements are to be dictated from above in exchange for your money and your brainwashing and not interesting young minds. The music industry has never been so defiantly controlled and contrived.

And it's not alone. The media promotes the ideology so many of us believe to be our own, with misogyny and the nullification of individuality as two of the worst offenders. In the past it was harder to surreptitiously influence the prejudice of people but it's now easier than ever because of the anonymity of internet browsing. 

Tumblr has a 'Lana Del Hate' tag

Just because you're in front of a computer screen and you're all alone doesn't mean you should spread hate that you wouldn't bother to speak of in person about somebody you don't know. Lana Del Rey is another hate figure and the laid back acceptance of hatred is wrong, especially when so much of it is directed at women. She is of course lucky to have many fans who love her and even the worst of press will eventually be replaced but I can't help but think that all of this intolerance against individuality is just veiled bigotry and not fully believed by the people who jump on the bandwagon. Stop being told what to believe when you're a beautiful human being that is capable of intellectual thought and compassion. If you have a genuine criticism of something or someone than by all means express it but there's no excuse for promoting hatred - especially born of prejudice.

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