Lana Del Rey. From her exotic (yet fabricated) name to her famous bee-stung lips, the sultry songstress has been a constant source of conflict amongst music columnists and casual listeners alike. Adored by fans for her soulful slow jams or slammed by haters for being ‘monotone’ or ‘fake,’ there’s one thing everyone can agree on – it’s impossible to have a neutral attitude toward Miss Del Rey.
Born Elizabeth Grant, Lana Del Rey adopted her new persona after failing to break into the music scene under her given name. Now a sultry, heavily made-up (and possibly surgically altered) vision of retro glam, Del Rey debuted her first major album, Born to Die, in January 2012 . The album quickly garnered both critical and popular attention. Most notably, Del Rey caught the attention of Jay-Z, who slated her to perform on the soundtrack for sprawling Baz Luhrmann’s production of The Great Gatsby.
Since then, Del Rey has blown up. Her videos continue to rack up hundreds of millions of hits on YouTube, but she remains one of the most hated-on stars in music today. Annihilated by everyone from Brian Williams to Juliette Lewis after her at best tentative (and at worst terrible) SNL performance, Del Rey cannot seem to catch a break.
All of these mixed messages seem to point to the same question: Is Lana Del Rey worth the hype? Sure, songs like mega-hit “Video Games” are listenable enough, with romantic, interesting lyrics and a summertime vibe. But Del Rey’s monotone and occasionally forced sultriness can only go so far. Evocative, echoing slow songs like Gatsby’s “Young and Beautiful” and “Blue Jeans” begin to run together, punctuated occasionally by bizarre tunes like “National Anthem.” Her music videos, too, are a blurred (if visually appealing) line of retro images seemingly filmed beneath a number of Instagram filters.
Perhaps, then, the most encompassing response to the hype surrounding Lana Del Rey is the most difficult to posit – the singer is, indeed, somewhere in the middle. Beneath her carefully crafted persona and onslaught of sad, sultry singles, Del Rey occasionally offers something profound. Overblown though it may be, Lana Del Rey’s music knows a thing or two about love and loss. It’s just a matter of whether you can bear to listen to it.