I find Lana Del Rey’s music incredibly boring. But that only has a little bit to do with her music and a lot to do with how old I am.
First, I didn’t initially encounter her music in anything approximating a way that’s optimal. It wasn’t recommended by an enthusiastic friend. It didn’t waft over the speakers at a bar or a store or a party. I read about her in a story on gawker about the growing internet backlash against her music. I didn’t read the story very closely, and only later connected it back to her after her much maligned Saturday Night Live performance.
So before I even heard her music I heard an opinion about her music. I watched the SNL thing, which wasn’t that good, but wasn’t as bad as people say. It’s a super slow song; it’s rough performing anything at that tempo live. The best thing she could have done was just stood shock still and looked into a camera as a recording of the song played over the PA. At least that would have been weird and haunting.
Then I watched this Letterman performance, which was a lot better. But the improved performance made the song itself more bothersome for me. I was able to focus on the piano accompaniment, and think I could probably play it. And I can just barely piano. Whenever I sit down at a keyboard I have to use like five pneumonic devices to find middle C. And it’s far from a meticulously crafted pop song; I think there’s just a verse and a chorus. A song without a bridge always seems like somebody got lazy to me (obvious exception: “We are the Champions” or anything by Chuck Berry.).
And this is the part that shows my age: almost everything about it reminds me of something. There is no joy in discovery in this for me. It’s all a rehash. In the Letterman performance, at least, Ms. Del Rey sings with a formal cadence that reminded me of Joan Baez or Judy Collins. The song’s elegant dragging tempo and general mood reminded me of the Cowboy Junkies and Mazzy Star only minus the heroin. And there’s something approximating “Dusty in Memphis” in the attitude, too.
But I was careful to say almost, because I do recognize something unique about the song, and it is something that makes me uncomfortable and sad because I am too old for it. It’s the story of a young, shitty girl trying to please some young shitty dude. The girl dolls herself up for some beer-drinking shmo who ignores her and plays video games instead. And the girl is yearning, wanting and needing so much for this dude that she’s not really a person anymore, she’s just some thing that reacts to that dude.
And this is not how adults act. This is how people in their late teens and early 20s act. And I think it’s truthful and a real snapshot of some real, pervasive shit, but it’s something that I’m not sure I ever experienced and if I did, I’m glad I grew out of it.
I was thinking about her in comparison with Adele this morning and about how much more complexity and maturity there was to her heartbreak songs. And I was going to close this thing out by saying that maybe when Lana Del Rey is Adele’s age, she’d have plumb those wonderful, rich depths of painful and true adult relationship experiences. But then I saw that Lana Del Rey is actually two years older than Adele, and I fear all hope may be lost.
I hope for her art’s sake that Ms. Del Rey has her heart broken soon.