Before I begin, I have to make an explanation regarding my musical tastes. I’m pretty old-fashioned. And when I say “old fashioned” I mean I was raised listening to classical music – like, the Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart kind – and I am not a fan of most popular music produced oh, maybe after 1980. That being said, I have branched out lately. I used to be much worse; I wouldn’t listen to anything popular if it was recorded after 1980. But I’ve come to realize that the popularity of things like YouTube has expanded the music industry unbelievably, as now just any random guy can pick up his guitar and put his stuff out there, and much of that stuff is quite good.
So I’d like to make a distinction when I talk about “modern” music. When I say “modern” music, I mean music that is produced and recorded by mainstream recording studios and by popular recording artists. I’m talking about people like Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Ciley Myrus, and the likes. Pop music, which I generally associate with the electronic, robotic, four-chord, idiotic, generic annoyances that relentlessly enter into my waking life, has, if you couldn’t tell, never been a favorite genre of mine. I love jazz, I love classical, I love classic rock, but pop music just doesn’t do it for me.
But for whatever reason, I really, really like Lana Del Rey.
Not as a guilty pleasure, either, although a small part of me is still hesitant to say that. I legitimately like some of her music. I don’t like all of it, but it’s a miracle that I like as much as I do. And I do. I think she’s a good singer and often times her lyrics aren’t half bad, to say nothing of the melodies. I think her music is something you have to either be personally attracted to or open towards – it’s certainly not going to appeal to everyone, but I think that’s part of why I like her – she has her own indentifiable style. Artists like Beyoncé and Ciley Myrus are so inconsistent that whatever talent they may or may not have is mostly covered up by their image. Lady Gaga’s image takes precedence over her music WAY more than people give her credit for. But Lana Del Rey, although she may not be extraordinarily consistent, is definitely more consistent than her colleagues. I can listen to a Lana Del Rey track and say with some surety, “That’s Lana Del Rey.” And I don’t think I’d be able to do that for Lady Gaga or Ciley Myrus or even Beyoncé.
But I realize that obviously isn’t enough explanation as to why I like Lana Del Rey when I have, for so long, expressed nothing but disdain for the pop music industry. Fortunately, it isn’t hard to justify. There’s much about Lana Del Rey that is quite different from many other pop stars, both in her image and her music.
Let’s talk about that image for a minute.
Image is not really something that concerns me that much. I judge pop stars more on their music than on how they look, and it’s annoying to me when other people don’t. Image accounts for about 65% of Lady Gaga’s fame. Note that when I say “image” I don’t just mean physical appearance; I also mean how you put yourself out there. Lady Gaga has a reputation for being rather…odd. Which, ironically, is nothing unusual or even bad, but she’s let it dominate her identity as a pop star, image before music. Which is actually unfortunate because from what I understand Lady Gaga does have talent. She can sing and play the piano at the same time, and I will always have respect for people that can do that. I mean, it’s not like she’s the only person that can do it, far from it, but at least we know she has musical ability. As for Beyoncé, I don’t know much about her except that her fan base will flay me alive if I say anything too negative, so that’s as far as I’ll go. And Ciley Myrus…c’mon, guys. She’s like Twilight; if you guys had shut up about her instead of made a wild fuss, she would have gone away. You’re playing right into her producers’ money-grabbing hands.
Lana Del Rey definitely has an image, and it’s definitely a large part of her pop star identity. But the difference between her and other pop stars is that she has the music to back her image up. Sure, she makes vintage videos and does some weird things in her music videos (but then again, which pop star doesn’t?) but her songs are interesting, different, and at times rather pretty. To be fair, though, I have to admit the songs I like best are the ones that aren’t that popular, like “Pawn Shop Blues,” “Bel Air,” and “Yayo.” But I still like a lot of her mainstream ones, too, at least compared to most other music.
I suppose, though, I can’t let her slip by without some criticism. The subject matter of her songs isn’t exactly very woman-friendly, and as someone who considers herself a feminist I must say it does make me a bit uncomfortably disappointed. And I’m also sick and tired of pop stars putting this weird shit in their videos and being like, “This is in no way drug or alcohol induced.” Yeah, right. At least Ciley Myrus makes no attempt to hide it; I’ll at least give her that. Even The Beatles admitted it. Just accept your problem and get over it. (Seriously, though, have you seen her “short film,” Tropico? That is the kind of stuff that can only come from interacting in some way with some sort of substance that does weird things to your brain, be it vodka, pot, or Gorilla glue.)
That being said, I actually look forward to when she releases new songs, which is more than I can say for any other mainstream pop artist. She’ll never be at the top of my playlist, but I do appreciate her for managing to have her own musical style – and actually making music – in today’s world of bland, generic music. She may not be perfect, but she is making something good.