January 16th, 2012
03:18 PM ET
If you tuned in to Daniel Radcliffe's turn as host on “Saturday Night Live” this past weekend, you also caught a musical guest you may not have recognized. And if your reaction was more along the lines of "Lana Del who?" - well, you weren't the only one.
Lana Del Rey, originally Lizzy Grant, up until Saturday night was virtually unknown to mainstream audiences. In fact, many critics were up in arms when NBC announced her appearance on the show, stating that she hadn't really earned it.
When the news came out, DFA Records, the label co-founded by LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, posted on Twitter: “Lana Del Rey plays Saturday Night Live next week. LCD Soundsystem tried for 6 years to play Saturday Night Live. Isn't ‘too soon’ ok advice?”
Del Rey eventually broke her silence and said in an interview with MTV (which recently crowned her as one of its “11 Artists to Watch in 2012”) that she “may not have a record out now, but I have been singing for a very long time … It's not a traditional choice for 'Saturday Night Live.'”
Unfortunately, whatever Lorne Michaels was trying to achieve with this unconventional decision fell through. Del Rey’s performance of "Video Games" was weak, flat and had too many variations in tone and pitch, either due to nerves, her improvised creative liberties or the setting itself.
Viewers and celebrities flocked to Twitter to pan the pouty singer. Despite many fans coming to her defense, the Internet blew up with almost-unanimous criticism, and headlines like “Lana Del Rey Ripped for Performance” and “Internet Sensation Bombs on Her U.S. TV Debut” appeared. According to the Hollywood Reporter, actress Juliette Lewis tweeted, “Wow watching this ‘singer’ on SNL is like watching a 12 yearold [sic] in their bedroom when theyre pretending to sing and perform #signofourtimes.”
But if you've been following along on music sites, this sort of intense disapproval of Del Rey is nothing new.
The Hipster Runoff, a hipster fashion and culture blog, did a series of “exposé” posts on Del Rey, showing pictures of her from her Lizzy Grant days with platinum blonde hair and in non-retro clothes, stating that the singer is a “failed mainstream artist who is being ‘rebranded’ behind major label dollars.”
In a detailed analysis of the backlash, Adam Rosen wrote on the website The Awl that tidbits about Del Rey’s origins and her ultimate transformation has indeed led many critics to declare her as inauthentic - a corporate-designed pop machine with sex appeal. But Rosen points out that artists like Lady Gaga were also reinventions and that Del Rey, as a concept, is a success.
“The people want their gangster Nancy Sinatra, gatekeepers of authenticity be cursed,” Rosen wrote.
Whether Del Rey can bounce back from her less-than-stellar “SNL” performance is yet to be seen. Only time and the release of “Born to Die” will tell if Del Rey is really one of this year’s rising stars, or just a YouTube phenomenon who went prime-time too soon.
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