The 11 Most Infuriating Songs Of 2011, No. 2: Lana Del Rey, "Video Games"

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It's all come to this.
The Song: Lana Del Rey, "Video Games."
The Crimes: Irritated-alley-cat vocals; overwrought harps; fundamental misunderstanding of whether or not ironic critique of male-female mores can exist in the Hipster Runoff age; this poor girl's right thigh.

In 2011 the phrase "Lana Del Rey" wasn't just the name of an artist on Interscope's high-priority docket for 2012; those three words became a symbol for indie culture gone corporately curdled, for the confused feminism of the 21st century gone to pot, for the notion that while men could reinvent themselves as cool dudes with names like "Frank Ocean" women had to wear their major-label pasts and boring given names like "Lizzy Grant" like a permanently affixed scarlet L, for the hordes of anonymous commenters on the hunt for as much material for their hatefuck-masturbation fantasies as they could find. What got lost in this abstraction of signs and signifiers that the world is hurtling toward something completely unpleasant, though, was any concrete discussion of the actual music put out by the aforementioned artist. Which is probably a good thing for Del Rey and her people, since "Video Games" is about two harp-strokes, a battery of singing lessons, and a couple of pots of hot tea away from being Enya for the Twitter set.

It's not too surprising that "Video Games" took off as a song, and not just as an Internet phenomenon. It has the same furtiveness and circularity of other popular tracks that are big in the so-called "indie" orbit these days, although the HFCS-sweetened fake string section and dramatic harp flourishes take it to the next level; it stretches out over nearly five minutes, thus convincing those youngs who find a cultural object's length almost as crucial to its inherent worth as any meaning or aesthetically interesting decisions buried within. One crucial difference comes up front: Unlike the warm and swaddling vocals that characterize a lot of other soporific music, Del Rey has a squawk that makes her sound at times like a particularly irritable alley cat. If a listener squints her ears hard enough, she can almost sound like a Stevie Nicks impersonator who's prone to making herself seem different from her Night Of 1000 Stevies rivals by throwing a widdle bidda babee tawwk into her enunications now and then. The resulting song is all instrumental flourish, a mumblecore flick with a soundtrack by a Casio-core John Williams tribute band.

And then there are the lyrics, in which Del Rey pouts and flirts and preens for the love of her life (or at least right now) while he seems way more interested in reaching kill screens than in helping her achieve le petit mort. It's a sad story, one that many women can relate to, technology trumping reality, guys staring off into the abyss while the potential for a good time is right there in front of them. But honestly, if you think Del Rey's "I made myself so pretty for you, and now you're ignoring me" act is at all breaking ground as far as portraying a woman who's beautiful yet completely insecure about her allure, you've clearly never seen the opening minutes of Jean-Luc Godard's 1963 masterpiece Contempt. (The below clip has a bit of exposed butt; it is 37 seconds longer than "Video Games.")

The arguing about The Meaning Of Lana Del Rey was one of the Internet's most wearying pastimes this year, with nearly every ugly behavior that could be manifested by the Internet's anonymous hivemind coming up at least once. That it happened again and again every time she did something "newsworthy"—an appearance on a British TV show, a magazine cover, a paparazzi shot—makes me think it was perhaps inevitable that the song accompanying her initial media blitz was little more than an overflowing pot of schmaltz gone rancid; it almost forced people to get embarrassed, and to talk about something, anything else.

The 11 Most Infuriating Songs Of 2011
11. Kreayshawn, "Gucci Gucci"
10. will.i.am feat. Mick Jagger and Jennifer Lopez, "T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever)"
9. Katy Perry feat. Missy Elliott, "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) (Remix)"
8. Tyler, The Creator, "Bitch Suck Dick"
7. Maroon 5 feat. Christina Aguilera, "Moves Like Jagger"
6. Bon Iver, "Holocene"
5. Rihanna, "S&M"
4. Brian McFadden, "Just The Way You Are (Drunk At The Bar)"
3. [White Person], [White Person Cutely/"Seriously" Performing Urban-Radio Hit]
2. Lana Del Rey, "Video Games"
1. Jessie J, "Price Tag"

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57 comments
bloodredjamsoul
bloodredjamsoul

My god, you really have a fixation with this girl, you hate on her anywhere you can. It will be better for you to get some treatment for this psychosis of yours because Lana Del Rey it's becoming slowly a superstar even in the US. You'll be prone to other meltdowns dear but those will be different from 2011, believe me...better rest your pressed soul

yellowin10
yellowin10

Lana Del Rey is a " extremely talented " singer, songwriter and musician ".  Critics criticize her " more than most celebrities ".  She has received alot of " negative press--media  "smears "  due to the fact that she has a " very wealthy father ".  In retrospect the media " discredits Del Rey " attributing all of her success to her father ( what true crap that is ).  Lana Del Rey in the year 2013 has risen to " Pop Superstar and Icon.  She is winning awards    " Everywhere for Everything .  Before the Media writers attack Ms. Del Rey they " should research the topic ( as i a professional writer have ) and they would writer  " Positive - Entertaining " articles about Lana Del Rey ( instead of " Attacking and Denouncing " LDR ) . Lana Del Rey is now and will remain in the future " A Pop SuperStar and Icon "  !!

Jackarelz
Jackarelz

Pathetic article from a pathetic writer.  Please delete this piece of trash.

atishraja87
atishraja87

Another frumpy girl bitching about a hot girl.

OhLordy
OhLordy

Music journalism? surely not.  Remniscent of a drunken rant? Yes.  This article reads like a pretentious student showing off about how many aspects of popular culture they can critique.  Or, more significantly and 'twas a little amusing reading this... a very jealous little author.  Dear oh dear.. jealousy has a way of manifesting itself by giving a good, thorough going-over of faults!  Try to improve your writing by giving your authorship a bit more maturity.  Try to distance yourself from personal jealousies that seem to be eating you up.  Poor little thing you.

Sicarox
Sicarox

Maura Johnson, you're whack. I don't understand why every one hates on Lana Del Rey. She has a beautiful voice, is really awesomely original (not weird), and super pretty. 

Annalisa Wolf
Annalisa Wolf

 You are a horrible miserable reviewer and woman, shame on you for dissing another woman.  Her lyrics speak volumes to women everywhere........you are a clueless TROLL & HATER & would NOT know talent if it was right in front of you..............

Guest
Guest

The irony and problem with this article and its criticism is easy to identify if you imagine a world where we did not have YouTube videos and Lana Del Rey was a local girl, just singing her way, doing her thing. Being a real part of the community. One that isn't held to immorally high standards.

That would quite alright, wouldn't it?  Why does everyone have to be so harsh and criticise the artist so badly? THAT is the actual problem here, not Lana Del Rey or anyone promoting her. It doesn't matter if there are people better or worse, this was done by real person, this is original in the artistic sense of the word, and therefore worthy, that's just a fact.

The music and the video is an experience. Be thankful for it and for humanity.

Ra_maat56
Ra_maat56

The song is actually about how in love she was with her guy and loved it when he came home and she would just sit and watch him. Nothing about being ignored.

Ty
Ty

This rant was an epic fail. Quit being a whiny bitch about something you can't fix. Lana is beautiful and so is her voice. You sound like a fucking pre schooler who didn't get their milk before nap time.

awayinthemountains
awayinthemountains

This was sad to read. "She's getting attention but I think she suxXXxXXx!!!!11!!111!" Got to grow up sometime, mate.. keep that in mind.

Brownasthemouthofrivers
Brownasthemouthofrivers

Maura Johnston = hipster. Glad you finally got into the trend of hating things just because they're popular. 

IIWII
IIWII

Her face is so distracting that I can't even think about the song/video I just eared & eyed. I was just waiting for her face to come back on the screen so I could stare and be bewildered.

Yuck.

Guest
Guest

What a fucking joke. Yet another indication that Pop has indeed eaten itself and 2012 will truly be the end of civilization as we know it. Thank God. Perhaps post acopalypse we can burn what's left of the shitpile corporate culture we've had to endure for the last few years. 

Worst part about this, other than her sounding like a third rate Fiona Apple on some tracks, is that there are so many more talented people that major label resources could have been allocated to, but instead they spend it on mediocre shite like this because the mouth its coming out of is attached to a cute face.

till
till

Watched her on saturday night live. It was terrible her voice is bad. one of the worst performances ive ever seen

Eli
Eli

And since when does the subject matter of a song need to be ground breaking for it to be a good song? Your argument on why the song should be infuriating is weak at best and then you add a whole gang of "points" that make it seem like you added LDR to the list because of some personal issues you have or have with her.

Eli
Eli

Both those songs ("Friday" - Rebecca Black & "Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO) > "Video Games"

Are you kidding?? That's enough to confirm that you're off your rocker Maura Johnston. I was thinking you sounded a bit slow when I was reading your review of the song but this Pro-Rebecca Black comment confirms it."Friday" is better than "Video Games" ??? HA!! Do people actually pay you to write about music? Seriously?

Victoria
Victoria

I have to disagree with Maura here, I feel that Video Games has a much more profound message than the one you illustrated here.  Her image, along with her sound and lyrics are haunting.  I don't think her getting plastic surgery/work done will influence young girls (I myself being 18) into doing it to themselves, she has an aura of sadness about her.  Coming from her background, her father is a millionaire, I find her style very genuine and real.  She could have become a run of the mill pop star but instead she chose to write with feeling and meaning.  But that's just my opinion.   

Jessica Khea
Jessica Khea

Are you fucking kidding me? "Video Games" is an amazing song as is "Born To Die." She's a talented singer, it hardly matters where she came from. I think you wasted time with Lana Del Rey when you could have been including "Friday" by Rebecca Black and LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem."

Peter V.
Peter V.

Honestly, I think the entire blogosphere is incredibly sexist. Whether you like the song or not, she DOES have a great voice. Just listen to her earlier work from her previous CD. Some garbage on it, but the talent is clearly there. To claim she's an "industry product clearly managed who had some singing lessons" is just completely mental. If this actually was the case, I do seriously wonder why they hadn't pulled out their marketing machine over 3 years ago. There are songs of her from 5-6 years ago popping up on youtube now, and she sounds great everywhere. But ooh "she sounds robotic in interviews" wouldn't you be fucking nervous if you had to give your first interviews? Seriously, the opposite would make me more supicious of the whole "music industry conspiracy" thing. 

And oh, newsflash: she only signed a record deal a month AFTER she had released video games on youtube. But oh, that MUST mean this is even a bigger conspiracy than we thought! THAT's why she's admitting her team helped her pick her stage name, so we sure won't suspect a thing! I really doubt someone else was writing her songs from 6-7 years ago and you can clearly hear her talent there. But ooh wait.... she looks different than in old pictures, from when she was 17.. oh... wait, aging 8 years, changing your hairstyle and wearing lots of make-up makes you look different? WOW

Dmd6u
Dmd6u

This is the worst, amost overly dramatic writing I've read since elementary school. Lady, thesaurus.com is not your friend.

Also -- there's no capitalization after a colon, dummy. 

Guest
Guest

Maybe that's it, it's the Stevie Nicks thing, but I can really get into a good Stevie Nicks jam, and before I knew anything about this woman she reminded me of the types of images in the film. I think it's really obviously not original and not meant to be. If you have seen Morrissey, before he comes on there are old film clips from movies and singers on old Italian television shows and that's what she reminds me of. It's looking backward, but the video is beautiful I think, and I like the music. It might be a little thin but it's got a melody that stays with you. She's a stylist and you either like what she does or not, but it's pretty cool, in my opinion, that she has totally invented this thing. I don't see that as a drawback. I heard Bob Dylan was a stage name, too, haha, I can understand hating on her for various attitudinal crimes, playing weak, and glamorizing a relationship that could seem one-sided, They are probably pushing that angle, both because it's stylistically period correct, but also because in the music young people listen to today, that attitude is very much back in style. Then you get into the whole subject of whether its okay for one person in the relationship to be more dominant, and the fact that she's portraying that as her role as a woman, and all that...

Jdehmann1949
Jdehmann1949

Maura....I think you have lost it....most of us look forward to hearing the beautiful sound she creates .....you obviously lost your ear...time to change professions....undertaker maybe

Popbijoux
Popbijoux

I find LDR to be a plastic product but video games is a GREAT song.  Sorry:(I sort of hate the whole marketing thing but i find that you sort of can't deny the sheer brilliance of the song.  It's a classic song. Sorry Maura.Now I actually think she can't do live so the rise to megastatus won't be so smooth. Still. I can't stand the whole "music industry" strings around her and I find her plastic/robotic on interviews, but I know how I feel about this one song.  I'd use the word "genius" actually.I don't see the "bad" singing.  Since when was pop music about "good" singing.  It has to just fit with the music. What's irritating about her is everything that ISN'T the music.

Hmph
Hmph

I've never heard of her or this song before but I think it's kind of pretty. I must be awfully provincial.

Nicole K.
Nicole K.

She looks so much like a young Kim Zolciak -- the only difference is that Tardy to the Party was slightly catchier.

NonAMouse
NonAMouse

This is the first entry that I seriously disagree with. Sure, it's a bit of a mopey dirge but nowhere near the offensiveness of the others on this list. The infuriating part for you, it seems, is all contained in the circular blog buzz during her ascent, which I agree was ugly in its discussion of feminism and indie-vs.-corporate wars, among other things. But who said that we have to find her message ground-breaking? The whole boyfriend-doesn't-pay-attention-to-me story is pretty tried and true. Sorry, Maura, I'm not seeing it.

stop it
stop it

"The arguing about The Meaning Of Lana Del Rey was one of the Internet's most wearying pastimes this year, with nearly every ugly behavior that could be manifested by the Internet's anonymous hivemind coming up at least once." - Maura, you are the one who is obsessed with her. You have nothing new or interesting to say about her music or image; give it a fucking rest.

maura
maura

I guess I do fit the "Oh no, an urban dweller is making me feel uncomfortable!" definition of hipster that's used by so many insecure people these days, because I actually, you know, have opinions. Thanks for clearing that up.

maura
maura

Both those songs > "Video Games"

andrew.gonzalez45
andrew.gonzalez45

when did she say her management helped her come up with the name? I'm seeing a lot of people saying that but no sources or interviews.

andrew.gonzalez45
andrew.gonzalez45

when did she say that her management helped her pick the name? I'm seeing a lot of people saying that but no sources or interviews.

andrew.gonzalez45
andrew.gonzalez45

when did she admit that her management helped pick her stage name? cause I'm seeing a lot of people say that but no actual sources or interviews. email me cause I really wanna know andrew.gonzalez45@gmail.com

Guest
Guest

I didn't read any examples of sexism in your argument.  Or is it simply because the artist in question happens to be a woman?  Way to undermine a real issue (sexism) by crying wolf.

maura
maura

Who are you arguing against here?

Katherine
Katherine

Hey, funny you mention that! Marissa Nadler's "Undertaker" is an awesome song sorta like this, and Marissa Nadler >>>>>>>>>> Lana.

ey
ey

I get people not liking / hating the music, but the uproar over the 'plastic product' I find strange. it's pop music! I honestly cannot think of many (any?!) pop musicians who aren't carefully packaged / managed / put together. the artifice (for me, anyway) is actually part of the appeal.

even the indies / underground people are like that now, don't see the point about caring about it.

luther blissett
luther blissett

If you replace the lyrics with "Kicking in the front seat / Sitting in the back seat / Video games", then its merits as a song become more obvious.

Nick
Nick

"Nothing new to say"? That's like a math class complaining about going over addition and subtraction again after everyone failed the quiz.

Nicole K.
Nicole K.

I have heard this discussed to death everywhere, so acting like Maura is the only one obsessed with this is somewhat pathetic and verging on the hysterical.

sheeva.19
sheeva.19

@maura  

someone must have been ignored in high school and is now lashing out at successful, beautiful artists as a result.

Guest
Guest

Being carefully packaged only lends itself well to music in which the singing is modified and distorted and drowned out by bleeps and blips.  If you're going for a more earnest sound, you need to be, well...earnest.  And I say that as someone who is both a fan of throw away pop and pop with greater depth.  There's music you listen to when you want to dance, and there's music for when you just want to feel.

As for her singing, it's not just that its bad but that she seems to be trying to imitate other singers whose unique sound stems from the fact they aren't trying to sound like anyone but themselves.  She sounds affected.  (So does Britney Spears, but again, drowned out by bleeps and blips so who cares.)

Popbijoux
Popbijoux

The sheer horror-film level of plastic surgery is, well, it speaks for itself.  It's not "pop music".  It's the porn/botox industry. Take a look at the pictures, before and after. The shape of her jaw, nose, and facial structure are different.  No, it's not make up and hair color. It's a fucking knife cutting the flesh my friend to mold it to fit the acceptable mainstream level.

To me it's not the heavy-handed management.  It's the message to young women out there: if you're pretty, that's not cutting it.  Make yourself perfect, in other words, butcher your face, pout to the camera, look pretty and stay still.  Then you'll find success.

There is nothing remotely radical, "cool", "pop"about that. IS THERE A MAN OTHER THAN MICHAEL JACKSON WHO'S HAD HIS FACE BUTCHERED TO FIND MAINSTREAM SUCCESS. **NO**. That isn't "normal" is what I am saying.  It's somehow the norm, expected of women.  It's fucking fascist that's what it is.

Part of what makes us interested in music, is that it speaks of humanity and the human condition in general.  WIth flaws, pain and all.  It is the very opposite of that kind of extreme plastic surgery.  That's all.

Having said that I stand by my earlier comment: Video Games is a brilliant song.

jay smooth
jay smooth

No doubt every pop act relies on artifice, but some artifice is deft and some is ham-fisted. When I watch Lana Del Rey' videos or interviews it feels like her Personal Brand had a $200 million dollar budget and was directed by Michael Bay.

Ghest
Ghest

"IS THERE A MAN OTHER THAN MICHAEL JACKSON WHO'S HAD HIS FACEBUTCHERED TO FIND MAINSTREAM SUCCESS. **NO**. "Michael Jackson had mainstream success since he popped out of the womb basically. He did not butcher his face for mainstream success because he already had it! Also, there are TONS of male actors that go under the knife. You may not take as much notice because it doesn't stand out compared to procedures women get like say, breast implants or lip injections where it is so clear that something has changed. 

(General statement)And another thing, if you don't like "squeaky voices" and just overall terrible music then you should not listen to modern day music. Everything is basically the same. In both the pop and hip pop worlds. So stay out of it. See I JUST heard video games (love it btw) I didn't even know she was "the face of indie" or whatever this article is talking about. It's common sense, you don't submerge yourself into something you don't like.

Psptatoo
Psptatoo

Then women should stop.  Hoenstly as much as some men are looks oriented there are just as many or more that find plastic surgery to be repugnant. 

ey
ey

''...It's a fucking knife cutting the flesh my friend to mold it to fit the acceptable mainstream level.

To me it's not the heavy-handed management.  It's the message to young women out there: if you're pretty, that's not cutting it.  Make yourself perfect...''I don't find her 'look' conventionally attractive or perfect, quite the opposite. whatever was done makes her look...striking but in an odd way. the whole Lynch thing has been done to death, but that was the first thing that came to my mind when I saw a photo of her (this was, fwiw, before I knew she was a musician, someone just posted a photo on a forum).

as far as sending a message to young women, I agree that it is a widespread and serious problem, but (for me anyway) not in this specific instance.

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