It's All For You: A Few Thoughts On The Lana Del Rey Saturday Night Live Debacle

lanadelrey_saturdaynightlive.jpg
You might have heard that the much-discussed singer Lana Del Rey had her U.S. television debut this past weekend on Saturday Night Live, and that the hive mind of public opinion declared that her performances, of "Video Games" and "Blue Jeans" did not go well. The satirical indie-chronicle Hipster Runoff's declaration that she "effing TANK[ED]" was echoed by even the most opinion-averse media outlets, with even the publicist-friendly Us wondering if she "bomb[ed]."

While the two performances were low-energy and marked by Del Rey attempting to rein in her voice and seeming not entirely sure of what to do with her corporeal self more than anything else, they didn't seem that much different than her first TV appearance when she performed "Games" on the UK television show Later With Jools Holland back in October. Still, even some who were on the Lana Del Train in the autumn seemed to be taken aback by Saturday's display, resulting in a Great Big Pile On Lana that seemed more intense and widespread than the ones that have occurred any other time her name was mentioned since "Video Games"'s YouTube debut. What happened?


Lana Del Rey, "Video Games" (live on Saturday Night Live)

The narrative of "deservedness" and "paying dues" still persists in corners outside the music blogosphere, even (especially?) when it comes to bookings on shows like Saturday Night Live. Look no further than the missive sent by NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams to Gawker Media overlord (and former boss of mine) Nick Denton, which blasted Lana's road to Studio 8H thusly: "Brooklyn hippster [sic] Lana Del Rey had one of the worst outings in SNL history last night—booked on the strength of her TWO SONG web EP, the least-experienced musical guest in the show's history, for starters."

Never mind that this rant ignores her lengthy history in the music-industry salt mines (operating under her given name), or that it uses the word "hipster" in the worst catch-all way (i.e. "Brooklyn-dwelling person who makes me so mad, ooh"). Williams, despite being known for being the only network-news anchor with a music blog, was legitimately annoyed about Del Rey's Interscope-assisted shortcut to stardom. (To be honest, on first read I actually thought Williams's note was some weird sort of viral promotion for the clips' Hulu presence (trollgaze!); it apparently wasn't.) And he wasn't the only one; many of the online reactions I saw were similarly indignant, even though she's clearly being marketed as a pop singer, and not someone with many rock pretensions at all. Why didn't they get this irritated about Jessie J, who had a similar pre-stardom SNL appearance last year? Well...


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22 comments
Guest
Guest

You ruined her for me with your description of her voice as Stevie Nicks doing baby talk, but the song is catchy, and I don't think she's a charisma void, exactly. I enjoyed reading the measured tone of this article, btw haha. Anyway, her voice is weird and she's not Nico. 

but that performance was awful. I watched the one on youtube of her at the swimming pool and it's not as bad. this was pitchy, dawg. And that tentative little trill thing she does, you can tell she wishes she could take it back, but she can't so she rolls with it. I didn't watch both songs. 

another thing, she's kind of got that thing that some singers get where they become all mannerisms, kind of like David Byrne in Talking Heads sometimes, or David Lee Roth. So she has this gimmicky way she sings. She's acting really, and it's like she was really laying it on, going for the Meryl Streep award for some kind of accent for a specific town in Poland, and she got confused. She knew she was losing it, too. That's the sad part. How did she come out and do the second song? 

my point is that, all other arguments aside, this was, in my opinion, not her best work. 

I hate SNL
I hate SNL

Does nobody remember Keith Richards on SNL?  That was one of the crappiest musical guests EVER!  This woman is perfection compared to his worthless performance.

Choocheroni
Choocheroni

Who cares whether or not this idiot was manufactured. She writes terrible songs, can barely sing and does not know how to perform. She's a train wreck.

Eliza Neals
Eliza Neals

Sadly things happen memorex is never like live music. As Barrett Strong says "if you can't sing live after eating ribs like Aretha then stay in the studio" messinwithafool.com

Man With A Spleen
Man With A Spleen

"Sexism. I'm not saying, I'm just saying. A few questions for the room: When was the last time you heard an upstart male star denigrated as "manufactured?""

Bieber, anyone?

coughsoda
coughsoda

"A few questions for the room: When was the last time you heard an upstart male star denigrated as "manufactured"? Or had people rag on one's performance then explain away said complaints by saying "at least I'd fuck him" or some variation thereof?"

Pretty sure these kinds of comments are the very bane of Adam Levine's "I swear we're a real band" existence.

KidvanDanzig
KidvanDanzig

A few questions for the room: When was the last time you heard an upstart male star denigrated as "manufactured"?

OFWGKTA, though that might just be the circles I travel in. Justin Beiber? Deadmau5? Any band on the Victory Records roster? Here's one: any winner of American Idol, but I'd think that's so obvious that no one would even bother pointing it out.

Or had people rag on one's performance then explain away said complaints by saying "at least I'd fuck him" or some variation thereof?

Got me there, the only one I can think of is Jared Leto. Why anyone would fuck him, I have no earthly idea.

Also, this "trollgaze" thing, not good branding. Not even a particularly compelling meme.

galaxytime
galaxytime

my mumsy's a professional singer, so i asked her what she thought. she was less harsh than i thought she'd be, saying live performances are incredibly difficult to people who aren't seasoned performers. i almost thought she was sympathetic until she concluded with, "that being said, she's either drunk or on drugs." oh lana.

FILO_FAX
FILO_FAX

if LDR was queer or plain looking, she would have never made it all the way to SNL. it's because music sites like Pitchfork and Stereogum are written by predictable, straight white dudes. that's the OTHER side of sexism.

Matt Carlson
Matt Carlson

Going way back I remember Jonathan Fire*Eater (the pre-Walkmen men) riding a proto-internet hype roller coaster in the late '90s.  I believe both the "manufactured" and "at least I'd fuck him" (by both guys and gals) accusations were leveled at these lads.

(I was listening to the performance of Blue Jeans above, without actually watching it, and found it not half bad actually. But yes, she is a charisma black hole.)

Nicole K.
Nicole K.

I agree that Jessie J isn't treated the same way because her image has always been ridiculous and grasing and wasn't built up as an ethereal, "serious" singer the way LDR was.

whatevs
whatevs

I was very surprised to see the very vicious response - from "mainstream" people - aka "*people who'd not yet seen her video games video and/or sexy press photos**. I assumed they'd accept her more readily than us music-obsessed people. WRONG. I read stuff that compared her to the Kardashians - a talent-less rich girl who gets where she is because her father bought her career.  It seems that, as you'd pointed put - the SNL audience cares because, she is perceived to have been a child of the moneytocracy of current America. They didn't see though the "talent".

And I suspect that the forces the propped LDR along (The Guardian especially) had an agenda behind it, seeing her as the savior from the relentless Adele campaign. The new million+ records singer.  To see Pitchfork support her blindly was to see how what I then perceived as "mainstream" values (plastic surgery, female submission, attractiveness as the main goal) were in fact very aligned with those of the boys in indie. How relieved I was to learn then, that the *actual* mainstream (aka People Who Buy Records) America rejected her simply because they perceived her to be undeserving of her position.  It was THAT SIMPLE.

In other words, if you can't sing live, then consider whether you really are going to sell yourself as a singer.  Secondly, if you can't perform, well, that's in the job requirements.  Even in the days when people could get by without touring, they still had to do TV appearances.  What gets me is people saying "oh she was nervous".  It's like hello SNL isn't your elementary school play.  It's a professional environment.  And then we have her own priceless press quotes "it's not a fluke...it's a great honor, I happen to not have an album out yet, but Lorne knows I have been a singer for a long time, and everyone there knows that."Like her America take-over was set...

Barry Bailey
Barry Bailey

I'd compare her performance to Ke$ha's SNL performance (if we're looking STRICTLY at the artist's performance). Both seemed pretty unsure of themselves and incredibly nervous, only LDR's expressionless face is a bit harder to read than Ke$ha, who I really thought looked like she was saying "oh shit." during her American-flag-cape voice-only bit. 

I rewatched the performances after I've come around to liking a few Ke$ha tracks (though I maintain the D-I-N-O-S-A-U-R a DINOSAUR! song is one of the worst things ever), and I still thought they weren't great, and she still looked nervous.

I'd also like people to stop comparing LDR's voice to Maya Rudolph's Donatella Versace. 

It was clearly closer to Bill Hader's Cher.

fabulousrobots
fabulousrobots

Jessie J is British and people have no idea how popular or is or where she came from (she's BRITISH FOR GOD'S SAKE we should know who she is) people kept a little quieter. Plus she dances, has some charisma, and doesn't pretend to be a weird fragile doll. However, her music is just as bad as Lana Del Rey's.I am dreading Karmin.

bg5000
bg5000

"When was the last time you heard an upstart male star denigrated as 'manufactured'?"

I'm actually having a hard time coming up with a male equivalent of Lana Del Ray period, much less remembering what was said about them. I mean,  I seem to remember Kings of Leon getting the manufactured tag applied to them pretty frequently, but it seems to say they're the male LDR.

fabulousrobots
fabulousrobots

YES! I didn't even think about if she were not straight. That is a really fantastic point. Then we'd read blogs that said "Hot lesbian singer LDR" like they say "Hot, weird guitar player Marnie Stern."

galaxytime
galaxytime

i wish i could contest that, but :(

KidvanDanzig
KidvanDanzig

I immediately thought of the Ke$ha thing as well. If nothing else, it indicates that a disastrous SNL performance doesn't quite ensure the death of one's career, even if you're roundly hated.

The only thing for LDR to do now is cultivate a status as a gay icon. First step: More collagen, everywhere.

Barry Bailey
Barry Bailey

I'm hoping a meme for the aforementioned-by-Maura "pained mugging" of Karmin's main vocalist develops from SNL still frames.

openapplev
openapplev

The Strokes? They had the same breathless hype and "rich kid" backlash (or at least the slightly gentler 2001 equivalent). I saw them on their first U.S. tour and Julian Casablancas was almost as uncompelling as Lana Del Rey, although he at least got to hide behind more uptempo songs.

Jamie
Jamie

A band like The Virgins, maybe?

bmichael
bmichael

I think the male equivalent is Tim Tebow. That's interesting to think about.

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