If it weren’t apparent already I am a great big fan of music and an even bigger critic. I love to love great music, but I also love to exist in that space that few other writers exist in. That space is the critical space; it’s a location in which a writer understands the contract between artist and spectator/consumer. The contract is that they are paid exorbitant amounts of money to provide us with the entertainment we demand, when they step outside the boundaries of their contract we viciously and quickly sever any support or praise that they might have previously enjoyed. These superstars are no more or less human than we are, but have managed to transcend the line between unknown and celebrity. They have crossed the stream of existence in a world of uncertainty to a world of false bravado, a super stardom that relies on displaying the qualities that they are encouraged to display and maintain. These artists are still at their core human beings, they bleed when cut and cry when hurt, yet they are our entertainment, we entertain the idea that we are just like them, that we are beautiful just as they are. Only they are allowed to flaunt it, or have the audience to encourage it. We empower these beings to be their highest form, they leave normal lives to achieve great pinnacles of success and are so closely identified to perfection as many of us would like to be. Even though we desire the same accolades we do not choose the same path, we critique each move, each aspect, each moment that they exist hoping that they be everything that we are not. We put these artists on some sort of pedestal in an attempt to connect with them, to identify with them, to understand them and ourselves. We become the critic because in some way their downfall is uplifting to us all.
If the downfall of an artist is somehow redemptive for me and others who adore the same artist than I feel that the hour of redemption is at hand. After much deliberation over Lana Del Rey’s newest album “Ultraviolence” I have come to the conclusion that, her path as a starlet is waning. I do not say this with any shred of happiness, but rather some dismay, as many fellow fans might also feel. After an appearance on SNL, she was destroyed by critics. Some went as far as saying that it was “like watching a 12 year old in their bedroom when they’re pretending to sing and perform”. This performance, albeit a sign of making it big time, was a failed performance and people that quite a few people took note of.
In 2012 Lana let her fans knew how the spotlight was affecting her. After she took the stage to perform, an impatient fan asked where the music was and an angry Lana snapped back “it’s coming, bitch. Fucking technical difficulties up here”. This was then followed by Lana telling her audience to “shut up” after their applause took too long, and then after a fan proclaimed that they loved her; she stated, “You keep telling me that you love me, but you don’t even know me.” Of course every artist has their moment when the lights shine too bright or the fans ask too much, but this truly is a measure by which fan/spectator/consumer takes notice of the contract between themselves and the artist. We generally like to dangle the contract in front of the artist’s eyes and remind them that they signed up for this, that they are our entertainment and that we will revoke all privileges as soon as it becomes a burden for us to uphold our end of the deal. Yes we as fans wield a strong sense of unruly and bratty power, and I don’t condone it. However, I must state that as far as agreements go things seem like they might be coming to a quicker close than I am willing to accept. The prediction that Lana Del Rey might be losing her edge is entirely based on her personal reaction to the spotlight and not at all tied to her musical styling’s, of which I feel there is little to no flaw at all.
Lana Del Rey’s album is solid and there is little to complain about except maybe the video for the track titled “West Coast”. West Coast isn’t my all-time favorite track and I am certain that with the right video footage the track would have been even more popular than it currently is. In my opinion, there was quite a bit of room to improve on the video. You be the judge for yourself.
Lana gives her audience something to contemplate about the hipster lifestyle. Is being a hipster a cultural status, is it something to seek out and attempt to actualize? Or is it something to be satirized, something of a joke between artists as they watch the hipsters milling about like ants on a hill, toiling hour after hour just to proclaim themselves the proverbial “queen/king of the hill”. The track that throws this concept in the faces of her audience is titled “Brooklyn Baby” and what could be more hipster than “churning out novels like beat poetry on amphetamines”. Listen to the latest champion badge of hipsterdom with the new video.
“Ultraviolence” is one of those solid albums that is listenable from start to finish. The lackluster West Coast video doesn’t even do justice to the original track. A few of my personal favorite tracks are “The Other Woman”, “Shades of Cool”, “Pretty When You Cry”, and “Florida Kilos”. Lana Del Rey is a complex artist that makes me drift away to places I would rather be than where I am currently. Her voice is soft, growing ever poutier than before and the music style seems to be reminiscent of her earlier work as May Jailer. Whether or not you agree that the spotlight is crushing her person/career, the music remains absolutely beautiful. If pain makes great art, then Lana Del Rey might be suffering, but if saving herself from the clutches of despair would only lessen her great artistic vision and lessen our entertainment, then by all means; she must stand at the precipice of pain and peace and remain there for as long as she can. Only until we have had our fill of her and her art, only to discard her the way we have discarded so many before. Our self-serving egos must be fed at the behest of the sanity of our artistic saviors. In the end; musician, artist, consumer, all are begging, “Take Me Away”.
Article by: Gabriel Barrio