“We’re big fans [of Lana Del Rey],” said Kate Bosworth this weekend. “We’ve been following her for awhile.” How long, I wonder briefly, is “awhile” in Bosworthtown? Pre- “Blue Jeans”? Pre-the day LDR surpassed Rick Perry in Facebook likes? Kate Bosworth establishing that she has liked LDR for “awhile” is in keeping with how so many people start a discussion/statement about LDR. LDR is a convenient anchor for people, like K-Boz, who feel they have to be stylish 24/7. She is a musical Wayfarer, a nautical stripe.
But: clinging to the lightning rod along with stupid Kate am I. The Bacall hair, the quivering voice, the novocaine diction, the naked-embrace loops, the when-in-Europe bum flashes! To my mind, LDR just gets more lovable over time. I do not think much about the lips and nose. I like the imperfections of her voice (need I remind you of how infrequently men’s singing voices are even brought to our attention by critics). I appreciate that she is pursuing a dream — a dream that I personally find to be an enviable and brave undertaking — and that the pursuance of the dream has included whispery New York dive-bar performances, bad dye jobs and the worshiping of a very obvious but apparently endlessly inspiration-laden (shtick-inspiring) deity (Presley).
The songs: there is almost nothing going on in them. They are quiet, and their singer is even quieter. Afraid? Maybe. Lacking in confidence? I would say definitely, at this stage. But in wanting to relate to lyrical ideas, can’t we also relate to a vocal manifestation of fear and lack of confidence? I can. To do a comparison, I want to like Florence and the Machine, but her songs feel like listening to several songs playing at the same time, underwater. They reach too high. They cling too tightly. I can’t see the forest for the overproduction. Florence and the Machine’s music tries to be earth-shattering by making itself sound like Earth shattering.
Lana, on the other hand, hasn’t been so man(it is mostly men)-handled. She has a trepidatious voice. But we can expect it to get more secure as time goes on. Matthew Perpetua (who was spot-on in this review, I think) describes some of the diverse sounds that came out of her mouth during a live show in New York last week. This is unsettling and amateurish, sure. Lana is learning on the job (link to a piece Maura wrote that is excellent). I can see why this annoys people. We want her to have it figured out, to display “raw talent,” to blow us away, and to be real, too (perhaps foremost). But what I like with Lana is not only her lyrical ideas (which are compelling, and relatable, when I think about some of the New York turds I dated in my early 20s; let’s pause for a moment to observe that LDR, if her missives are an accurate/nonfiction indication, seems very partial to shitheads!), but that we are on this journey with her, living through it. That’s a privilege afforded to the Internet user. It’s fun. It’s a story with an arc.
“Haunting” is a favorite word attributed to female musicians who are good (or who are at least haunting, since it remains very hard for people to call female musicians “good”). But that is what these songs are. And I ask Tyler, who said this morning that LDR’s voice sounds like a dead cat, just whose voice is singing her songs in his head, if not hers? (his own?) In my head, they’re sung by her. There is no other way. The teetering vibrato, the wounded country-crooner soars, the occasional gender ambiguity, the half-spoken lines, the hyper-rhythmic phrasing. It is all part and parcel of this refreshing late-summer parcel. I am sold.