Saturday, April 7, 2012

Next Time, Lana Del Rey Should Call Me

Yes, it's true. I'm a diehard Lana Del Rey defender. Call it what you will, but her perfectly strategized skyrocket to stardom is sheer self-promoting genius. Sure, she's beautiful. Yes, she crash landed on to the music stage at Saturday Night Live way before she was ready to. And the hype (and strange fascination) surrounding her rich girl/poor girl past has undoubtedly overshadowed her music.

But there was something about Miss Del Rey's sound that drew me in months ago when I stumbled upon her much hyped homemade viral clip for her signature song Video Games. As a writer, I am essentially lured by a song's lyrics. If they're clever, make an emotional connection, and feel fresh, I'm usually a fan. Video Games certainly captured all three qualities lyrically and we're sung in this haunting, affected, almost deadpan voice belonging to a woman who looked like she should be having a cappuccino at a sidewalk cafĂ© in the French Riviera.

Like everyone else, I wanted to know more about this enigmatic singer. What (or who) was the source of inspiration behind her moody song delivery and aching lyrics? Who broke her heart and why? And just how much of it was autobiographical? Which layers were just a part of building an image?

Video Games wore thin after a dozen listens. I hoped Lana would prove to her incredibly harsh critics (you have to wonder if she would've been under such scrutiny if she were a male artist) that she was saving her masterpiece to prove them wrong. Like many of my friends, I was ready for more, but started to doubt if it would or could happen. Then, Lana delivered the goods in the brilliant form of a gem of a song called Blue Jeans.

To say I fell in love with Blue Jeans (and Lana Del Rey for that matter) is an understatement. I was obsessed with this song. I couldn't rave it about it enough, even going so far to incorporating Lana's media frenzy into a group discussion in three college humanities courses I teach. I watched the self-made video clip of the song (truly the very definition of copyright infringement at its best as Lana herself has explained she compiled the strange, random images in her videos from video sources she found on the web and edited them together on her home computer). I hung on her every word. I ached for her as she sang lyrics like "I will love you till the end of time/I would wait a million years/Promise you'll remember that you're mine..." My heart broke more and more for her with each listen especially once I realized why my connection with this particular song was so intense: I lived this song. Every lyric could easily apply to moments in my own life, my own past. Lana Del Rey is my kindred spirit. Only she doesn't know it because I'm a novel-writing college professor who lives in Georgia, and she's...well...she's Lana Del Rey.

I thought it was strange that Lana's record company (or someone in a position of power and opinion in her world) decided to make a second music video for Blue Jeans. Sure, the first one was hardly a polished form of art, but that's why it worked. As the cliché goes, if it's not broken don't fix it.

Director Yoann Lemoine was picked for the job. No disrespect to him, but the man missed the mark and did not do this audio masterpiece justice by any means. I'm not sure who came up for the concept behind the video - shot in stark black and white with images of Lana and a lover floating across the surface of a swimming pool in what looks to be somebody's backyard in Palm Springs. It looks like a perfume ad. An expensive one, yes, but still... Yes, she looks gorgeous in the clip (when does she not?) and the video is shot beautifully. But where's the to-die-for James Dean gangsta boyfriend who leaves her because "he was chasing paper"? Where's the footage of Lana walking the floor at all hours of the night waiting for her lover to return? Where's the sass and I-gotta-have-you attitude to celebrate classic lines like "Love you more than those bitches before"? Where's the grief? The death of a young girl's innocence? The mourning of a man gone forever?

Lana's career will certainly continue to flourish regardless of the new (and not so improved) video version of Blue Jeans, but one wonders what could have happened to her professionally if they got the video right? I'm waiting for someone to actually sit down with this underestimated woman and have an in-depth discussion with her about her very personal lyrics. For her sake, I hope they take notes and apply them visually.

I get Lana Del Rey. Her persona. Her image. Her brand.

Next time, she needs to call me. I will give her the music video she rightfully deserves. Something that truly connects with the people who fell in love with her music in the first place. If given the opportunity, I could've helped her take the world's breath away, like Blue Jeans still takes away mine with every listen.

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