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Like most of America, I had never heard of Lana Del Rey when she took the Saturday Night Live stage on Saturday, January 14, to sing two songs apparently from an upcoming album set to drop at the end of the month.

In a move rare for SNL these days, Del Rey is all but untested in live settings, harkening back to the days when the NBC show was actually able to "break" new artists, at least in the U.S., like Kate Bush, Devo, Elliot Smith, and Natalie Imbruglia. Miss Del Rey (who I now know was formerly called Lizzy Grant) made her rep on YouTube, on the strength of two oddly mesmerizing videos, "Video Games" and "Blue Jeans."

Both tunes are reminiscent of the best of early Kate Bush, Tori Amos, Loreena Mckennitt, Laurie Anderson, Portishead, Clannad, Cowboy Junkies, Annie Haslam (Renaissance), and even a bit of Nina Hagen, Jewel, and Lene Lovich in her unpredictable vocal inflection, which can shift several times from punk growl to Bjork-ish kitten in the midst of a single passage.

I was struck enough by her SNL set to seek out her videos for both songs, as well as some of her live performances on overseas TV shows like the Jools Holland program. To my mind, the "studio" versions of ALL her songs sound remarkably superior to most of her concert renditions. It's this Dylanesque "reworking" of her delivery that has caused many music and pop culture bloggers to dismiss Del Rey as some kind of manufactured wanna-be pop princess.

Notwithstanding the fact that artists like Adele, Tori Amos, and Dylan himself routinely rearrange their own songs anew with almost every performance.

Image

The fact that her father is wealthy, coupled with a noticeably manufactured set of lips that don't even resemble the mouth Lizzy Grant used to sing out of, has been held against her in countless Twitter and YouTube bitchfests.

I'm glad I knew none of this when she hit SNL.

I thought the performance was riveting, albeit clearly marred by extreme nerves (perhaps the most headlight-frightened woman I've seen on SNL since Ashlee Simpson's lip-synch track accidentally outed her fakery, or maybe when guest host Katie Holmes was jump-humped by crazed Mr. Peepers monkey Chris Kattan).

During the first number "Video Games," her stiff slow-mo moviestar body movements were eerily aloof, an affect that may have been purposeful but which distracted from a quite lovely number that she sung, shakily at first but with increasing confidence.

Image (Del Rey on SNL)

The second tune "Blue Jeans" was far superior, though she still looked somewhat small and scared to be on that legendary stage, essentially being introduced to millions of viewers...a substantial number of whom subsequently took to the 'net and characterized the SNL set as some kind of career-killing trainwreck.

Huh?!?!

Image I'll grant the girl had a look in her eyes like a mildly tipsy cheerleader who just lit the wrong end of her Clove cigarette and is hoping to shrug it off without anybody noticing the melted filter OR that weird burning smell...

Image But, doggone peoples, those two tunes are outstanding, different, courageous, retro-cool, subtly sarcastic (something most critics seem to miss when dissing her frequent flights of babydoll phasing) and even, dare-I-say, elegant. As is Miss Del Rey, botched BoTox, Veronica Lake 'do, and all.

As evidence to back up my POV, I direct your attention to the video selections below, which demonstrate both her studio creations and at least one live rendition that was, yes, far more ready-for-prime-time than she was on Saturday night.

Following that are vids of her two SNL songs. Don't let some blogger-slash-hipster TELL you if Lana Del Rey is any good, or if she's "authentic" (whatever that's supposed to mean in this post Tay Zonday/Rebecca Black/William Hung world). Listen, watch, and decide for yourself.

Mind you, I'm not enamored of ALL the Del Rey songs I found and played online (so far numbering less than a dozen tunes). A couple of cuts sound for all the world like a skimpy platter of Adele-Lite, ordered off the diet Kidz Bop menu.

And her Golden Age-gilt moviestar stage persona keeps showing unlikely (if intriguing and complicated) cracks, taking her from wounded-looking Warhol junkie-star to passive-aggressive bitch-goddess, pissed off that everyone thinks she's a bitch, but loving that they nonetheless worship at her frequently-naked feet.

Image Shortly after SNL ended, I posted both tunes to Facebook, and was immediately struck by how downright polarizing the set appears to be. A few comments that were posted by locals in response:

Scott Wilson: She's getting reamed for this performance everywhere else. Are you joking?

Jeffrey Joe Morin: I'm with Jay. S'matterchew people?

Steve Roche: Not my cup of crap.

Kelsea Rae Little: Wow, gorgeous voice!! it almost sounds like a romantic horror musical or something. Danny Elfman-esque.

Donna Fazio DiBenedetto: Arcade Fire was on Austin City Limits at the same time. I was going back and forth. Glad to see this post, she's interesting, need to hear more.

Jesse Sanford: Wow, I'm surprised. Most everyone else is bagging on this, saying it was a trainwreck.

Spud Davenport: Really, across the board people either love her or hate her. IMHO she wasn't ready for national TV.

Gary Heffern: Heinous...everything that is wrong about music.

Bill Farkas: I thought it was a spoof on a musical guest from one of the cast members because they had a cancellation of the real musical guest. That act would have been "gonged" by Jaye P Morgan back in the day.

Marcia Manna: Needs more experience vocally, made some bad note choices that made me cringe, but she has an interesting look

Julie Dongu: She doesn't have any stage presence. I'll take Joanna Newsome.

Tom Harrington: My wife kept insisting it was a female impersonator.

James Kruk: Not as exciting as all the hype. The music was good. She could go either way, but usually big stars are hated by many in the beginning.

Brenda Bowers: I'd still fuck her. Hahaha. Just kidding. Or am I?

Spud Davenport: I love yer stick-to-it-tiveness on this chick, Jay. You're diggin' her. Don't matter what the others say. Hey, it's ART.

Okay, Reader readers, your turn. This is the studio/video version of "Blue Jeans":

And "Video Games":

Here's what I consider an excellent live rendition of "Video Games":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5WlkXFB2CU&feature=fvst

And, finally, the now-infamous SNL renditions:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zrvD-o8cII

So whaddya think???

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Comments

suziesays Jan. 17, 2012 @ 1:35 a.m.

I used to work in a record shop in Lincoln NE. I was a huge fan of Nirvana's BLEACH album. When Smells Like Teen Spirit was on constant rotation at MTV we were flocked by college jocks purchasing NEVERMIND. I can not tell you how many returned wanting to sell the album back to us shortly after purchasing it. You know why? They were only comfortable with that one song and when they heard the other songs it jarred them and they didn't like it. Which is some sort of retardation because all the other songs sound the Fing SAME!, and I'm not dissing, I love Nirvana, just a simple fact. Then later when the other songs on the album got more airplay/MTVplay they came back to repurchase the album, AGAIN! Idiots.

Look, I get it. Lana (Lizzy) probably had some work done on her lips or whatever. I don't f'ing care! either I like what she produces or I don't. She is a talented artist and singer and she f'ed up her performance because she was nervous as hell cuz she is getting thrown into the spotlight possibly a bit too soon. Others may have handled the initial attention better, but she didn't. It's water under the bridge. It doesn't change the fact that no one else sounds like her or makes music like her and I'm super happy to have heard what I perceive to be the best new pop music in forever, that I never expected to hear.

Point is, half or more of the people who are bitching about her are in my opinion, people who can't get past the initial shock of hearing something new (and I'm referring to her recorded songs, not her horrible performance on SNL) and will come to like, if not love her later, once they have heard her music enough.

Ongoing observation... some people really don't like new things.

mark my words.... she will do just fine. If anything she will do too well and I worry I will get sick of hearing her constantly everywhere. oh well... I'm enjoying her now, and I'll take it.

ps to all the moaners (aka stupid Jocks). relax! Pay more attention to your dwindling rights as a U.S. citizen, more love to those artists you like and less hate to those you don't.

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mikeymara Jan. 17, 2012 @ 2:43 a.m.

I had heard lana when here "video games" was mixed by a DJ friend for a fashion show. I did like it, it sounded very nonchalant. But as Hans says "Hot looks cannot hide a (lack of) talent" http://fasttrack.hk/music/watch-lana-del-reys-career-implode-before-your-eyes

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catstripes Jan. 17, 2012 @ 4:12 a.m.

Can I just point out that the "Live At The Premises" is not actually live nor is "Live at Corinthia Hotel London" both are pre recorded.

You also seemed to have missed an important part of your research on her background. Aside from the Millionaire father and the plastic surgery, she had already signed to Interscope before Video Games and Blue Jeans were even uploaded on youtube. She signed with Interscope in July 2011, Video games was uploaded 19 Aug 2011, Blue Jeans Sept 9 2011. "Ferdy Unger-Hamilton of Interscope denied that LDR is manufactured he said that he did not sign the singer when he first met her a year prior to when the star agreed a deal with him back in September."

We already know the contract was signed in July, It's here where her labels, which provided her a budget for videos (now debatable if she even made them herself) and album completion, as well as hired a publicity firm Shore Fire Media, deviate from standard practices remember Video games was uploaded 19 Aug 2011, Blue Jeans Sept 9 2011 according to Interscope they hadn't signed at this point. LDR had industry and financial support right from the start, a recent interview with David Kahne, who produced Grant as well as albums for Paul McCartney, Regina Spektor and Kelly Clarkson, believes something else was going on. Agreeing to work with her in 2008 after 5 Points connected them, he witnessed the beginnings of her reinvention from a platinum blonde guitar-cradler to an alt-indie princess. Contrary to what Del Rey asserts, Kahne is under the impression that she bought the rights back from 5 Points to stifle future opportunities to distribute it an echo of rumors that the action was part of a calculated strategy.

"I think Lizzy Lana owns it, so [her team] wanted it out of circulation. That's why they bought the rights from them," Kahne says. "I think she wanted to be Lana Del Rey and didn't want to be Lizzy Grant. That was her family name, and she's very dramatic. She wiped [out] this other person. I think she actually thinks that she's that other person, and she probably is. So that was the decision that she made, that she didn't want traces of that whole person around, as far as I can tell."

So the whole youtube internet sensation is a lie they tried to sell us the idea that the momentum or interest in this girl was based solely on her music and the interest it was generating, but we know that she already had Interscope behind her and Shore Fire Media before Video Games was even uploaded. The interest in LDR was nothing more than heavy internet 'guerrilla' marketing, planting meme after meme after meme. People took the bait but the facts started to be uncovered. cont..

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catstripes Jan. 17, 2012 @ 4:17 a.m.

Prior to this she had other financial help with this transformation that took place over a one and a half to two year period from 2009 to 2011. Lizzy Grants efforts to hide her past started to unravel, the trailer park life didn't go hand in hand with the discovery of her millionaire father that she was and is still in close contact with and the man who helped to market her first album and EP. Pictures of Lizzy and Grant were discovered through his involvement in T.R.A.F.F.I.C and photos taken of Lizzy with her Father in casinos dated the same time that she said she was living in a trailer park and starving started to expose a very different background to what Lizzy wanted us to believe. The trailer park life was also given as the reason Lizzy couldn't afford to have surgery but the pictures taken with her father tell much more than lizzy wanted you to know.

Rob Grant started his life as an advertising guru in Madison Avenue and then went on to property development when Lizzy was born and eventually real estate and online real estate in 1995. Lizzy had even tried to deny her fathers wealth saying he was just an entrepreneur and that didn't mean he was rich then she tried to deny they had money when she was growing up although he had made a serious amount of money in real estate when she was a child and by 1995 he was in online real estate where he made his fortune Lizzy would have been 9yrs old. Lizzy was also afforded a private boarding school eduction.

When you discover all of this and then realise that Lizzy can't actually sing that well Live, and hasn't taken sole credit for anything she has written, you can't help but feel the music industry are trying to get dirty and take you for a ride you don't want to go on, I can't get into Lizzy/ Lana and not just because she clearly can't sing live or deliver songs with realness and passion but mostly because she went along with all of this and when I realise why she did I know why I don't like her.

http://twitpic.com/80d3kh

http://www.billboard.com/features/lana-del-rey-the-billboard-cover-story-1005869152.story

http://webmediaproperties.com/dn_journal_april_08/april-page2.htm

http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/music/news/a358142/lana-del-rey-is-no-puppet-says-record-label-boss.html

http://www.google.com/imgres?um=1&hl=en&sa=N&biw=1871&bih=1046&tbm=isch&tbnid=UX2bJFSUffziMM:&imgrefurl=http://dnjournal.com/events/2009/traffic-newyork-2009-review.htm&docid=cCIQvz9SOPlmNM&imgurl=http://dnjournal.com/events/photos/2009-traffic-newyork/grants.jpg&w=620&h=472&ei=kWYVT_uWE8mB8gOIiZDdAw&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=604&vpy=163&dur=585&hovh=196&hovw=257&tx=132&ty=91&sig=107911316827969416395&page=1&tbnh=164&tbnw=214&start=0&ndsp=48&ved=1t:429,r:3,s:0

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Jay Allen Sanford Jan. 27, 2012 @ 10:15 p.m.

Wow, we don't get many comments with an encyclopedia bibliography -- Miss Del Rey's album has apparently "leaked" and critical response so far seems (a bit surprisingly) positive - I guess some of us DO know our butts from a pothole... http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1678050/lana-del-rey-album-born-to-die-reviews.jhtml

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Jay Allen Sanford Sept. 29, 2012 @ 5:57 p.m.

Eight months later, and it looks like more and more people are coming around to my way of thinking, judging from Miss Del Rey's increasingly successful career. The new Blue Velvet ads are merely mesmerizing, and I STILL maintain that her debut album cuts like "Off to the Races" seem to me like the kind of music Kate Bush would be making, if she'd been born 30 years later and raised on hip-hop instead of Pink Floyd and Genesis -

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