Two polarizing women at the tip of 2012’s musical vocabulary. Two schools of thought. Two tenured, passionate heads of SSG Music state facing off with their opinions. Pixie-songstress female artist archetypes participating in American Pop Music will never be the same. Who will survive the Thunderdome? You be the judge.
Why Lana Del Rey Sucks
I don’t have anything to say about Lana Del Rey that hasn’t already been said. She is a trust-fund socialite who’s passing herself off as an artist with a vision of classic, leggy grace and beauty. As much as I’m a fan the Marilyn Monroe type (and no, she wasn’t a singer either), my beef with Lana Del Rey is the “passing herself off” part. She has no business paying her way into an industry of working musicians, acting like any of her musical presence was birthed from an original thought. From her bought-and-paid-for looks to her bought-and-paid-for notoriety, nothing about Lana Del Rey rings true. I would just as soon banish her from all media then ever speak a word about her again. Good riddance, “Lizzy Grant.”
Why Grimes Rocks
The fact that Lana Del Rey and Grimes are in the same article is an insult to Grimes. Some might think the two artists have something in common because neither of them are strong singers, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
LDR is interested in using music to increase her social status. Grimes makes music and art for herself.
Grimes is a master producer. She’s smart, she pays attention, and has honed in on how to make music that excites her. Right now, that’s dance-electro-rave; who knows what her music will sound like in a year.
Grimes’ 2012 smash album Visions was a methodical production. Dance music that has drum beats on the ones and threes is intrinsically catchy and easy for listeners to follow. She knew that, and consistently used that method throughout Visions. The simplicity of her structures are often hidden by all the moving ornaments she has flowing through her songs. She’s referred to herself, not as a musician, but a curator of sounds.
Her vocal style plays to her strengths: angelic, whispery-smoothness and bedroom romanticism.
In a nutshell: Grimes and LDR would likely both sound horrible doing a Karaoke version of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” but if both artists were to attempt a cover, LDR would pay two million dollars to have corporate producers make her sound good, all while showing a little ass to distract the listener/viewer of the overall fakeness. Grimes would make an electro-pop rave cover that played to her strengths.
Grimes = legit. LDR = fake plastic trees
I find it preposterous that Lana Del Rey is enduring the brunt of indie pop backlash while Grimes finds herself topping list after list of Best Of’s as LDR becomes a tabloid afterthought.
I wonder if it has anything to do with LDR’s lyrical content versus Grime’s lack of content. Grimes is recycled, a product of an era of music that should be abandoned. Yet we stand at the end of 2012 neck deep in 80’s retro sickness; this idea that we missed out culturally during an era when narcissism and worship at the altar of ego was king. It was reflected in the music; temples of towering production tricks and empty melodies rife with stale synths and finger noodling on strings that might as well been public masturbation.
But LDR, who is singing without irony, about a modern lifestyle enjoyed by a new generation of selfish to-dos is being trashed because she’s putting reality in the face of everyone unwilling to face: they are but a cog in pop culture; in fact, they ARE pop culture. It’s not underground, it’s not hip and it’s barely do-it-yourself. Grimes hides that badge away in rosy nostalgia; beats and ideas that don’t expand or reinvent those vapid melodies of yore, rather embracing the bored patterns that brought with it a shift in dynamic–at least for a brief moment. It’s a Howard Jones vocal track away from Top 40.
The argument here is not about musical know-how as it yields a lowly draw. Neither Grimes nor LDR come with any original talent nor are either armed for longevity. The difference is this: Grimes is a safe nostalgia mirror while Del Rey is the harsh, overly lit mirror in the department store changing room. As nominal and unofficial as the title hipster has become (being applied to anything and everything seemingly outside the mainstream but above the mythical underground), its bigger act is its interchangeability with the equally overwrought use of indie.
Grimes is what indie people believe themselves to be: accepting of the past, greedily dissected for authenticity or irony. LDR’s vapidly laid out in her lyrics–“We are all born to die.” The ennui reflected in her anthems of young adulthood point to the entitled of a generation who can’t bear to face it. No one wants to be confronted with what is, so they choose to focus on what can be imagined. Grimes’ lazy synergy of 80s pop with modern proclivities is uninspired; the product of a woman–and a peer group–trapped by the idea that because something has happened, it is worth revisiting. As droves drink PBR, wear kitschy vintage clothing and reminisce about a youth that is still too close to be memorialized, they grimace at Lana Del Rey for doing it aloud. So as you wolf down that third flat beer and sneer at the dude wearing H&M, be aware that you are one in the same.
You can have your Grimes and all that it stands for: half-baked musical ideas stolen from the 70s and 80s out of nostalgia, and I’ll gladly embrace Lizzy Grant. Despite her many flaws, there’s genuine reflection being done. Nothing is ironic, it’s the life lived by so many cruelly splayed for all to hear. And when they do hear it as it is lived, it becomes embarrassing. Both Grimes and LDR play like The Comedy, but at least one of them is smart enough (despite appearances to the contrary) to know that speaking about experience rather than drawing from the vault of cloudy memory is the nobler call.