Best of 2012: Ultimate Showdown – Grimes Vs Lana Del Rey

SSG Music / December 27, 2012
Let’s get ready to ruuumbllllleee

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.

Nikki Benson

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

Justin Spicer

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.

6 thoughts on “Best of 2012: Ultimate Showdown – Grimes Vs Lana Del Rey

  1. LDR couldn’t hold a candle to Grimes’ Intellect.
    Grimes thinks LDR and her music is great.
    Both will be around for a long time to come.

  2. Ignorance of Lana’s history is no excuse. Oh if it were so easy to buy your way to where she is. Record companies have been trying forever and occasionally they are successful but Lana is the real deal. Real in her talent and expression. The song Cola on Paradise is amazing and Lana delivers the opening line with conviction followed by a brilliant song. Shock value is only perceived by those shallow enough to listen with a closed mind.Lana isn’t going anywhere, she’ll be around for a while, much to the dismay of those who feel slighted by something they thought they were promised.

  3. The amazingly idiotic canard being perpetuated against Lana is that her father bought her career, do you even stop to think what a completely ridiculous assertion that is? How can you buy a music career? If Paris Hilton’s father could not do it with his billions, how do you think Lana’s father pulled it off with his paltry millions? Do you think her father bought all the tickets to her sold-out shows, he bought the millions of albums to give her a hit, paid H&M and Jaguar millions to use his daughter as their spokesperson? And yet she had to struggle for 8 years playing in dinky New York clubs before anyone even heard of her.

    Despite all the hate and vitriol by people like Nikki Benson (it is interesting that most of her most vicious critics are women, hmmm… jealousy maybe??), Lana has a record that has sold over 3.3 million copies (not including sales of the stand-alone Paradise EP), has over 300 million YouTube views, has over 120 unreleased (but openly available tracks), record deals with Interscope and Polydor, both of whom have credited a portion of their stellar fiscal performance this year to her record sales, endorsement deals by Mulberry, H&M and Jaguar that are paying her millions not just for looks, but according to the people spending the money, for her music. She has by now (since February) given nearly 30 live performances that have received positive reviews. You can try to continue trashing Lana through falsehoods and innuendo, but she is not going anywhere!!!

    1. If most of LDR’s critics are women, it’s because her lyrics often seen as anti-feminist. It’s so easy for men to bring up the jealousy card. If two women hate each other they hope it’s cattiness, if they love each other, they hope they’re lesbians! So simplistic and frankly, male.

      Having said that, I am a straight woman and am one of LDR’s biggest fans. Much as her lyrics irritate me, I can see an amazing talent shine through them.

  4. i dunno shit about lana del rey, but it seems like the second writer has never even listened to grimes. seriously what a pathetic and shallow critique. there’s is plenty to criticize about hipsters, but you just sound like a whiny, self-righteous high school kid. none of grimes’s appeal comes from irony. and as to the her recycling ideas from 80s pop – all music takes ideas from like 20-30 years back and reinvents them; that’s just the fucking cycle. most of what’s being made now that references the 80s is doing so much more than just vomit trite hooks with echoey drums, grimes especially. visions was emotionally deep and sonically rich, and it incorporated aesthetics into her sound that no other relatively well-known artists have been exploring. it’s a very important album for this era in music.

    justin spicer – either you just came up with some bullshit to write in an attempt to balance this “showdown” or you really shouldn’t have a job in music criticism.

  5. You can’t buy a musical career – what a ridiculous assumption! The most you can do is help a talent get noticed. The first time I heard LDR, I was captivated and I had absolutely no idea of her background. And there are millions like me.

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