January has not been kind to Lana Del Rey. Post-SNL and in the lead-up to the release of her debut album, Born To Die, Del Rey could be heard prattling through the halls of the Internet, mumbling her last rites. Article after article, tweet after tweet, the witch hunt grew.
The principle gripe with Del Rey, of course, is that she is inauthentic. She can sing, sure, but in the case of Del Rey Vs. The Internet it is about much more than her voice. It's about the floppy felt hats, the mod dresses, that ubiquitous pout, and the fact that—with the right iPhone app—probably anyone could have shot the "Video Games" music video. We know these things. It's not the intense, seemingly inexplicable hatred towards Del Rey that's surprising; it's that we're surprised by her at all.
No music fan wants to think their taste can be so easily manipulated by a carefully designed persona. Back in 2002, when Avril Lavigne came out shrieking about Sk8r Bois and announcing that she was Anything But Ordinary, the Hot Topic mall-goth girls she was designed to entertain only darkened the Anarchy symbols on their jeans and shook their studded leather bracelets in protest. (We can now look for enraged indie dolls biting Lana Del Rey's style and claiming it was the other way around.) I specifically remember Jessica Damenson, the Regina George of my school, rolling her eyes with disgust as she informed us, her willing minions, that Avril Lavigne used to sing country. Everyone's "edgy" boyfriend thought she was cute (show me one twee Brooklynite who doesn't have a boner for LDR's Bardot pout today).
But because Lavigne was expertly packaged as the anti-Spears and -Simpson, the mainstream teens wouldn't take her either. Critics questioned the "issue of her punk-rock cred, or lack thereof" and refused to take her seriously. She was force-fed to a group that threw her right back up.
And so Avril was shunned. Until she wasn't.
Somewhere along the way, Avril became the ironic sing-along song in your friend's older sister's car. Sorority girls were jogging to "I'm With You" at the gym. And we should have seen it coming. In 2002, Rolling Stone's Pat Blashill wrote of Avril,
Truth be told, Lavigne has a great voice, a good shtick and a qualified staff of hitmakers. We should all just learn to get along with her, because she's gonna be with us for a little while.
Sound familiar? Avril's voice granted her own manufactured "shtick" a pardon, and those once-disgusted teenaged girls probably now have her stowed away on an ironic playlist.
Today, for example, I realized that I still remember every word to "Anything But Ordinary." So I'm wondering if, like Avril, we can learn to get along with Lana. She certainly isn't going anywhere. She won't be taken seriously any time soon either, but she's received far too much attention (from us, from you, and yes, from Brian Williams) to slink quietly off into the night. Lana Del Rey's got a voice that is fine and lyrics that are catchy, and there's no denying her staff of makers, so whether or not you want to get along with her is really up to you. Either way, this one, too, is gonna be with us for a while.
[Images via Getty, Flickr/TonyFelgueiras]