How far can One performer get on the power of family money and guerrilla marketing???
When 25-year-old NYC-native Elizabeth Woolridge Grant—or Lana Del Reyas she is more commonly known— atonally sleep-walked through her songs “Video Games” and “Blue Jeans” in a January Saturday Night Live performance, the dependably catty social media response was one of slackjawed incomprehension, this time not entirely without reason. What we seemed to hear in those seven minutes of punishment was a commodity that should not have been within 100 yards of a stage, and probably not that much closer to a recording studio. How she got to be a presence on one and in the other might tell us something about where the music industry is now, and where it might be headed.
Del Rey, as it turned out, is the daughter of web domain investor and multi-millionaire Rob Grant, who took a particular interest in his daughter’s musical career…in the sense that he bankrolled the entirety of its early stages. Rob’s lucre might have also been responsible for the radical physical transformation she underwent from 2010 sad-core alterna-child to today’s collagen-enhanced if still slightly down-tempo sex pot. During that time, her guerilla marketing camp generated a small universe of apocrypha, including the hysterical notion that she once lived in a trailer park and was functionally penniless, and as a consequence uniquely understanding of her troubled teen fan base. This re-branding has continued uninterrupted, including the artist purchasing the rights to her 2010 debut album Lana Del Ray A.K.A. Lizzy Grant from 5 Points records so that it can be “re-engineered” for a re-launch this summer.
Rey is not without her charm in the studio, and her subsequent album Born to Die isn’t bad, but just as in the post-Citizens United political world in which one rich businessperson can come damn close to (if not actually) buying the Presidency, it’s slightly off-putting to have such an artificially concocted musical presence thrust to the stage with so little attention paid to the caliber of what is being offered. Worse still is the real possibility that the entirety of her bad performances, amateurish marketing, and sex-kitten remake was all done with the knowledge of exactly how bad it was…that the folks at the tiller knew that negative publicity would produce as much sales as positive, and by implication that we were just too dumb to know the difference between talent and titillation.
It’s a brave new world.