“OK song, Botox girl!” “She’s pretty good, fake lips or not.” “A horrible person that’s a poor example for women everywhere.” “Apparently a lot of dorks have boners for her narcotised, surgery-mutated face.”
For all the acclaim for her debut single, ‘Video Games’/‘Blue Jeans’, it’s unlikely that anyone would want to trade places with Lana Del Rey, aka 24-year-old Lizzy Grant. The above comments are just a handful of the criticisms made about her on indie-leaning website Stereogum and are indicative of a wider, knuckle-dragging response to the videos for the single – both feature chopped YouTube footage of Hollywood old and new, blossoming flowers and vintage cartoons. Cast in sepia and looking like a teenager’s Tumblr on a loop, they’re pretty standard for DIY videos in this Hipstamatic age (Grant made them herself). They also contain clips of Grant singing into her webcam while looking sultry and sad, which is what provoked the above comments. If you look up any (easily found) old photos of her, taken to promote the shelved album she made with producer David Kahne in January 2010, there’s a clear difference in her lips to the way that she looks now.
When I met Grant recently to interview her for last week’s NME, I asked whether she’d had work done. She denied it, saying she uses a lot of effects in her videos. Considering those comments above, and thousands more elsewhere, the possibility that she’s had surgery apparently makes it fair game to use her face as a measure of the quality of her swooning, hip-hop-inflected ballads. Of course, image and pop are inextricable; it’s futile to argue otherwise – XL boss Richard Russell’s recent comments about Adele’s wholesome image being more worthy than Rihanna’s knicker-clad approach were silly – and there’s nothing wrong with a discussion about how the two relate. Equally, there’s nothing wrong with having a big fat crush on a pop star, or even having lustier feelings – but that doesn’t make it acceptable to perv in public. You may splutter, “BUT IT’S THE INTERNET! IT’S JUST FUNNY, MARY WHITEHOUSE!”, but I still reserve my right to be disappointed.
It doesn’t take a genius to deduce that the comments on sites such as Stereogum come from a perceived threat to authenticity, particularly on the part of bloggers rankled that she’s risen through their world, and vehemently wanting to point out that they’re not going to be duped by it – despite Grant never having made any claims to being indie, whatever that means these days.
The way commenters and bloggers have responded to Lana Del Rey goes beyond her appearance. As well as the revealing old photos, online there are countless old songs and Myspace accounts for Grant’s past projects, some promising, some ropey. By her own admission she’s been chasing success since the age of 17, with her nom de stage picked by managers. Despite her songs slowly surfacing through YouTube, she’s signed to Interscope and shares a UK publicity team with Beyoncé.
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The snarky responses make even less sense when you consider how many lauded musicians have dodgy pasts in bands, or as models or similar. It’s depressing that they try and disguise insecurities with misogynistic ideas about what a “real (female) artist” should look like – as if being attractive precludes you from making music of worth. Coming from the cosy confines of sites like Gorilla Vs Bear and Stereogum, it’s assumed that comments about “dick-sucking lips” are permissible when they come coated in irony and educated backgrounds.
Of course, loving her songs doesn’t mean you should wholeheartedly buy into her “Hollywood sadcore” image and shtick, but there’s a difference between a quizzical eyebrow and a sexist sneer. Perhaps this is naive, but I took her change of image as a fully committed bit of performance art, with Grant transforming herself into a sad-eyed starlet for the role, just as Marilyn Manson physically transformed himself – though of course, that’s still extreme. If Grant has had surgery to better her career, then that’s not cause to undermine her considerable talent, but indicative of something far sadder. But whatever you think of her songs, don’t let Lana Del Rey’s face get in the way of it. You’d be cutting off your nose to spite your own if you did.