Lana Del Rey
Feb. 9, 2012
Better than: Going to class, according to teenage fans.
"I only sing for you," Lana Del Rey said to the throng of screaming fans at Amoeba Music yesterday evening, during a free performance and record-signing promoting her debut album, Born to Die.
Turns out Lana Del Rey is not a hologram. Despite the urge to test that theory by thrusting a hand through her chest, it seemed from her normal appearance, solid vocal performance, and lucid presence that a lot that has been written about Del Rey up to this point has likely been speculation. That's not necessarily the fault of critics, since she grants few interviews and rarely performs. The shroud of mystery certainly left a vacuum to fill with both petty insults and legitimate concerns.
Earlier this week, my column explored the questions about her authenticity and skill as a performer. Yesterday, many of those issues were laid to rest. She didn't look plasticky, her outfit was unpretentious (Converse and a simple white dress), she was neither awkward nor stiff, her interactions with the audience were comfortable and gracious, and the girl can really sing. On key. With a vocal range that can manifest the opposing timbres of Marilyn Monroe and Barry White all in a single line. Despite my not wanting to admit it, and perhaps conditioned by low expectations, she was, in truth, thoroughly impressive.
Del Rey began with "Born to Die." Fulfilling every stereotype Haight Street should avoid, the line "Let's go get high" elicited one of the biggest cheers of the night. She followed with "Blue Jeans," "Million Dollar Man," "Video Games," and "China Doll."
"It felt like a nice trip back in time to when lyrics really meant something and weren't just about sex and drugs," said Lana Del Rey fan Kyle Bitner, 16, who was wearing a white button-down to match the album cover. "I didn't have the matching pink bra," he said.
If you ignore Del Rey's lyrics, which it seems her young fans are doing, she appears wholesome and shockingly, almost annoyingly, nice. During the signing, she spent so much time with each fan that two hours in, the line had barely moved. A lucky few even got a kiss. On the lips. Somewhat disturbing, but also sweet, in a defiant "People don't still get MONO, do they?" kind of way.
Not so cute for those at the end of the line. "If she doesn't sign my shit I'm going to dislike her on Facebook," declared Simon Huang, 21, the penultimate fan. Though last in a line of hundreds, Lindsay George, 20, was a little more forgiving: "I was at the front of the line but I went to McDonald's. The line hasn't moved in an hour, but it'll be worth it when I get up there."
The highlight of the evening was the sheer lunacy of the hysterical crying teenagers. "I just met Lana Del Rey seven seconds ago," sobbed superfan Sanna Nour, 15, who told the singer she was going to change her name to "Sanna Del Rey." "It was the most amazing experience of my entire life."
"I told my mom I was going to school, but then I was like 'Fuck that! I'm going to see Lana Del Rey,' " said 17-year-old Aniy Garcia, who arrived at 9 a.m., nine hours before the performance. She came dressed as Del Rey, with an American flag shirt and wreath of flowers on her head. "Nothing tops this," she said, wiping away her tears.
Hail, curse, defend, offend, rinse, and repeat. She's been through so many wash cycles you'd think she'd shrink and turn pilly. But Del Rey was polished, manicured, and on-pitch. So what did we learn?
First of all, if you wait in line at one of her signings, she might make out with you. Secondly, in an age when Eminem's baby mama drama is a thing of the distant past, Rihanna's black eye has healed, and the question of Bieber's virility has been laid to rest, music critics seem to be getting a tad desperate for ire-provoking topics. [You sure? -- Ed.] With her iffy background and perfect looks, Lana Del Rey might have just been an easy target. Until she goes on a true tour and crushes the rumors, critics may continue to stubbornly attack her music, looks, and ability. In the meantime, consider at least one mind changed.