Lana Del Rey cannot sing

SIMON SWEETMAN
Last updated 10:31 24/06/2014

At the very end of 2011 I wrote about how Gotye had released the song of the year (sorry for the reminder, I know that was a song that, in most cases, you just used to know...) and I was told by several people to get with the program. The real song of the year that year was by someone called Lana Del Rey. I did some listening to her song (Video Games) and to a couple of others. I know as well as you that music is subjective - the number of people referring to Video Games as some breath of fresh air meant I had to check it out, this Lana Del Rey was obviously great.

I kinda like being outraged (you might have noticed). But I couldn't believe that Lana Del Rey was going to be 2012's star, the song was awful, she was a fake, a fraud, a grotesque - and though reading that back it still makes sense to me I was taken to task for focussing on her style makeover and name-change. I was reminded that many of the musicians I love have changed their names. Heck, even ole Keef added an 's' to his surname so as not to be confused with Cliff Richard (true story). But Bob Dylan wasn't born Bob Dylan, Elton John made that name up for the stage, there are obviously hundreds of examples.

My problem with Lana Del Rey wasn't that she had changed her name, it was that she was so clearly being invented/reinvented as a gin-and-juice swilling producer's puppet when her earnest attempts as Lizzy Grant (a sort of boring but never-quite-twee poppy folk/ish singer) had been so completely uninteresting. All that stood between her and fame was a new hairdo, stoned-over mugging and those car-tyre lips for a car-crash act. Lana Del Rey as Ultraviolence

Well of course Lana Del Rey did become one of the big stars of 2012 and then though things were quieter (mercifully) last year she has returned with her second full-lengther, Ultraviolence.

I always like to give things a chance - even if you'll never believe me. And I possibly even wanted to like a second album from Lana Del Rey, perhaps I really had been one of the only people in the world to not be sold on the apparent charms of Video Games and the other hit songs from the first album.

Ultraviolence hangs together as more of a complete-sounding album, well, the songs all match is more what I mean. But there are no big pop hooks this time around, everything just sounds daydreamy-bored, everything sounds like it's a big white wash of swirled together pastel sounds, her voice a thin smear like caked-on make-up being wiped off at the end of the night with the back of a wrist.

This time around she's got one of the Black Keys in on production and she's still singing about the trappings of fame and boredom but my issue, still, is that to my ears she cannot sing. They cover it up as best they can with songs that aim to be moods rather than tunes, with the production gauze doing the work.

I see just last week that Lana Del Rey has rocketed to the top of the NZ Charts. So what, big deal, you might be saying.

She's a pop star and I understand that for fans it is as much about her look and the marketing and being part of the scene but in some reviews I've even seen a defence of her voice. That is what I don't understand.

We're all allowed to like what we like, obviously. But Lana Del Rey cannot sing.

I hope it's all been a case of performance art - some strange folly, some slightly obscure reference lost on most of her core audience. I reckon Lana Del Rey is channelling Alicia Hall, Jerry Hall's character from Tim Burton's first Batman film. She's imagining Hall as torch-singer, the ultimate cracked chanteuse. Lana Del Rey as Alicia Hall

I'd almost love that to be true. But I tell you she still can't sing.

Here's my review of Lana Del Rey's new album.

What are your thoughts? Were you a fan of the first and not the second? Do you like the new album more than her debut? Or could you never see the appeal at all? Clearly a bunch of us seem to like her for whatever reason.

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