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In Defence of Lana Del Rey

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Lana Del Rey is one of the most divisive figures in pop music. As she approaches the release of her second album, Ultraviolence, two of our writers took sides. One in defence of Lana and the other against. Today, Sam writes in defence of Lana Del Rey.

I’m usually the first to sigh at the mention of Lana Del Rey. As a personality, I found her hard to gravitate towards. Everything, from the way she speaks, to her unbearingly literal lyrics and her supposed falsities, grated on me and I found myself moving away from the singer I once applauded for the beautiful, Video Games.

It’s not until I read her brilliant feature with The Fader last week, that I started to consider Lana Del Rey again. And understand her.

The Fader quipped “With Lana Del Rey, everybody’s a critic, and any interpretation is possible,” which is the very reason we found ourselves writing a feature for and against Lana Del Rey.

She’s a hard personality to pin down, which I think is the root of all her criticisms. She’s had different monikers, dated record-label execs and has a presumably rich, entrepreneurial Dad. None of these things bode well for her as a flower-wearing indie-kid who’s now signed to a major record-label.

In 2012, when she began to creep up the pop charts with Video Games, people took great delight in revealing these things, thinking they’d caught her out. However, she’s been more than open about such things. The Fader interview proved that. She openly admits she had a seven year relationship with a record executive and has a song on her new album about it (Fucked My Way To The Top). In 2011 she even told Pitchfork, “People have offered me opportunities in exchange for sleeping with them. But it’s not 1952 anymore. Sleeping with the boss doesn’t get you anywhere at all these days.”

Everything Del Rey does seems to be taken as a PR stunt- the long videos, her hatred of Lady Gaga and her name-change. She’s an impossible personality to digest on the surface. She seems fake, an opinion I also held. But if you invest the time in reading her backstory, some of her visual and audible contributions over the past few years make sense.

Herein lies the issue of Lana Del Rey. She was a self-made indie artist who suspiciously signed with two major labels very soon after the release of Video Games. I can admit, that is suspicious, however, the only issue with it would be if Del Rey appeared to be the product of label manufacturing. After reading her interviews, watching her videos, and listening to her sometimes grating lyrics, I can’t see how anyone else is behind Lana other than Lana. As her friend Jamie King says, “The only person who created Lana Del Rey is her.”

She’s not the first artist to change her name and persona for a crack at the industry. Katy Perry was once known as Christian singer, Katy Hudson, yet she’s not accused of inauthenticity half as much as Del Rey is. Bowie, Lady Gaga and Madonna have all also adopted stage personas over their own. Perhaps it’s her ambition that creates criticism. In just over three years she’s released a controversial album, played Jackie Kennedy in a video with a black president and starred in a self-directed short film, Tropico. The latter was reviewed by Speedy Orbitz member Sadie Dupuis, who said “a footnote of a PR stunt from a singer whose cinema chops are as wispy as her faux-retirement.”

All this seems to be a product of Del Rey’s apparent unsurety with who she actually is. Even without mentioning Lizzy Grant, Lana has been a myriad of characters. But I’m not sure they’re really characters. It seems she’s actually lived the life of many of them. Despite the fact she grew up with an entrepreneurial Dad, Del Rey spent time in a New-Jersey trailer-park.

She revealed to Nylon Magazine she feels connected to the biker culture, ““It’s about living for the day, which was my mindset for a long time”, she said. This identity is explored in the video for Ride. And yet she was critiqued for portraying a “prostitute” in a “stupefying video”.

Lana’s not a feminist, she details in The Fader interview. Yet she remarks, ““My idea of a true feminist is a woman who feels free enough to do whatever she wants.” To me, that notion is portrayed eloquently in the Ride video.

Del Rey is an intriguing character because she’s so unsure herself of who she is. She tells Fader, “I’m trying to do what feels right. I tried a lot of different ways of life, you know, things I never really talk about, just because they are kind of different. I didn’t really have one fixed way that I could envision myself living.”

The most appealing trait I’ve noticed in Del Rey over the past few years is the impeccable grace she’s maintained during the storm of vicious criticism. After her Saturday Night Live appearance, Gawker called it the “worst outing in SNL history”. Two weeks later, she performed a stunning rendition of Video Games on David Letterman. As they say, don’t get angry, get even. This year she played Coachella with the LA Times calling it “a measure of redemption”.

Ultraviolence could’ve easily been an immaculately-produced pop record that panders to radio but instead she’s dropping one that willfully departs pop. It’s a gritty, rock-driven record with provocative titles that are bound to anger people that already find her unbearable (Money Power Glory, Fucked My Way To The Top). She’s either oblivious or she’s learnt to not give a shit. I’m going to side with the latter. After over five million sales of her debut album, she’s become unapologetic. And so she should be.

New York Times writer Jon Caramanica posted perhaps one of the most scathing reviews of Del Rey in 2012. He wrote, “Her cultural stamp has already been affixed, her biography written in concrete. The only real option is to wash off that face paint, muss up that hair and try again in a few years. There are so many more names out there for the choosing.”

His comments about the fleeting nature of her success seem devoid now given that she’s got a multi-million selling album, two platinum singles and over 100 million YouTube views. He did use a metaphor in that piece though, writing “one has to wear clothes for a long time before they fit well.” If that’s the case, Lana Del Rey has certainly grown into her assumed, fake persona. Everything we’ve heard off Ultraviolence so far sound bold and unphased by opinion.

Everybody’s become obsessed with authenticity like a soul-searching X Factor judge, when the industry always has and always will be about entertainment. And god damn, Del Rey is entertaining.

Love or or hate her she’s managed to penetrate the mainstream despite the barrage of criticism that suggested she’d never move past Video Games. She’s also done so without the help of David Guetta, Pharrell or Max Martin which is a feat many can’t claim.

Liz Phair said it best in her defence of Lana Del Rey when she wrote, “as a recording artist, I’ve been hated, I’ve been ridiculed, and conversely, hailed as the second coming. All that matters in the end is that I’ve been heard.”

Tomorrow Hannah will reply with a critique of Lana Del Rey. 

 

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Chet Faker – Talk is Cheap (Ta-ku Remix)

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New Zealand beatsmith Ta-Ku and Aussie crooner Chet Faker have both scaled the heights of the industry at around the same time. Ta-Ku has provided stellar remixes for artists like Flume, BANKS and Childish Gambino while Chet Faker has released a number one album, Built on Glass. It makes complete sense that they find themselves strewn together with Ta-Ku remixing Chet’s single Talk Is Cheap. Needless to say, it’s great.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/takugotbeats/chet-faker-talk-is-cheap-ta-ku-remix[/soundcloud]

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Bag Raiders – Nairobi

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It’s all tropical sounds and tribal drums in Bag Raiders’ first release in the follow-up to their 2010 self-titled album. Get ready to swing those hips and shake dat booty amongst a flurry of congas and marimbas in Nairobi.

Listen here.

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Throwaway Thursday

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We’ve closed down, the liquidators have been called in and we’ve been given ’til midnight before they burn the place down for insurance. It’s the last ever sale. Every song must go! Everything is free, this price is not to be repeated. So come on down to Throwaway Thursday with your empty pockets. Anna Lunoe, Thomston, Avec Sans – there’s something for everyone. Bring the kids, bring the semi-trailer and get in before everything goes!

Listen: HAERTS – Hemiplegia (Avec Sans Remix)

London duo Avec Sans have done it again; injecting their signature cheerful disco-pop and splashes of synths into HAERTS’ melancholic track ‘Hemiplegia’. They’ve extracted some of the rock, cut-and-pasted the vocals and thrown in glittery effects which all make for a sure dancefloor-starter. The track can be downloaded from their page, as well as the entire Avec Sans collection, for the small price of a Facebook like.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/avecsans/haerts-hemiplegia-avec-sans-remix#t=2:43[/soundcloud]

 

Click to access Avec Sans’ Facebook page 

Listen: Thomston – Salt

18-year-old Thomston featured on both our ‘5 Artists You Need To Hear Right Now‘ and ‘10 Songs You Need To Hear This Week’ so obviously we’re a bit obsessed. He had us in deep with ‘Anaesthetic’ and now he’s returned, bringing back his wise-beyond-its-years voice and grungy backing track, with ‘Salt’. This latest (free) offering was only uploaded 4 hours ago so best get to this one quick before everyone else.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/thomston/salt[/soundcloud]

Listen: Bombay Bicycle Club – Home By Now (Louis The Child Remix)

One of the more languid tracks from Bombay Bicycle Club’s album, So Long, See You Tomorrow, has been given a techy, Nintendo-inspired rework by Louis The Child. It makes for a fun listen which manages to take you away to a faraway, pixelated land of mushrooms and rainbow roads. Want all that fun but are console-free? Do the next best thing and download this number from Louis The Child’s Soundcloud.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/doandroidsdance/bombay-bicycle-club-home-by-now-louis-the-child-remix[/soundcloud]

Listen: Anna Lunoe- Bass Drum Dealer

Australia’s new dancefloor queen is tearing it up overseas. She dropped this one in her Coachella set in April and caught the attention of many including Skrillex. Skrill (is that what kids call him these days?) mixed and mastered this one. The result? “House-inspired jungle rhythms” that are completely free to download. That’s our girl.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/nesthq/anna-lunoe-bdd-nest031?in=nesthq/sets/anna-lunoe-bass-drum-dealer-nest031[/soundcloud]

Listen: Popcaan- Where We Come From

‘Where We Came From’ is the debut album from Jamaican reggae-man Popcaan. As expected, the album is one to get down and dirty to with plenty of dutty dancing to be had. As the soundcloud notes, musicologist Wayne Marshall says the album “gives voice, as the best reggae does, to the contradictions of life in a society rife with inequities and yet so rich.” So, if you’re lookin’ for a voice or even just a bit of a butt wriggle, press play.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/mixpak/sets/popcaan-where-we-come-from[/soundcloud]

Watch: The Police vs. Grime Music

This documentary hosted by grime rapper JME, reflects on the cancellation of a grime event by police in London and more broadly investigates the relationship between London police and grime artists. It’s an interesting exploration of London’s form 696 which mandates that promoters and licensees submit a risk assessment form 14 days in advance of an event in London detailing the style of music and target audience. Many have labelled the Form ‘racist’ and ‘discriminatory’.

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10 Surprising Acting Cameos by Musicians

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Which famous DJ starred in their self-produced porn store sci-fi Christmas movie musical? Who was the English singer that flirted with Dr Karl on Neighbours? Read below for our top 10 surprising acting cameos by musicians.

Usher

Before he was proclaiming his confessions for the second time, Usher Raymond was the resident radio host / DJ in everyone’s favourite ‘90s makeover teen rom com, ‘She’s All That’.

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The next best thing to Rachael Leigh Cook taking off her glasses to reveal that “omg, the nerd is totally, like, pretty?” is watching Usher himself choreographing the school to dance to Fatboy Slim’s Rockafeller Skank.

“Split like the red sea!” 

Andre 3000

One half of OutKast, André Benjamin, had dabblings in acting preceding his portrayal of Jimi Hendrix in 2013 biopic ‘All is by my Side’. He’s featured in various movies and TV shows, including ‘The Families’, ‘The Shield’, ‘Revolver’, ‘Semi-Pro’, ‘Four Brothers’ and as the voice of Elwyn the crow in ‘Charlotte’s Web’.

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André as Elwyn (can not confirm if left or right crow).

His more notable role in his acting career was as Dabu in ‘Be Cool’. For an entire 40 seconds of André’s infectious laughter, see below.

Kanye West

Not even the self-proclaimed King of Everything could save Mike Myers’ box office flop, ‘The Love Guru’.

Who knew he loved hockey so much?

Michael Jackson

MJ made a brief appearance in ‘Men in Black II’, surprisingly not as an alien but instead as someone desperate for a position at the Men in Black Headquarters. I wonder if he’ll make a comeback hologram appearance in ‘Men in Black V’?

The highlight of this video is the fangirl’s written commentary.

Moby

It seems that Moby has a fondness for erotic-themed movies, starring in ‘Suck’, ‘Joes’ Apartment’ and as the character ‘Dildo Head’ in his self-produced porn store sci-fi Christmas movie musical, ‘Moby Presents: Alien Sex Party’. Surprisingly, the latter’s IMDb rating is a measly 4.2/10, with reports of Moby distancing himself from the production and even requesting to be edited out completely.

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I’m going to leave it up to you to figure out which one is ‘Dildo Head’.

Also worth a mention is ‘The Limo’ episode of How I Met Your Mother, where the gang mistake someone on the street to be Moby, pick him up in the Limo and head to his party. Upon ‘Moby’ ranting crazily and eventually threatening them with a gun, they realise he is in fact not Moby and hilarity ensues.

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Alicia Keys

Before she was setting the world on fire, Alicia Keys had acting cameos in ‘The Cosby Show’, ‘The Secret Life of Bees’, ‘Smokin’ Aces’ and as Scarlett Johansson’s sassy friend, Lynette, in ‘The Nanny Diaries’.

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Backstreet Boys

One of the best TV cameos to date is the Backstreet Boys starring as a boy band-come-furry mammals(?) in ‘Arthur’. The episode, ‘It’s only Rock n Roll’, focuses on the boys’ pending visit to Elwood City and Muffy’s major, totally-relatable crush on Nick Carter.

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Backstreet Boys did it wayyy before Chance the Rapper.

Full episode can be found here. Watch it. Your 12-year-old self with thank you for it.

Lily Allen

Starring as herself, and additionally flirting with Ramsay St resident ‘DILF’ Dr Karl, in ‘Neighbours’.  

King Avriel

Before she was a gender boundaries-pushing electro queen, 23-year-old King Avriel  starred alongside Football Head Arnold as Timberly in the childhood classic ‘Hey Arnold!’.

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The resemblance is uncanny.

Watch ‘Timberly Loves Arnold’ for a full 10 minute blast from the past 

Radiohead

Playing themselves in one of the most iconic South Park episodes of all time, ‘Scott Tenorman Must Die’, Radiohead scold Tenorman for being a ‘crybaby’ while he sobs into a bowl of chilli containing his parents’ innards. After Thom Yorke‘s dance moves in ‘Lotus Flower’, you could almost call him a triple threat.

Poor Kid A.  

Can you remember any great TV or movie cameos by a musician? Let me know below or feel free to tweet me: @bianca_interns 

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What the fuck is PC Music?

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Last week, we took on A G Cook’s latest track Beautiful in First Impressions. While Hannah compared it to Snozberries, Lizzie likened it to the Rugrats, noting that she wasn’t “sold on the whole Hello Kitty sound”. The cultural references were becoming a little overwhelming so I decided to pose myself the question, ‘What the F**K is PC Music?’

Nintendo. Dance Dance Revolution. Korea. Siri. These are all things that come to mind when you hear the music coming out of new label PC Music. Spend a moment with PC Music’s soundcloud and you’ll be both intrigued and disgraced. The music coming out of the label sounds completely inhuman but at the same time acutely reminiscent of a generation built on smartphones that talk, nostalgia and EDM.

PC Music is run by London producer A G Cook who also releases music through the label. In an interview with Tank Magazine, Cook said, “The label’s called PC Music, which alludes to how the computer is a really crucial tool, not just for making electronic music but for making amateur music that is also potentially very slick”.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/pcmus/beautiful[/soundcloud]

It’s an apt way of describing it. Nowadays very little difference can be heard between bedroom and studio producers. The meteoric success of Flume from a very early point in his career is testament to this. The music coming out of PC Music is so slick, it’s being compared to candy in abundance. In a way, it’s bubblegum music. So smoothed out and computer-driven that it’s lost all imperfection. Where rock n’ roll was born on impurities, PC Music’s difference comes in its ability to sound criminally crisp.

Cook was born in 1990 and notes that he grew up using a computer at quite an advanced level. The music has both the clunkiness of Windows 98 and the effortless sheen of an Apple Mac.

A demonstration of modern technology, all the press shots for PC Music’s artists are just as devoid of humanity as the music. An artist like Hannah Diamond (below), for example, looks as if she has nothing behind the eyes. The picture’s personality is simply delivered through bright, childlike colours and its likeness to childhood cartoon characters.

Apart from creator A G Cook, one of the most notable artists on the label is the aforementioned Hannah Diamond. Her songs redefine the meaning of minimal. They’re like deconstructed Top 40 tracks that have been redone out of mockery. Her voice is like a slightly more natural Siri. In normal circumstances, these things would be criticisms. But they’re not. It seems Diamond sits so far to the left on the kitsch spectrum, that there’s a stroke of genius in how otherworldly it sounds.

Her track Attachment has her singing “Together, forever” like a children’s doll. Creepy, yes. Infectious, yes. There’s a deep sense of ‘90s nostalgia that makes it oddly irresistible. Top 40 Pop music is a guilty pleasure but it’s fairly simple to explain why. Attachment is also a guilty pleasure, however, it’s close to impossible to describe why. On Soundcloud one user comments, “Why do I like this” while another says “this is wackkkkk”. She’s also compared to “an illiterate preschooler”.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/pcmus/attachment[/soundcloud]

FACTmag described it best when they wrote she’s “like the girls at your school who practised Spice Girls dance routines in the playground and smoked fags on school trips, but while her brittle, Estuary tones make her sound like a Smash Hits star from the late ’90s, her songs couldn’t be more 21st century”.

A G Cook told Tank Magazine, “My work’s constant use of instantly gratifying elements such as kitsch imagery, catchy hooks, synthetic colours and fun sound effects feels inevitable, it’s almost a compulsion rather than a choice.” The idea of compulsion rather than choice is one that defines most of the labels sound. Much of the music sounds like it’s giving into seven deadly sins. It’s particularly a result of gluttony in the way that it over-indulges in pop’s melodic demons and lustful in the way that it centres mostly round the theme of 21st century love.

Consumerism is a notion that PC Music introduces a number of times. On Lipgloss Twins’ Wannabe, a computerised voice repeats “Topman, topshop”, “fake Prada, fake Louis, fake Zara” and then “I don’t wanna be a twin”. It’s the first time PC Music has eluded to a criticism of 21st Century culture. Cook said “Challenging something’s commercial nature is a commercial tactic in itself, and authenticity is a tricky currency that is often swayed by branding and advertising.”

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/pcmus/wannabe[/soundcloud]

It’s entirely possible that the musicians on PC Music aren’t purposely critiquing our culture. There’s an enigmatic nature to the label that makes it easy to overanalyse without having a specific voice to speak for the music. In an industry where everyone’s trying to keep it ‘real’, it’s ironically refreshing to have a label embracing some of the critiques of this generation.

While I’ve tried to answer the question of ‘what is PC Music?’, I fear i’ve only further confused myself. Such is the intrigue of the label. The best way to discover it, is to listen to it. On first attempt, you’ll most likely hate but like a sugar-addiction it will grow on you. Before you know it, you’ll be asking “Please sir, can I have some more?”

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/pcmus/sets/top-40[/soundcloud]

 

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Mapei follows-up ‘Don’t Wait’ with ‘Change’

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If you’ve ever been to Ikea, eaten meatballs or heard Robyn you’d be pretty up with the fact that everything Sweden produces touches to gold. The latest export from the country is Mapei who released one of last year’s best pop tracks, Don’t Wait. The track has gone onto feature Chance The Rapper and be remixed by Giraffage, Benny Blanco and Kingdom. Such was the breadth of its success. Now enter, Change, the latest single from her forthcoming album, Hey Hey. Pumped along by militant drums (a la Destiny’s Child, Lose My Breath) the song blossoms into a euphoric chorus. “Don’t you worry about a thing my sister, we’re all waiting for a change” she sings, clearly playing Michael Jackson in Heal The World. 

Hey Hey is due on 23 September.

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Kimbra previews ‘The Golden Echo’ with ‘Nobody But You’ and ‘Love in High Places’

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Following the experimental, ‘90s Music, Kimbra has released two more tracks off The Golden Echo, Love In High Places and Nobody But You. Both are sultry soul numbers that don’t have less of the oddities of ‘90s Music and more of the sound that we heard on Vows. Love in High Places has a distinct Dirty Projectors vibe to it while Nobody But You is throwback RnB, with Kimbra swimming fleetingly through her vocal range. We’ll get to hear The Golden Echo in the middle of August as was revealed in her Twitter Q&A.

Nobody But You:

Love In High Places:

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Stream Shamir’s Debut EP

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Las-Vegas artist Shamir impressed with his first two singles, If It Wasn’t True and I Know It’s A Good Thing and now he’s set to groove you right down to the ground with his debut EP. The Northtown EP features five cuts that incorporate everything from deep-house to disco and motown soul. His voice has an androgynous quality that is both intriguing and captivating. His acoustic cover of Lindi Ortega’s Lived and Died Alone is the best proof of this. Heighty vocals and a stellar falsetto carry the EP home with class.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/godmodeinternet/sets/shamir-northtown-godmode[/soundcloud]

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New London artist, BARLI reveals her debut track ‘Pebbles’

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There’s so little you can do on a rainy Winters day that doesn’t include weeping/eating Oreos. Luckily, there’s another activity to add to that list- listen to the new track by London-artist BARLI. At this point BARLI is rather anonymous. A search for her debut song Pebbles reveals little else than Bali inspired-pebbles. And unless you’re thinking of paving your pool, that is of little need to anybody. The Tom Epoch-produced track, Pebbles, on the other hand is of a lot of use. It’s dark and minimal, moved along simply by an affecting 808. Her voice doesn’t strain throughout rather preferring to remain in a spectrum covered by the likes of Jessie Ware and BANKS. An EP is reportedly on the way.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/i-d-online-1/premiere-barli-pebbles[/soundcloud]

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