Olivia Fialkow - Born N Died
♫ Listen to the track on SoundCloud
I first heard of Lana Del Rey by the same means most people probably discovered the artist; Last August, the 25 year-old singer/songwriter self-released a homemade music video for her song, 'Video Games,' on YouTube, a 4:50 minute-long track that was quickly picked up by the internet community and championed by music bloggers across the web. The birth of Del Rey's career on the internet bred intense curiosity about the seemingly mysterious artist, and spawned questions about the actual identity of the young singer. As is to be expected, it did not take long for the masses to uncover that Lana Del Rey (who appears in the video as an indie, somewhat contrived chanteuse, crooning amongst a video montage of old Hollywood clips) is not an artist whose internet fame is the result of luck, talent and some well-timed Hype Machine buzz, but rather is the result of a major record label's re-appropriation of a formerly failed popstar. The singer, who calls herself the "Gangster Nancy Sinatra," was quickly exposed as a farce.
Thus, the very public dissection and execution of Del Rey (née Lizzy Grant) commenced as the singer became a pinata for bloggers and critics, the butt of thousands of jokes and parodies. The main issue that the internet took with singer was her supposed inauthenticity; she was nothing more than the product of a wealthy family who was able to pay their daughter's way to fame, an "artist" who lacked anything original, whose image was nothing more than a patchwork of poorly cited references. In an article for The New York Times, writer Jon Caramanica states: "It's already difficult to remember Lana Del Rey, but let’s try. She was a meme of 2011, a singer who emerged seemingly fully formed from the ether who was in short order revealed to be, get this, a singer who was not always fully formed. That moll with the dangerous tastes in men and pastimes and the puffed-out lips and hair? That songwriter who used words like “velvet” and “exotic” in the tiki-lounge way of overemphasizing noir culture? Yep, it was a pose, cut from existing, densely patterned cloth. Just like all the other poses. And all the other cloths." (January 29, 2012)
This project is an exploration of of the ways in which Del Rey is "a pose, cut from existing, densely patterned cloth. Just like all the other poses. And all the other cloths," an act that is nothing more than collage of elements and influences designed to convince listeners that the singer is indeed an indie, self-made star. I chose to create a sound collage of every track on Lana Del Rey's newly released album, Born to Die, in order to present a different way of listening to the artist, and to examine the sonic elements that are so consistant throughout the album. Del Rey has been criticized for being inauthentic and unoriginal, nothing more than herself a cultural collage, and this projects seeks to explore the phenomenon of the singer's birth and death on the internet.
All fifteen of the songs featured on Born to Die abide by the same predictable formula; Del Rey's forced-sounding coos and warbles laid over a soaring, dramatic score. There is nothing terribly "gangster" about this compilation, and the Nancy Sinatra reference is a weak inspiration. When overlayed, mixed and collaged, the songs clearly took on a much different sound yet there is a particular rhythm that remains, further indication that every track follows the same blueprint. 'Video Games," the track that initially launched Del Rey's career, contained everything that an indie-pop track seemingly needed for success: dark, echoey vocals, a dramatic accompaniment, nostalgia-saturated lyrics. These motifs are repeated time and again on Born to Die, and it is these repeated aural motifs that give this sound collage a particular cadence.
Lana Del Rey was designed for success, namely internet success, based on elements that were supposed to appeal to the messes who hungered for the authenticity that the singer seemed to initially exude. It is these components of calculated verisimilitude, of formulaic songs and a constructed image, that first thrust the artist into the spotlight and then caused her subsequent exposure and execution on the internet once the true nature of her persona was revealed.
All source material comes from Lana Del Rey's 2012 release, Born to Die. All fifteen tracks appear in some form as a part of this mash-up.
This piece was created using Logic Pro 9 (audio track) and Adobe Photoshop CS5 (album art.)
You may read Jon Caramanica's article, 'Dissected Long Before Her Debut' (The New York Times, January 29, 2012) here.