Unreal Authenticity

February 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

Unless you’re Amish, you would have by now heard something about Lana Del Ray and the whole evil music industry conspiracy that has the Internet all frothed up with angry flannel-wearing-bike-riding-artists/musicians/bloggers condemning Del Ray as a con and a fake.

A manufactured pop star…
Shocking.

To give you the lowdown, Del Ray released first Video Games, and then Blue Jeans online last year followed by Born To Die.
Next thing you know she’s gone viral almost as fast as Kim Kardashian dumps husbands.
Her YouTube video for Video Games received 20 million hits (proof you’ve made it) and the trendy culturally-aware (dare I say?) hipsters of the world toasted her.

We do love an underdog, especially when they’re talented and untainted by the evil curse of capitalism.
Of course, the reaction when it was discovered that her real name is Lizzy Grant, a singer with talent but no luck, and that in the hands of a team of well paid experts, she had been restyled, and reborn as Lana Del Ray, was nothing short of spectacular.

Everything from her singing to her lip-to-face proportions have been attacked by bloggers and magazines alike, ironically the same literati who had espoused her music.

She went from “sultry and seductive” to being one of the “worst outings in Saturday Night Live history”.
It appears indie music fans are happy to like pre-packaged pop in an ironic way, but like theirs to be true to its underground roots.

Having listened to the album, I don’t really see what people are upset about. She is talented, with an amazing voice, and every right to enhance her natural pout.

Authenticity has become a bit of a buzzword in the past few years, generally implying that whatever product or person it’s attached to is an innovative, fresh, and unconventional answer to everything else around.
It’s an attribute that’s highly prized, both by the cool underground kids who scour the web for the next thing, and by executives for its appeal to the aforementioned demographic.

Of course, it’s a common thread through all creative industries. One that has become stronger as as both consumers and creators search for a way to distinguish themselves in a time where the world seems uncertain and more chaotic.
That said recession can be good for creative industry. People become disillusioned with the norm and start to look for less obvious ways of expressing themselves.

And of course, no one try’s harder to be ahead of the curve than those who desire to be original, whether in dress, idea, or iPod playlist. And there is something satisfying about being the person responsible for introducing your friends to the cool new song/bar/designer.

Which is of course where the question of authenticity has now come into play. As this mindset of innovation above all else becomes more popular, companies start changing their marketing and product development. Suddenly everything’s “vintage”, high street brands pump out designer collaborations left, right, and centre, and before you know it, you can buy archival Versace from Topshop and Sportsgirl has a secondhand section.

Perhaps it’s the gusto with which big business has taken up such ideas, and used them to do exactly what consumers were trying to get away from (owning the same t-shirt) in the first place.

That said, the ideal behind this whole “Authentic” movement is self expression. And we buy and become interested in certain things because it’s how we want to be portrayed. I bough the Pantone mug set because I wanted to be seen as a designer-type (and as color coordinated).

Which brings me back to Lana Del Ray. Surely if we can portray ourselves as we see fit, then Lizzie Grant has every right to be whatever she wants, whether it’s to sell us her music or not.

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