Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Lana Del Rey, video artist extraordinaire

The most fascinating new performer to arrive on the music scene, Lana Del Rey has already left her mark as a unique and talented artist with a rare self-awareness of musical history and pop culture nostalgia.

Lana Del Rey made her 2008 debut in the world of independent music under the name “Lizzy Grant” before signing a deal with Stranger Records to release the single “Video Games”.
She then went to sign a joint deal with Polydor and Interscope records in October of 2011.
The singer songwriter whose statuesque form and retro sense of style and makeup, evokes such 1960s pop culture icons as Jackie Kennedy, Sharon Tate, and most of all Nancy SinatraLana Del Rey, with her seductive pout and trance-like vocals is always in character because this is who she is, or at least appears to be. She could be a guest performer on“Mad Men”, simply play herself, and be at perfect ease in the world of  Madison Avenue circa 1965.
2012 began with a double shot of Lana Del Rey that catapulted her into the mainstream of pop culture with the release of her album “Born to Die” and her supposedly controversial performance on SNL on January 24th. Apparently Del Rey’s unique artistry and hypnotic delivery was not appreciated by the show’s network. Perhaps the SNL team has lost a bit its edge and no longer recognizes a unique talent, even when they book it. The following week the singer was spoofed in a humorous parody by Kristen Wiig.
Most great albums get mixed reviews when they first debut, and “Born to Die” was no exception. And great it is. Lana Del Ray’s album “Born to Die” a groundbreaking masterpiece of baroque popmixed with melancholy retro lounge that contains eclectic shades of such diverse artistic influences as The Mamas and the Papas, Enya, the aforementioned Nancy Sinatra, and even modern pop artists such as Dido and Brittany Spears.

Where Lana Del Rey really stands out is in the role of a storyteller. The mood and lyrics of her songs convey the angst and nostalgia of the a lost past. But it is in the format of the music videowhere the brooding singer gets to show her artistic chops.
The music videos of Del Rey are not your typical glossy performance promotion pieces that most pop artists are cranking out today. Her music videos are not really music videos at all. They are experimental short films that harken back to the days of director Mary Lambert’s early Madonna videos in the 80s, Steve Barron’s “Take Me On” A-ha video, or Garbage’s “Push It” video in 1998.

“Video Games” is a technical masterwork directed by the singer herself. It mixes video formats and archival filmstocks to create mood and texture. Film buffs and cinematographers who have worked with Super 8 and 16mm film can appreciate the sense of cinematic awareness Del Rey has infused into this technical wonder.
“Blue Jeans” is pure singer songwriter backyard romantic Americana at its most sullen and melodramatic (in a good way). Every frame is carefully composed with a careful eye on spacial relations. It’s the open canvas of the wide angle lens versus the emotionally (and economically) trapped characters reminiscent of Southern Pulp fiction from the 1950's and 60's.
Perhaps it is “National Anthem” that stands as Lana Del Rey’s video masterpiece to date. Directed by Anthony Mandler, the video is a riveting and provocative re-imagining of the early 1960s Kennedy Era Camelot period. “National Anthem” is shot and edited with the stylistic flair of Oliver Stone’s “JFK” (1991) film. Lana Del Rey is cast as both Jackie Kennedy and Marylin Monroe in the video and A$AP Rocky as John F. Kennedy.
The hypnotic stare, the Rat Pack meets Mad Men sense of style, and the cinematic sense of melodrama, Lana Del Rey is a fascinating new voice in the world of pop culture.
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