And Finally Artist News Beef Of The Week

CMU Beef Of The Week #211: Lana Del Rey v The Guardian

By | Published on Friday 20 June 2014

Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey is a divisive character. A lot of people have strong opinions about her, and often those opinions don’t stem from the actual music she makes. Which makes it easy to see why she can be a little bit sensitive to criticism, or what she might see as misrepresentation.

Last week I clicked on a link on Facebook to an interview with the singer. I’ll admit, the headline, “Lana Del Rey: ‘I wish I was dead already'” was what sealed the deal, but it was the comment from a friend above it calling her a “fucking idiot” that first drew me in. Though I didn’t come out of reading the actual piece thinking she was a “fucking idiot” at all, even if I can see why her comments about death might have caused some offence.

I’m generally something of a fence-sitter when it comes to Del Rey and her music, and so hadn’t been hugely interested in the swirl of hype and debate around her new album, ‘Ultraviolence’. But reading this Guardian interview genuinely made me interested in what she is doing with her music right now, and also left me impressed at her dedication to the character she has created for herself.

Despite the feeling that she was, to an extent, playing a role, her comments in the interview seemed to be a pretty honest discussion of the pressures of fame, and how the criticism that fame generates does not stem from what you do but who it’s imagined you are. She also talked, as she has done elsewhere, about wondering, at various points prior to recording ‘Ultraviolence’, whether it was worth continuing in music at all, but ultimately the attraction of what she could do creatively with music overrode any fears.

With the interview now over a week old, last night Del Rey decided to take exception to it, tweeting: “I regret trusting The Guardian – I didn’t want to do an interview but the journalist was persistent. Alexis was masked as a fan but was hiding sinister ambitions and angles. Maybe he’s actually the boring one looking for something interesting to write about. His leading questions about death and persona were calculated”.

I guess the first thing we have to get past is the shot fired at Alexis Petridis – who did not actually conduct the interview at all. But with the way his (four star) review is linked to at the start of the article, you can kind of see how she got him mixed up with Tim Jonze. Maybe.

Now, it’s entirely possible that Jonze was persistent about flying to New Orleans to do this interview. Though, given that it’s noted at the bottom of the article that “Tim Jonze’s trip to New Orleans was paid for by Polydor”, it would seem Del Rey’s label was pretty keen for it to happen too. And while some of her remarks were very similar to other interviews she has given, so there may have been a little ‘going through the motions’, nothing about the singer’s quotes in the interview suggests that she was unwilling to talk.

And while she claims that Jonze’s questions were “calculated”, she doesn’t suggest that she was misquoted. Plus the “maybe he’s actually the boring one looking for something interesting to write about” thing. Well, that’s basically the job description of a journalist.

In response to the now deleted tweets from her, and following the barrage of Twitter abuse from Del Rey’s fans that followed, Jonze responded: “I did an interview with Lana Del Rey. She was great: honest and open. Now she’s making out I twisted her words when actually I clarified with her everything she said. So either she lied to me or she’s lying to her fans now”.

The appearance and subsequent disappearance of Del Rey’s tweets could be attributed to a number of things. The confusion over the journalist names, perhaps. Or maybe the realisation of what she had unleashed by posting them. Though you’d think that someone so sensitive to criticism, who is pretty much constantly on the receiving end of rabid praise and derision on Twitter, would realise that her let’s just say ‘highly engaged’ online fanbase would move like attack dogs.

It’s not a new thing, by any means, but it’s still pretty chilling to look through someone’s mentions on Twitter to see hundreds of people telling them to kill themselves, or to tweet their location so that they can receive the beating that it’s been decided they deserve. All for writing down what someone said (or not even that, in the case of Alexis Petridis).

Fans behaving badly online is something that’s been covered in this column several times before, but as far as I can remember the moves of any one fanbase to protect or defend their favourite musician – as if they needed protecting or defending – has usually been done off their own back.

But if anything seems calculated here, it’s Lana Del Rey’s decision to tweet her gripe. It seems like a call to action. Maybe it wasn’t, maybe it was a kneejerk outburst (to an interview that had been available and much discussed for a full week already), but deleting the tweets and then making no further comment in the full knowledge that someone was now being barraged with abuse doesn’t seem like the nicest way to play.

And for all this, it’s still hard to see what was wrong with the interview. Lana Del Rey presented herself in a way that she has done pretty consistently in both other interviews and her music. It revealed snatches of other layers to her as a person, rather than her persona, that continue to establish her as an interesting and intriguing figure in pop, and it delved into the themes and thought processes behind the music she makes.

At no point reading it did I think that she was on the verge of suicide, and that’s not how her “I wish I was dead” comment is presented. It comes across in the context of it being hard to be Lana Del Rey sometimes, which I’m sure it must be and, again, that’s something she’s said elsewhere. Using the possibility of death to make her point might seem a little over the top, and even offensive to some people, but it makes the point nonetheless. And it seems entirely in keeping with the character that she’s created for herself.

So, ironically, Del Rey has forced another person to tolerate a flood of unjustified online abuse, the very thing she says almost put her off making music. Maybe she just wants to share the pain.

UPDATE 20 Jun 2014, 14:41: Tim Jonze has just published his thoughts on Lana Del Rey’s tweets, along with audio of the offending section of the interview. Read and listen here.