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- Posted on Dec 6th 2011 10:37AM by Alex Suskind
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Quick Google searches of Del Rey will pull up a variety of reactions: Confusion, hatred, admiration and lust, all directed toward a 25-year-old aspiring star who has yet to release an album. But none of that seemed to bother Del Rey on Monday night, when she performed in front of a sold-out crowd at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City.
For those unfamiliar with Del Rey's backstory, here's a brief recap: Before there was Lana Del Rey, there was Lizzy Grant, a 23-year-old singer-songwriter from Lake Placid, N.Y. After recording an EP in 2009, Grant released her first album, which was eventually shelved. Two years later, she returned as Del Rey. Her first single, 'Video Games,' immediately gained attention from music blogs, who praised her smoky voice and evocation of old Hollywood. But not everyone was happy with her work, particularly when said blogs discovered Del Rey's attempt to shed her previous persona. But the disapproval hasn't hurt her career (at least not yet): Since then, she's released several songs, signed a deal with Interscope and toured in Europe.
So, is she worth all the hype? It's hard to judge from Del Rey's catalog, which is currently very small. It's a little easier to get a read after seeing her live, but it's still not much to go on, particularly when she plays a short, nine-song set, like she did at the Bowery.
Overall, the show was mesmerizing, brash and a bit bewildering, as Del Rey stood onstage in a glowing white dress, wavy hair and thick eyelashes. After a video intro set to the opening them of Alfred Hitchcock's 'Psycho,' Del Rey waited as her band attempted to fix a technical snafu. When someone from the crowd half-jokingly yelled, "Let's go," Del Rey responded, "It's coming, bitch," with a big smile on her face. It was a bit unexpected, but it seemed to set the crowd at ease as she opened with her as-yet-unreleased track 'Without You.' Later on, she performed the title song from her upcoming album, 'Born to Die,' while images of Las Vegas, JFK, Elvis and the American flag were projected on four big white balloons drifting over the stage. When the show was over, she told the crowd to look out for the music video, which Del Rey had just finished filming in Paris.
The rest of the set included 'Blue Jeans,' 'Radio,' 'You Can be the Boss,' and of course, 'Video Games.' (Chants for 'Diet Mtn Dew' went unheeded.) She sounded terrific, although, that's not to say the show was without its faults. One in particular came during the final track, 'Off to the Races,' when Del Rey's voice cracked on a high note (a piece of information that's sure to fuel the aforementioned blog hatred). A new song, 'Summertime Sadness,' also seemed both underdone and underwhelming -- but to be fair, Del Rey admitted that she had not practiced this particular track for the show and was singing it live for the first time. "I know you don't care [about this song], but you're going to f---ing like it when it's on the record," she told the crowd.
All in all, Lana Del Rey still seems like a work in progress. But, there's potential; she's not nearly as clueless as her critics make her out to be. In fact, the "She's just manufactured" labels people have tried to attach to her don't exactly stand up when Del Rey is saying things like, "I am not doing an encore so don't think I am coming back." However, whether she does or doesn't care about the negative press isn't the point -- it's whether she can continue to make good music, something we won't really find out until 'Born to Die' drops later this year.