Saturday Night Live: Lana Del Rey 1/14/12

This is the first official entry into what will hopefully become a running series here on the ever-changing Generic Flow. I’d heard the rumblings of Lana Del Rey and her polarizing career, set to launch January 31 with the release of her first major album, Born to Die. I, like most music fans by now, have listened to “Video Games” and “Blue Jeans,” and have been oddly compelled by the singer and her whole style. So when I saw that she was the musical guest for Saturday Night Live this past week and found myself near a television set from midnight to one, there was no way I was going to miss her. I know that her sheer existence has lit up the blogosphere, but I really wasn’t interested in any of that. I was curious to see how the young up and comer would deliver on such a large stage. I have also always been fascinated with how consistently bad the SNL sound stage has made good musicians sound over the years.

Performance 1: “Video Games”
I was about 99% positive that she would sing this one first and even I couldn’t tell what song it was until she started singing. For some reason, SNL can never find the perfect balance between the music and the vocalist. You either have totally absent instrumentals and get to hear the singer chime away for five minutes (see: Thom Yorke and Radiohead), or the vocals are so muted that you can’t even hear the words at all (see: The Black Keys). This time around, they definitely opted for hushed instruments. It didn’t help matters any that Del Rey seemed to completely succomb to her stage fright and sang in a style that made her seem as if she was (a) drunk, (b) coming out of a dental procedure that required novacaine or (c) actually an immigrant from eastern Europe singing this song for the first time. Honestly, I know that she is better than that performance. I genuinely like her songs and think she is a talented singer/songwriter. But this performance definitely fed into everyone that is waiting at their keyboards to crucify her.

Performance 2: “Blue Jeans”
I was hoping for a redemption on this one, but I really think that she just wasn’t ready for this type of stage. SNL marked her first live televised performance in America. That is definitely a tall order for a twenty-five year releasing her first album. This performance was really just kind of strange. The song really lives and dies with its striking chords between her lyrics, so with the instruments completely overmatched by her voice, it never really stood a chance. She continued to sound like the drunk novacained Russian and also had a few notes where she seemed like all of the air was escaping her body at once. “Bhurrrned!” She also couldn’t seem to find what to do with her left hand over the course of the four minutes. She alternated between hugging herself, making “rock out” signal, stroking her hair and clutching her breast about every six seconds. Sad to say that SNL has claimed another casualty.

I will definitely be tuning in to see Bon Iver on February 4. I can’t wait to see how they manage to ruin him.

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