Pop stars are often accused of “pretension”, but this is a word that is frequently misused. Many of these accusers are too quick to condemn them with this without realising the true meaning of the word which is, “an attempt to impress other people by pretending to be more important or better than you actually are.” So it is untrue that pop stars utilize this, in fact for the majority it is the opposite.
Many pop stars wear their “heart upon their sleeve”. Their obsessions and innermost feelings are displayed unashamedly but this also gives ample opportunity for bitter and twisted critics to feast upon them like jackdaws. Jealousy drives this hatred, as many music critics are also frustrated musicians. It is difficult for them to appreciate talent or unique artistry.
Lana Del Rey recently released her new album. She is unique in the music world so it is difficult for misogynists to appreciate her or even acknowledge her original talent. It confuses them as they are so convinced that a man must be responsible for her act. Del Rey is entirely her own creation, the persona of the songwriter Elizabeth Grant. She wears her heart upon her sleeve invoking the idols of Old Hollywood but entirely without irony. These are idols from a lost and gilded age, a world away from the vanity and shallowness that characterizes the celebrity culture of today. Their glamour had a rare and beautiful quality.
This glamour is exemplified in the photography of Slim Aarons, who Del Rey references on a track on the album. The title of the album is also an effusive tribute to the American illustrator Norman Rockwell. Rockwell was derided by art critics for his overt sentimentality but his work was revered and adored by an entire nation of people who saw their “American Dream” revealed on canvas. The imagery and lyricism within the album is overtly sentimental but in a good way. The battle between cynics and sentimentalists is the defining conflict of our age.
Cynics are characterized as pragmatic and immune to any overt emotion. However sentimentalists are never embarrassed when they reveal their true feelings, and they are often misunderstood by stoical people who are convinced that they are simply lacking in maturity. Yet stoics and cynics seem less than human to emotive people. Using logic as a default position seems cold and callous.
Most of us fall somewhere between these two extremes. However those of us who are further along the emotive spectrum find that it is a risky strategy to reveal our true feelings. It makes us vulnerable. Our vulnerability provides too much temptation for the jackdaws to pounce upon our hearts. At the other end of the spectrum living in a permanent state of invulnerability only serves to alienate people. These are people who far from appearing confident seem rather aloof and even arrogant. As I pointed out in a previous Blog post withholding emotions and feelings restricts artistic expression. Presenting yourself as an intellectual in the most prosaic form will never inspire others. It is obvious from the writing, which is dry and wanting. However Lana Del Rey`s characteristic “sad girl” aesthetic has tremendous meaning and significance for a huge amount of people. And for that very reason her album is a triumph.