Lana Del Rey. You remember the first time you heard “Video Games,” right? For me, it was last summer in New York City, and it was muggy as fuck. The sun always seemed to be mockingly high and my brow was constantly sweat stained. The first time I heard “Video Games” it felt like someone was blowing cool air on the back of my damp neck. My only reaction was, “Le sigh.”
It was hard, at first, not to fall in love with Lana Del Rey. Her husky mystery. Her weirdly plumped lips and that half-hoop-earrings-and-killer-nails, half-beat-poet sphere that she seemed to possess.
Except she didn’t really possess it at all; that was the cruel joke we’ve now decided was played on us, as we all rush to hate Lana Del Rey, our Delilah. She betrayed us. We were promised something new, something revolutionary, aesthetically and musically, but all we got was another “Sensation,” a cheaper version of Florence Welch or any other pop star that the mainstream insists on dubbing “Quirky,” and “Whimsical” and “Enigmatic.” As each new Lana Del Rey track rolled out it was clear that the “artist” was none of these things; how far could one album really go with 15 different incarnations of the same song, really?
As Lana Del Rey kicked down all the grand sandcastles we’d built around her, Azealia Banks snuck onto the scene, not so quietly but entirely unannounced (and already favorited by Uncle Karl), with the immense promise, “Imma ruin you cunt.” I was intoxicated by Azealia the same way I was intoxicated by Lana; Azealia was brash, filthy, but the kind of girl that made me think, “Man, we could totally be friends.” Her music reminded me of living in London in 2008 and dodgy, sweaty downstairs jungle and garage nights in Dalston, but she’d transplanted the whole feeling to New York while making it more fun, more sexy; answering the mind-numbing “Chillwave” movement and drive-you-to-insanity techno music revival of 2011 with something to dance to that wasn’t entirely vapid.
So you can imagine that now I’m a little bit skeptical about the news that she signed to Lady Gaga’s manager, Troy Carter, this week. I mean, power to the girl; she’s obviously about to experience a level of success that most of us work 12 hour days for and never see, and with it more money that, again, many of us wont make in our entire lives. And taking off my socio-economic awareness hat (no time for righteousness), that is totally cool. She deserves it. As far as I know she’s a good person in so far as she hasn’t killed or raped anyone, her music and image are great, and she probably works really hard for it.
Here’s my apprehension: as a fan who was taken in, along with many others, by the Azealia Banks Internet phenomenon from the get go, where do I fit in now? It’s a very, very selfish question, but that’s essentially where all our fandom and alternately distaste comes from: self interest.
I assume we’re going to see a transformation in Azealia going forward. Probably she wont be singing “cunt” eleventy billion times in one song, will establish a more curated “look” and at some stage collaborate with Nicki Minaj or David Guetta. Again, great for her; but selfishly, what about me? I like all the cunt dropping, the Mickey Mouse jumpers and bad braids, the snaggle teeth and that horrible wide grin (like a child that just did something so naughty), that makes me smile every time I see it.
And this brings me back to Lana Del Rey. What happened to her was that she was part of a machine, and that wasn’t entirely transparent from the outset, which essentially led to the disenfranchisement of many of her original fans who were expecting something different. It’s not that what Lana evolved into was bad; it’s simply that it wasn’t what her first fans thought they were promised. It was, for want of a better phrase, a miscommunication.
Will the same thing happen to Azealia? Have we been charmed by the promise of something new, but are simply positioning ourselves to be disappointed when we get something the same? Or will she continue to push creative boundaries in the future (it could be argued that Lady Gaga is boundary pusher, but I guess that just comes down to where your boundaries are)? Whatever becomes of her, I’m definitely intrigued to see how the Azealia beast grows, and if she can assimilate the wider public to “cunt” the way I’ve been trying to do for years now.