Lana Del Rey At Mod Club Theatre in Toronto on Wednesday
Get a load of Lana Del Rey, a likely style of 2012 who's been busy with the down payment. Psycho soundtrack music ushers her on stage, there are weather balloons used as projection screens and her vibe is a noir Hollywood of another era. She's pouty, you want to spend a week getting to know that thick flow of auburn hair and she emotes in the melodramatic manner of Tori Amos. "I can be your China doll if you wanna see me fall," she sings on the piano torch of Without You. "Tell me I'm glamorous."
You're glamorous, Lana Del Rey (if in fact that is your real name). This filmic woman is all the rage. Speculation abounds as to her realness; her back story is the stuff of possible fiction and the lips that many of us first saw on a viral YouTube video were outlandishly over-puffed – one of the possibly many enhancements to her package, physical and otherwise. Women adore her – "own it girl!" one of them yells at the sold-out showcase – and men are beguiled.
Some see it differently. In the age of Adele the Natural Woman, the backlashers despise what is seen as manufactured.
"Shut up," Del Rey blurts, playfully admonishing the hipsters. They applauded her first of nine songs, but she wasn't buying it – didn't think she deserved it. Elizabeth Grant is the name on her driver's licence. She says she grew up "on the border," which would be Lake Placid, N.Y. There's Brooklyn in her background, and a possible myth involving a trailer park in New Jersey has been floated too. An earthy urban accent suggests Jersey shore, absolutely.
For Born to Die, the next single, she adopts a dusky register – Stevie Nicks-like. Home movies of Priscilla and Elvis Presley flicker around her. There's a sad, cinematic tone to most of her ballads, those cast in a blue-dark haze. She stands rather still, with her hand gestures possibly pre-planned. And those jeans aren't just tight, they're hermetically sealed.
Del Rey doesn't have an album out, exactly. She recorded one for an independent label, but it didn't stay on shelves long. She recently signed with Interscope, a major that will re-release the material soon. Everybody already knows the gorgeously moody Video Games.
Lyrics suggest Del Rey as something other than a feminist: "I will follow you down, down, down," she mopes on Million Dollar Man. And, on, Video Games: "It's you, it's you, it's all for you," to a boyfriend who prefers Halo to her.
"If you judge me, I'll kill you," she says before her encore, possibly titled Diet Mountain Dew. Del Rey was hesitant to perform a song she'd never sung live before. It had a vaguely hip hop style to it, as did a couple of other numbers. She's not very good at that, I'm afraid.
There's a Stepford-wife perfection to Del Rey the singer – no improvisation, nothing in the moment. It's often beautiful, yet unnatural. But because there are no rules against artifice, we'll be seeing a lot of this woman in the coming months. There, I judged you, Lana Del Rey, so shoot me.