People sure love to hate Lana Del Rey. After sustaining repeated attacks on her appearance, her questionable past, and her flimsy current identity, the retro-glamour singer and "gangsta Nancy Sinatra" was torn apart once again for her less-than-impressive performance on "Saturday Night Live" this past weekend. NBC news anchor Brian Williams called her "one of the worst [performers] in 'SNL' history," while the episode's host, Daniel Radcliffe, came to her defense. So, did "SNL" producers make a big mistake by booking Del Rey, who has yet to release her major label debut album, for such a high-profile appearance so early--or by booking her at all?
Lana Del Rey's brief career has actually been controversial and troubled from the start. After getting signed to Interscope last October, gracing the covers of magazines like Billboard and Interview Russia, and getting signed to Next Model Management, a backlash among skeptics was inevitable. Bloggers doubted her authenticity, critics' patience for her soon wore razor-thin, and her shoddy "SNL" performance pushed many fence-sitters right back into the haters' camp. It seems that whatever Del Rey manages to accomplish, her online haters are always waiting for her to falter.
Even NBC news anchor and indie music fan Brian Williams--in a private email published without consent on the gossip site Gawker--called Del Rey's performance "one of the worst outings in 'SNL' history." Williams did, however, write that the singer was one of "SNL's" most inexperienced performers, having been booked solely on the strength of a two-song online EP. The episode's host, actor Daniel Radcliffe, came to Del Rey's defense, making the point: "People seemed to turn on her so quickly... making it about things other than the performance... it's all about her past and her family, and stuff that's nobody else's business."
It's a shame that Lana's stint took such a wrong turn on "SNL," as the singer already has some excellent live performances under her belt--on live major television included. Backed by a beautiful string quartet and grand piano, her appearance on the British late-night show "Later... with Jools Holland" last October was a prime display of her actual talent.
While "Jools Holland" is a big show in the U.K., appearing on "SNL" was much more of a make-or-break opportunity for the hyped American singer. "SNL" has long showcased the biggest and buzziest acts in music, and has served as one of the top exposure slots on television for musicians. It's understandable that Lana choked under that kind of pressure. But if "American Idol" has taught us anything, it's that looks and talent won't take any singer very far if that singer doesn't have the guts to back it up. So ultimately, if Del Rey can't cut it on "SNL," her career progression could be drastically stunted, before her first album is even out.
But there is still room to recover. Think back on one of the undoubtedly worst "SNL" performances (if you can even call it that) with Ashlee Simpson. Ashlee didn't even make it through the first few notes of her second song, as the sound engineers played the wrong lip-synch track, revealing that she had not been singing live. To make things worse, the failed performance ended with Ashlee wandering offstage after some awkward hoedown jigs, as if she were playing it off like a vaudevillian comedy--and comedy it was, at her expense. Simpson was torn apart by critics and fans were let down, but she still built a respectably successful career as a pop star and remains a red-carpet regular. Del Rey at least sang live, and she did not jig.
Worst "SNL" performance ever? No. Clumsy? Yes. Lana Del Rey definitely wasn't in the best shape to perform, and her "SNL" appearance may indeed go down in the history books as one of the series' musical low points. But this was more a case of being overwhelmed than lack of talent. With critics looking for any excuse to dismiss Lana, should she be encouraged to continue? This writer believes the ball is rolling too fast for her to stop now.
Do you think Lana Del Rey deserves a second chance? Leave your comments below!