2012 was a year of transition for Lana Del Rey (real name Lizzy Grant). Riding atop a wave of hype that followed the late 2011 release of ‘Video Games’ – one of the best pop songs of the last 5 years – she entered the year a critical darling. The song, which combines nihilist songwriting, her smokey voice and trailer trash glamour, singled Del Rey out as an act worthy of attention. Although little was known about her ability as a live performer or her background, hopes for her debut album, Born to Die, had been raised and media scrutiny became intense.
Seeing the opportunity in front of her, Del Rey milked the attention for all it was worth. She embarked on a plethora of interviews and by the start of 2012 had became an almost ubiquitous presence on the pages of the net. The backlash was bound to come, all the critics needed was ammunition.
They got their wish once Grant’s real life background had been unearthed. It turned out the Del Rey persona was a fabrication. She was a rich girl, playing at being white trash and it tainted all the attention ‘Video Games’ had gathered, It was all paid for “by daddy.” Coupled with a now infamously shoddy performance on Saturday Night Live and her authenticity was shot. The music snobs had enough evidence, Grant was an unworthy faker, and it wouldn’t matter how good Born To Die was, it would only ever be elitist plastic.
It’s this history which gives ‘Radio’ its significance on the album (which is a worthwhile record IF you can listen without prejudice). What was meant to be a retort to ex-lover now sounds like a preemptive strike against this pretension. Adding a satisfying double meaning when Del Rey melodramatically croons, “Their heavy words can’t bring me down,” before really flipping the bird over a gloriously catchy chorus. “Now my life’s sweet like cinnamon / Like a fucking dream I’m living in / Baby love me cause I’m playing on the radio / How do you like me now?”
The defiant arrogance in these words is palpable and serves as a perfect bookend to Del Rey’s year. As the new face of H&M, she doesn’t need critics to love her anymore, the adulation (and money) of the public will be more than enough.