Late-Night Love Songs

So I was watching Saturday Night Live last night and started to really ponder the musical guest. It’s a repeat, of course, with the now-infamous Lana Del Rey videos which I’d somehow missed first-run. Kind of odd for me, since I watched the episode the first time around but missed the songs (also, Weekend Update), and watching SNL is how I keep up with the modern mainstream music scene (aside from listening to 89X). Not counting that British one consisting of a half-dozen teenage boys, the bands this year have been stellar. Maroon 5 and Coldplay rocked out, Florence and the Machine were killer, Karmin and Jack White put on great shows. Del Rey? Became the victim of intense internet mockery.

Let’s start with one of the two she performed on SNL in its original video format: “Blue Jeans.” Very mournful, sorrowful love song heavy on atmosphere; a lot of layered complexity in its performance, a very catchy set of hooks and visceral imagery. It’s really an amazing video in terms of visuals, too; and I say all that as someone who isn’t that into love songs, or modern pop music for that matter.

And here’s how she performed on SNL:

What the crap? That’s not even the same person. The sheer dynamism of the scripted video is gone, and while you can see snippets of real quality in her performance, it’s like she’s on a crazy highball of sedatives and Novocaine, plus more than a little stage-fright, and who knows, a friggin’ head cold or something. Not every artist is great at full-body performances, but she just stands there like a deer in the headlights; she’s awfully warble-y and changes pitch far too much; I know the SNL stage has intense pressure even for experienced bands, but she tanked out there.

That’s not even the song that caused the furor, either; that’d be “Video Games,” her song that went viral and got Del Rey tons of attention. Again, here’s the original first, quite a haunting little ditty; another atmospheric, bleak love song that excels with aid from a really well-done video loaded with a fascinating hodge-podge of movie reels and clips.

And the live version:

Seriously, what the hell happened there? She doesn’t have a very dynamic presence in the original video, either, just standing there in the brief segments that aren’t old movie reels, but she has a better range and can stay in pitch. Live, she’s all over the map. And while “Blue Jeans” live had a few moments where she really shone, this one—which came first—was muddled and forgettable.

An example of the things you can do with computers these days? Does some producer with computers fix all her shitty tracks? Or was her live performance just on the wrong foot, an off day, a combination of various factors and pressures lined up against her?

I’ll never know. But damn. While her performances weren’t awful, they were pretty bad, and aren’t selling me on live concert tickets; if she sounds that shitty on SNL, she’d either sound that shitty live or sound like she’s lip-synching from a CD. As opposed to the directed videos, which are great advertising for her CDs (or, in my case, dropping some of her tracks into a Spotify playlist).

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