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  • Lana Del Rey on SNL 1/15/12
Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey’s tidal wave of international buzz (see gallery above) has gotten even taller lately as the release of her insanely anticipated (for better or worse) Born To Die approaches. In just the ten days since we checked in with her latest leaks, the controversial singer signed with a modeling agency, nabbed a BRIT Award nomination, released “Born To Die” for free on iTunes, and lined up appearances on Letterman and Ellen. And while this week she responds to those pesky questions of authenticity in a Billboard cover story, the only people who care about the answers spend too much time on the Internet. Tonight, on the other hand, saw a fair test of LDR’s staying power at large, as she became the first artist since Natalie Imbruglia (in 1998) to play Saturday Night Live prior to the release of a major label debut LP. It was her American TV debut. And, it was pretty rough. (Nerves and SNL’s notoriously shitty sound are a bad combination). Watch the performance of “Video Games” and “Blue Jeans” below and don’t be so shy with your opinion this time.

“Video Games”

“Blue Jeans”

(via Audio Perv)

Born To Die is out 1/31 via Interscope. Here’s the confirmed tracklist:
01. “Born To Die”
02. “Off To The Races”
03. “Blue Jeans”
04. “Video Games”
05. “Diet Mountain Dew”
06. “National Anthem”
07. “Dark Paradise”
08. “Radio”
09. “Carmen”
10. “Million Dollar Man”
11. “Summertime Sadness”
12. “This Is What Makes Us Girls”

Deluxe Bonus Tracks:
13. “Without You”
14. “Lolita”
15. “Lucky Ones”

iTunes Edition Bonus Track:
16. “Video Games (Joy Orbison Remix)”

Comments (206)

  2. Damn that was quick

  3. ._____.

    that is all.

  4. General reaction on Twitter wasn’t pretty… I read about 80 responses and maybe 2 were positive. Not exactly the right song for a first impression when the listener isn’t necessarily a fan of indie/lo-fi stuff. It’s too slow and long for TV.

  5. The changing of some of the high notes to low notes to make it easier for her to sing makes her voice sound terribly weird.

  6. ZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzz………………..

  7. Oh, this could have gone so much better.

  8. I thought Blue Jeans sounded much better but the reactions are still overwhelming negative on Twitter.

  9. I’m amazed any sort of sound got past all the collagen

  10. to the unknowing eye, she could`ve passed as a skit with that wig and bad babydoll singing.

  11. But that Exit Poll sketch was funny! #WIIG2012

  12. I love the song, but she sounds like she’s doing Maya Rudolph doing Donatella Versace

  13. First Tebow, now this? Maybe Nietzsche was right.

  14. I’m a huge Lana Del Rey fan, but you could tell that was she was extremely nervous. Not a very good performance, but I think a lot of the shit being said on Twitter is pretty unwarranted

  15. Harry Potter’s mess up made Lana nervous… :P

  16. Thought she was doing pretty good, but then my video unfroze..

  17. I don’t understand all the negative reactions to Lana Del Rey’s SNL performance. I thought her two comedy sketches were hilarious.

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  19. Jimmy Iovine is gonna be pissed.

  20. Her live performance of ‘Blue Jeans’ was better when she was on French television. :(

  21. as a fan of both songs…this was really rough….bad karaoke…bad pitch…..the problem is the band sounded great…she sounded like a weird man/bird…yikes

  22. She was horrible. One-hit wonder. Her album’s going to bomb.

    • Try saying that come the ‘Best of 2012′ lists.
      I guarantee you, this is another case of the Vampire Weekend-s.
      Loads of pre-album hype that actually IS true.

    • If you are basing an album’s performance on 1 SNL performance then you are legitimately ignorant. The publicity she has gotten from a bad performance is much more than had she had a good performance – people will listen to her album to see what all the talk is about. If it’s even decent, it will sell.

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  24. It didn’t sound good, but she was obviously nervous. I hardly think one SNL performance is going to make or break her career.

  25. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • So now we’re questioning the authenticity of her nervousness?

    • I don’t think this is actually true, but it crossed my mind last night that she was just created by American Apparel or something and made to seem like she just came out of nowhere but really has teams of superstar songwriters and producers behind her. Anyone know who made the clothes she was wearing last night? She def will be in tons of fashion ads for someone sometime soon if she hasn’t been already.

  26. It sounds like her voice was a bit worn out tbh, which is hardly surprising considering worldwide promo and the amount of times she sings that song. Also, whenever I see her perform, there’s this kind of “oh god, what am I becoming” aspect to her, it seems, where she attempts to wrestle herself out of the role that’s been created for her, one she doesn’t quite know how to fulfil. All of her lyrics, posing, etc., kind of remind me of the girl at school who has a massive reputation for being slutty but is secretly a virgin.

    • That said, (and to clarify crude metaphors) I really don’t understand why people hate on her so much. She just seems kind of naive to me, and a little out of her depth, I mean, she’s only been wearing the LDR costume for 7 months or so, right? It must be pretty difficult going from a relative unknown to being on SNL, that fast, and having a team of people photoshopping an extra tiger into your video. Since Stereogum has been following LDR closely since the beginning, as a regular reader I now kind of feel affection for her, and I think it’s obvious she doesn’t really know what she’s meant to be yet. Her songs, with the exception of Video Games, which is great, tend to be weirdly overcooked, e.g. the shouts / awkward “urban” beat in Born To Die. I guess this is a major label thing, you know “we need more guys shouting on this track’, but if they were produced by Phil Ek, they would sound great, cos they are essentially pretty good songs. I feel kind of bad for LDR because she is obviously being pushed to do too much, too soon, when she should be given the time and space to grow into her music, her persona, whatever. Look how famous she already is without releasing an album … then read down this (or any) comments section and look at the price she has to pay for it.

      • I’m 100% with you on this because everything you said is true. Only time will tell what’s gonna become of this girl. I really think in the future (if she doesn’t become a cokehead, sorry but I had to say it) she’s gonna start releasing music that’s true to her.

        In regards to “Born to Die”, it’s a great song for her voice, but I do agree with you that it’s over-produced. I feel like the violins (which, are probably just synths) are just cut and pasted. Sounds so unnatural…and the shouting is stupid!

        But anyway, I don’t have to think twice about LDR. She’s got talent, it’s there. If people were honest with themselves, then they’d admit that they hate her because of the way she’s being marketed, not because of her singing.

        • It sounds like she’s been kidnapped and forced into collagen-pop superstardom against her will.

          • It does sound like that. she’s at best living the dream, and at worst being rushed into a million things at once. I’ve heard of worse jobs..

          • Obviously not, but it’s a matter of the speed, pervasiveness and unforeseen consequences of that “superstardom”. For example, I don’t imagine Lizzie Grant imagined, when she signed the contract, that she would encounter this degree of hype and backlash. I think it’s been obvious from some of the interviews Stereogum has posted that she was completely unprepared for it, and for what gets written about her online. And the point I was making with the songs is that they don’t truly sound like the cohesive vision of one artist, they sound like a compromise. And when LDR performs, it kind of looks like a compromise. The exact compromise is: she can be famous, be on TV, etc., but only at the expense of ‘being’ LDR. She’s an artist who formerly tried to make a go of things under her own name, but eventually had to become a persona to be successful, and I think the latent, “honest” singer-songwriter part of her is uncomfortable with that; the persona, the fake nails and the (debatably) “enhanced” lips. It’s like a part of who she is, is trying to portray etc., is out of her hands, has been decided for her, has been tampered with by the guys writing the cheques. So whilst it isn’t all against her will, it’s obviously not just her will that’s being taken into account.

            I agree with iheartblondie that she could have a great future. I really like her voice.

      • I’m taking the time to reply to your post by saying that I don’t have enough time to take the time to read it.

  27. guys, this was terrible.

  28. Whoa, slow down. SNL is notoriously bad for artists. Granted, her songs are slow hut even great bands (U2, Radiohead) sound shitty on SNL. And by the way, when has Twitter dictated what is good? Fucking sheep.

    • Hey, what’s bad about the sound on SNL? A lot of people talk about the “notorious” bad sound, but for a live TV performance, the sound is generally quite well mixed. It tends to be very harsh on bad artists, or pop musicians who show up with backing tracks or pitch correction and rightfully so.

      I personally think the “notorious” bad sound everyone brings up with regards to SNL musical guests is the fact that most people listen to it out of their TV speakers. Or worse. Peeps don’t have a clue. I had a conversation with a lady last night about how good vinyl was and how she tries to convince all her bands to sell records (she’s a manager) but she couldn’t explain to me why the sound was better and she admitted to me that she’s never listened to music through headphones (“I just don’t like it” she said.) I had to explain to her why she liked vinyl but also why the sound quality of vinyl isn’t actually better than digital. Anyways, my point is that’s as much a myth as the “notorious bad sound on SNL.”

      Either way, Del Ray sucked last night. I still maintain that Video Games is a nice song, but this girl’s only role in the band is to sing, and she’s not very good at doing it live apparently. It’s not a sheep thing, its an observable thing by anyone with ears.

      • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

        • Yeah, no johnny_nutz. I’m not joking about how, objectively speaking, uncompressed digital sound is more precise than analog, doesn’t threaten snaps or pops, and moreover takes up less physical space and isn’t fragile as fuck. Not to mention most human hearing won’t detect the difference between a high quality record press and a high quality digital file. The argument in defense of vinyl is often subjective.

          • I suppose you also believe recording to a DAW is better than tape….

          • You can record well on either. You can put crap on tape. And yes, I absolutely would and I’d be right.

          • The sound wasn’t shitty for her back-up band, so I don’t really see any merit in the SNL-sound-is-shit argument.

            And this sounds pretty damn good to me:


          • Thank god someone said something intelligent about vinyl. Records are a freaking twee novelty item

          • @michael ashworth – SNL sounds great usually, that radiohead perf was above and beyond though. And relative to the simple set ups they usually get (cough cough Black Keys) that is an incredibly tough group to mix for. I wonder if they bring their own sound guy, and if NBC would allow that?

            @sarcasticmeow – there are arguments for vinyl though…I do like the sound of it – there’s something that is kind of nice and organic about it. Also some people dig the large artwork. It is telling, that the response was “hehe, you’re joking right”and “I suppose you believe” instead of an actual argument, using words that make some sort of, oh i don’t know, opposing point.

          • I believe the claim against SNL sound is relative to the stage itself. Some artists can deal with it (those who’ve paid serious dues dealing with these limitations), whereas some have more trouble (those who have a career go from 5mph to 200mph in a few months.)
            Her live vocals are never as bad as people claim them to be. Her stage presence has a long way to go.
            It seems she feels the need to embellish the vocals, which the music doesn’t require.

          • this is probably a discussion for a different thread, but i’m willing to go to bat for vinyl being objectively better-sounding than digital audio, especially when whatever you’re listening to was recorded in an all-analog environment.

            the problem with digital audio is that it tries to break what is an inherently continuous phenomenon (sound), into discrete chunks by sampling. analog recording deals with sound as a continuous stream of voltages, which is more representative of how it exists in the real world. vinyl reflects this in playback as well.

            a related problem with digital audio (unless you’re listening to audio recorded at super-high sample rates like 96kHz, which corresponds to super-big file sizes) is something called aliasing. it’s sort of complicated but what it means in practical terms is that this “chunky” nature of dealing with sound disallows high frequencies above a certain point (one half of the sample rate, to be specific) from being represented.

            i think the best argument for digital over vinyl is that with digital audio you have a theoretically infinite dynamic range. but in order to take advantage of it you need a large number of bits representing each sample, what’s called “bit depth,” which again translates to larger files. and the amount of compression used on a typical album in 2012 kind of negates this anyway.

            i think you could make a case for digital being as good as vinyl, but i certainly don’t think it’s objectively better by any stretch.

          • I appreciate all of these points, and when it comes to analog recording, its very relevant…especially when you consider the intention and media that a recording was intended to be played on. For sure.

            I suppose my concern when people bring out the Vinyl argument is that they are always referring to the lowest common denominator as being represented by digital. For example, when you point out listening to music at low rates…well, for sure those are going to sound worse. Completely agree. But that isn’t representative of “Digital music” in so much as listening to a Gramophone through a tin can is representative of “Analog music.”

            And anyways, “better sound” is a subjective thing. I wasn’t defending Digital as being “better” than vinyl either. I’m defending the point that vinyl is not “superior,” like some (pretentious) people suggest. I’ve never said that digital is objectively better…but the dynamic range capacity does imply that digital can be more precise, no? Either way, whether one is “better” is a subjective thing to say. Some people say it. The (pretentious) lady in my anecdote said it with no information to back it up. That always raises a red flag for me. Johnny Nutz was dubious for some reason as well.

          • apologies, i misread your original comment. i thought there was a sentence in there to the effect of digital being better than vinyl.

            you’re right about it being subjective. for me, when i listen at home it’s generally vinyl, when i’m in my car it’s mp3s. each format has its strengths.

            and when i talk about “better-sounding,” what i really mean is “more accurately representing and reproducing the way sounds behave in real life,” which i do believe vinyl is better at.

            and as far as the dynamic range thing goes, what it boils down to is that a record’s dynamic range depends on its thickness, in the same way that a .aiff or .wav’s dynamic range depends on its bit depth. that’s why you have fancy remasters that come out on 180 gram vinyl and stuff like that.

            i don’t have any real scientific data to back this up, but to my ears, the dynamic range on the high-quality end of each format (lets say 96khz/24 bit digital audio and 180 gram vinyl on a good turntable) is about equal. the difference is that in digital audio you could theoretically use how ever many bits you wanted per sample whereas there’s only so much thickness you can give a record.

        • It’s actually a matter of preference, silly buns. The main difference between analog and digital audio is the matter in which they are compressed.

      • tv on the radio duh

      • Paul McCartney sounded awful last year, and it was entirely a mix issue. I know that’s just one example, but he’s a guy who can definitely sing, and his band can definitely play. The mix was a disaster.

        That being said, the mix was definitely NOT the issue last night. I feel bad for her because I’m sure she can sing fine, but she was just totally not ready for this. She also desperately needs to figure out a way to move better onstage because she looks extreeeeemely uncomfortable. But I do think she has some really great songs, and her image is immaculately crafted, so I guess we’ll see where it goes from here.

    • Allow me to shed some light. I am a sound engineer who has worked for a band that appeared on SNL and have mixed on every late night show (except the Tonight Show and the new Conan show). Basically, the bands regular live sound engineer is allowed to “produce” and “direct” the broadcast engineer (supplied by NBC…a full time position, and one with a massive background in recording studios). However, according to union laws, visiting engineers can not physically touch the console. Now, in every late night television show I’ve been a visiting engineer, I’ve been able to handle the faders on the console for any special effects or cues within the song. STILL, I can not physically mix the taping. HOWEVER every broadcast engineer, with the exception of one, allowed me to freely direct and also took notes from the artist after the taping was complete (and note they are not required to do this but as a whole, these are very generous people).

      What the audience hears is the mix as engineered by a professional but produced by the bands engineer. Without experience, a live engineer can produce the mix completely wrong, make it sound completely dry, and it will sound shitty coming out of your television and laptop speakers. I am afraid the blame would fall on the visiting engineer more so than the broadcast engineer. But that is just my humble opinion.

      • Your comment makes me happy

      • Amazing, thanks for shedding this light. If you’re still around, curious…without having to disclose which band you mix, what did you think of how their SNL appearance turned out?

        • Well, I was happy, the label were super happy, the band was happy (I believe). I have a couple small regrets about not mixing certain vocal fx higher during the taping (I mixed them a touch high for my taste during the dress rehearsal, and over corrected some during the actual live performance). Overall, it was what I expected. Personally, I’ve been happy the most with my Letterman and Fallon mixes though. Fallon’s engineer is one of my favorites to work with BTW…always consistently great engineering and instincts.

          • I don’t watch a lot of Letterman anymore, but the guests on Fallon always sound terrific. I don’t know what the pressure is like, but being the house engineer on a late night talk show seems somewhat like one of the best jobs available for someone working in sound.

      • Actually, funny enough (although I think I’ve mentioned it), my cousin Virgil is a PA on letterman although he has had a bit of exposure to the sound guys. He found it really hard to get anything accomplished with the strings they keep him on. He said he never had his own voice.

        This is the “big shot” at an award show – lucky bugger

  29. Now all Pitchfork needs to do is to right a wrong they made a few months ago by not giving her debut a good review, and she will slowly go away just like The Black Kids.

    • I still think the whole Black Kids thing was a lowblow, and they should have given it a fair review. I never actually listened to the thing but still

    • Up to this point, what wrong has Pitchfork made? “Video Games” holds up as a great song, regardless of how good or shitty ‘Born to Die’ turns out to be.

    • Were they the ones who started the LDR hype? I feet like all the major music blogs covered the debut of “Video Games” around the same time. Of course, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was all Pitchfork’s doing.

      • It wouldn’t matter anyway. As Ed Droste recently tweeted, LDR “is on basically every magazine cover ever across the globe. O____o”.

  30. I thought she was pretty bad. I never totally understood why she got so much hate. I thought it was just backlash because she was a pretty girl, but after last night I think it is very possible that she is really lacking talent. She just doesn’t seem to bring anything to the table. Her voice is not good, I thought she was talking more than singing half the time. She had no charisma what so ever. She just stood there like the girl from Seinfeld who didn’t swing her arms when she walked throwing in the occasional twirl. She doesn’t seem to play an instrument. I’m assuming she writes her own lyrics. Anyone know if she writes any music? I still think her album might sound alright, but if she cares at all about curbing most of the criticism she gets she needs to improve as a performer big time.

    I do think her performance proves that she it totally hot. I was arguing with some people in the indie crushes of 2011 post whether or not she was hot and after last nights performance I don’t know how she could possibly be famous and performing on SNL if she wasn’t. Case closed.

  31. Lana is a beautiful girl with a good voice and writes her own lyrics. What’s wrong with that? I think what you’re really angry about is the hype/promotional/marketing aspect…which, admittedly, is a little over the top. But really, let’s reel in some of this hate directed towards Lana and push it towards Interscope.

    • I’m sure some of the hate is unfair, but this post is about her performance last night and I think a lot of people objectively watched it and came to the conclusion that she wasn’t good.

      • Maybe, or maybe a lot of people already didn’t like her for very subjective reasons and used last night as “objective” support.
        I think we would need some sort of sound bro in here, without the video accompaniment, to judge the quality of her singing. because, other than a blind sound bro, I think we’re all a lil biased. knowmsayin?

        • I understand that whether or not you liked her performance last night was a matter of opinion, and people opinios are effected by the opinions of others but I know what I saw last night and to think that she was not good is completely valid. If you liked her last night that’s cool, but to assume anyone who thought she sucked is just some sort of sheep is a little redic.

          As for the bad SNL sound argument, I really have no idea. Maybe she got hosed by bad sound but for now all I can base my opinion on is what I saw.

          • Well she definitely sung flat on Video Games. And she has an interesting style, but technically not that impressive. I mean, it doesn’t sound like she’s had years of vocal training. Better than Bieber, but she’s no Great Caruso. I mean really, the hype is clearly misled.

            You could say the only singer worth the hype…
            …would be the next great Caruso


        • Maybe none of this is real and we’re living in a dream of 311′s dummer, Chad Sexton.


  32. I hated this.

  33. Lana Del Rey is bad, her lyrics aren’t good her music in general is just really bad and, judging by last nights performance, she isn’t very good live either.

  34. No one is good on SNL. Does anyone remember Chris Martin prancing around the stage to “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” in an extra small pink tee and glorified sweatpants? The stage/the atmosphere/the mix just sucks. Thus, being a musical guest on SNL is a necessary evil – if you aren’t a musical superstar like Gaga or Coldplay, then playing on SNL is nothing more than a way to garner attention to yourself.

    Even still, Lana needs to figure out her stage image, which doesn’t necessarily have to be exactly the same as her existing music video/photo/modeling image. What have we seen Lana Del Rey do in her music videos? Sit between tigers, sit on a throne, stand by random objects, make out with tattoos guy, scowl, frown, scowl more, etc. None of these things are fun to watch in a live setting (except maybe the tigers), so maybe she should grab a guitar (so the standing in place isn’t so painful) or take some dancing lessons.

    Finally, her voice kinda threw me off because with songs like “Blue Jeans” and “Off To The Races” she goes from the very low end of her register to the high end in such a short amount of time. Honestly, I like the weird inflection of her voice. More than anything, it reminds me that LDR is attempting to pursue an image beyond “indie pop icon”. Maybe she just listened to a lot of Janis Joplin growing up?

    I suppose we’ll see how the rest of the album fares. But as of now, LDR is walking a hard line between “serious pop” and “I can sort of jam to this in the car pop”, and she can’t really do that for much longer before going one way or the other, and whichever direction she ends up picking is ultimately going to dictate what her stage performance becomes.

    • Lots of people are good on SNL

      Chris Martin’s wardrobe has nothing to do with his performance

      The mix doesn’t always suck

      Being a musical guest on SNL would be amazing. It’s not a “necessary evil.” Performing in front of that many eyes on a show like that…that would be awesome. “Nothing more than garnering attention” my ass. What an incredible opportunity squandered.

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  36. She was not that great, awkward, and seemingly ungrateful to me. Though, this is the first time I’ve heard or seen her. Good looking though!

    • So from an SNL performance, admittedly the only thing you have ever seen or heard from here, you discerned that she has not talent and is “ungrateful”?!? Ungrateful?!?!? WTF?!?

  37. I’m appalled that these are the musical guests. There are so many bands out there that are catchier and more upbeat. Put the Born Ruffians on SNL They would kill it.

    • I agree. I’ve been dying to see Ingrid Michaelson on SNL for awhile. She has a soft, sweet sound but she is FANTASTIC live, which is something I didn’t anticipate when I saw her here in Houston about two summers ago.

      She has so much charisma and she is a beautiful performer. I hope SNL will invite her on since she’s releasing her new album, “Human Again”, on January 24th.

      Besides listening to her single from Human Again,”Ghost”, I am currently obsessed with this cover of Gotye’s “Somebody I Used to Know” that she uploaded recently:

  38. Thumbs up if you think GIRLS should be a musical guest some time this year (hopefully this February!)

  39. “one-tit wonder” and “botox pop,” are you kidding me? She can sing live and has proven it on multiple occasions, this being the only poor one I have seen from her. Also, she does have more than two songs. She has an entire independently released album called Kill Kill, which housed several great songs like “Raise Me Up (Mississippi South)” and “Queen Of The Gas Station.

    Watch her on Jools Holland, compare it to SNL, tell me it wasn’t nerves.

  40. She should’ve enjoyed it more. She was overly self-conscious… pity.


  42. She is so elegant for SNL viewers.

  43. I really didn’t even wanna comment anymore on this story, but does anyone else think she should have sang “Born to Die” instead of “Video Games”. I’m so sick of VG (how much longer is she gonna milk that song?) and after all, BTD is her new single anyway.

    • Sure. I agree. But “Videogames” is the womb from which she was born. It’s an undeniably “good” song with catchy hooks and a very modern theme of playing videogames with hot chicks that will be impossible for high schoolers and college kids to avoid falling in love with.

      For the majority of people, the quality of the music is not of first importance. People want image and they want hooks. Cheesy lyrics poorly sang are quickly forgiven. “Videogames” will sell. A lackluster SNL performance will not stop her from becoming even bigger as the year goes since she is riding on a song like “Videogames”. For better or for worse.

    • Do you not watch SNL?!? Anyone who performs always play their biggest single first from their recent album and the will follow that up with something else. ALWAYS – no matter if that single is 3 months old, it is still the 1st song to be played.

  44. sounded like a new jersey stevedore, no?

  45. enough stories on lana del rey holy shit.

  46. Jonathan Espeche  |   Posted on Jan 16th, 2012 +2

    With that hair color she looks like Hope Sandoval with fake lips, and sings 1/10th as good as her.

  47. Haters will hate. Lana – do your thing girl.

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