Liz Phair

Her album and her Saturday Night Live performance both took critical poundings, but Lana Del Rey has already found one important celebrity pseudo-defender in Kristen Wiig. And now Liz Phair, a musician who knows a couple of things about launching controversy, has forcefully come to Del Rey’s defense in a new opinion piece on the Wall Street Journal website.

It makes sense that Phair feels some kinship with Del Rey; she’s another attractive woman who got famous pretty quickly by singing songs about desire and sex, and she was also the subject of a weird little mini-controversy that sprung from her live show being a bit shaky early on. And in her WSJ piece, Phair writes that Del Rey is very much a part of her lineage: “Lana Del Rey is exactly what I was hoping to inspire when I took on the male rock establishment almost twenty years ago with my debut record, Exile In Guyville.”

She goes on: “Lana Del Rey seems to be bothering everybody because she allegedly ’remade’ herself from a folk singing, girl-next-door type into an electro-urban kitty cat on the prowl (of course I like her), and they feel she is inauthentic. I would argue that the uncomfortable feelings she elicits are simply the by-product of watching a woman wanting and taking like a man.”

Read Phair’s full article here.

Comments (18)
  1. Liz Phair is a milf.

  2. I don’t care about Lana Del Rey’s image or her background or what she calls herself. I just don’t care for her music. Isn’t that what your supposed to judge a musician on? And “took on the male rock establishment”? LOL Liz Phair. Very LOL.

    • Phair is saying that women’s music should be judged by different standards entirely. That’s because if her music had been judged solely as music, she’d be answering phones for a living.

  3. Liz Phair is a joke who sold any credibility she had for any top 40 success. Having her in your corner isn’t such a great thing.

    Yes she got knocked for singing bad (she did), but her writing was pretty good early on, then something really terrible happened with her songs and she stopped caring.

    By the way she’s pretty much wrong about everything concerning Lana Del Rey.

  4. Phair and Del Rey are perfectly welcome to spend their careers in the special little Women’s Music Kindergarten, selling sexy pictures of themselves, making shitty music for the Lilith Fair crowd, and telling critics to pretend they’re good because they’re just girls and music is hard. It’s a free country, and it’s not like either one has any better options. But there are plenty of women in rock with the talent and chops to actually belong on a stage, and as long as there are, it’s childish and unreasonable of Phair to demand that all women be held to a much lower standard than men.

    • “Phair and Del Rey are perfectly welcome to spend their careers in the special little Women’s Music Kindergarten, selling sexy pictures of themselves, making shitty music for the Lilith Fair crowd, and telling critics to pretend they’re good because they’re just girls and music is hard. It’s a free country, and it’s not like either one has any better options.”

      Uh, did you read this before you sent it?

      I think one of the primary arguments behind this is that people are reacting negatively to women being outwardly sexual in their music, as if it’s some sort of gross con that they’re supposed to lock up. They’re not bringing down women by being sexual in music. They’re being brave and powerful.

      After all, isn’t music the art form that best represents sex (aside from, y’know, the art of sex)?

      It’s fine that some you don’t like Lana Del Rey’s music. What’s more troubling is when you consider some of what Liz and Lana do in their music as crimes against feminism and popular culture. Because that really couldn’t be farther from the truth.

  5. “Lana Del Rey is exactly what I was hoping to inspire when I took on the male rock establishment almost twenty years ago with my debut record, Exile In Guyville.”

    The problem is, Lana isn’t taking on the male rock establishment, she’s a confirmation of their sexual fantasies. She isn’t wanting and taking like a man, she’s being wanted and taken in their fantasies. And that seems to be the extent of her gimmick.

    She’s the type of pop star that traditional (mostly male) rock journalists can get behind. She borrows heavily from an era that is still heavily fetishized by the rock press (the ’60s) in both her sound and her image. In fact, she’s almost a walking, talking Barbarella. Which would be fine if there was a hint of irony in it, but everything about her has been portrayed as deathly serious.

    The criticism of her has been coming from sources on the fringes of rock journalism, mostly indie blogs. The traditional rock press has actually been quick to embrace her. That’s where her supporters are coming from, the group Phair mistakenly thinks she is rebelling against.

    • Perfect! Thank you.

      I’m not a huge Lana Del Rey fan, but I feel bad for her. She’s essentially trying to make it on the terms that society tells her she has to–that in order to be a commercially successful female musician you have to be a beautiful, submissive sex kitten. In that way, she’s a victim. I know there are plenty of talented female musicians who have not taken that route, but let’s face it, if you’re aiming for the Top 40 big time, this is what our culture tells you that you have to do. I don’t agree with LDR’s decisions about playing into this role, but the extent of vitriol hurled at her on account of this, well, the irony is just really bitter.

      Also, so even if Liz Phair is way off the mark here, it nice to see she’s not afraid to use the f word. Ok, maybe it shouldn’t be surprising at all, though it’s not like there aren’t female artists who you would really expect to be feminists who really try to distance themselves from the term (love ya PJ Harvey, but I’m looking at you).

  6. I don’t agree with a whole lot of that editorial, but if you guys don’t think those first three Liz Phair albums are total invincible world-beaters, then I don’t know what to tell you.

  7. Liz Phair seems to be missing the point to a ridiculous extent. Also, calling your record “Exile in Guyville” is probably the worst imaginable way to “take on” the “male rock establishment”, because you frame your entire career as an exercise in antagonism, and foregrounds the fact that it is “rock by women” and should be treated and judged and celebrated more, or differently, than “rock by men”. This is all pretty reductive. I would rather just listen to “rock by people”.

    Liz Phair also inspired Amy Klein, one of the more thoughtful and outspoken female musicians we currently have, who has always acknowledged her femininity but hardly ever used it as a weapon or as justification. And LDR, for the record, is not a “rock” musician. We’re talking about entirely different branches of music with different expectations. LDR is not Lizzy Grant, and does not play guitar anymore, she wears pretty dresses and gestures with her fake nails, which would be impossible to play guitar with.

    And what is this rhetoric about men hating women who are “like men”? That’s just a terrible generalisation of men. This opinion piece should have stayed with the other opinions, in the comments section.

    As far as LDR goes, I hardly think that what she is doing is any kind of exercise in feminism, even in loose terms, unless we view it as a post-ironic construction designed to mock the industry and culture it participates in. Maybe it is that, but it probably, almost definitely, isn’t. Go look for your great white hope somewhere else, Liz Phair. There is nothing for you here.

    Side note: It’s kind of frustrating that when there are so many good female rock musicians, we’re forced back into discussing a pop singer who has made a concerted effort to conform to gender stereotypes, without strong enough irony, and now we’re meant to see her as some kind of feminist icon! Ridiculous. This article is totally misguided.

  8. I was willing to hear Phair’s opinion, I still have respect for her, but did she really have to use an emoticon in an opinion piece? Is that some kind of anarcho-feminist shit-stirring, to take on the male grammar establishment?

  9. Finally got around to listen to the entire album and today it hit me:

    Is really just an updated version of

  10. A Liz Phair defence is equivalent to Common’s Drake shots = strivings for relevance.

    <3 u lana

  11. a joke defending a joke. hilarious.

  12. Lana Del Rey is more Akin to Mazzy Star or Poe but I happen to enjoy her.

  13. Nah…it has nothing to do with discomfort (unless you count the discomfort of watching her horribly mannered and awkward performance on SNL). I just think she is boring and pretentious and it sounds like she is making her lyrics up on the spot. I don’t care what she did before. Plenty of artists evolve (although some more cynically then others) especially if they are to be considered as more than just a one-trick pony. That doesn’t excuse her crappy music. There are certainly other female artists who have sung about desire before this woman (P.J.Harvey anyone?). I actually don’t really care what Liz Phair has to say in Del Ray’s defense because I to my mind she pretty much sucks also. She had one song I liked okay way back in the 90′s but after buying the LP I was underwhelmed and traded it. She certainly can’t sing particularly well (not that that always matters but it helps).

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