When I walked away from my former career in the record industry, I didn’t listen to music for four years. Literally. I did not buy music, I did not seek new releases and, most definitely, I did not attend gigs (after 15 years of all access passes it’s like having to fly Southwest after a lifetime in first class). Clearly, I had reached my fill. My friends, especially those I grew up with who knew my passion for music, for obscure bands (anyone but me was ever lulled to sleep by Suicide, the record with a single scream occupying the whole of side 1?) and for driving/busing/hitchhiking to go see the artists I cherished, were mystified. Those who were still in the business were more understanding, knowing how it feels to have to listen to “the next big thing” and how hard it is to become excited when a) you instantly know it will not be the next big thing but have to play along or b) you believe it with all your soul but nobody else does.
Then, one afternoon, driving home, the radio that was constantly in the background when driving (cd’s and iPods were banned too) and that I would just tune out, played Leonard Cohen’s Famous Blue Raincoat. One of the most perfect and heartbreaking songs ever written, it treminded me of the connection that can exist between artist and listener. When I got home, I rummaged through my extremely disorganized cd collection and plucked every Leonard Cohen I could find and I wallowed in it until I could wallow no more. But it was Amy Winehouse who pushed me into a monolithic record store (do they even exist any longer?) to buy the last physical cd I ever purchased. I simply had to have that voice, those lyrics of destruction and redemption that were so honest and so unlike any others out there.
I have gone back to listening to music, not as obsessively as I read and not as eagerly as in my youth. If music used to be the rebel badge of choice, it then became a paycheck. Now, I do seek emotional connection and that is hard to come by, maybe because I am older or maybe because there is a lot of derivative crap out there. Rock and roll is in its dying throes – a few gems appear here and there but none with staying power. It’s good the i-tunes model came along so you can pick and choose songs as not many artists seem to have a dozen worthwhile tracks in them.
Recently, I came across Lana del Rey – again, some track played on the radio which crept into my train of thoughts and lodged itself there so that I stopped, grabbed my phone and logged onto the website of the station I was listening to to find out whose voice that was.
The track in question is Blue Jeans but, online, you are more likely to come across Video Games, a bit of an internet sensation. There is not much to say about the girl besides that she is from upstate New York, lives in Brooklyn, has an album to her name which is out of circulation and that both tracks will shortly be released on Stranger Records.
I don’t know who the folks at Stranger Records are but, whoever they might be, they will be unable to fuck this one up. Ms. Del Rey’s voice is vaguely reminiscent of Stevie Nicks (with some Kate Bush in it she might want to lose), throaty and soulful, she sings about the sad part of love with enough conviction to make me skim over some of the more simplistic concepts which, combined with the sultry melody and the messy arrangement make it a hit. To make their job easier, Ms. Del Rey (real name Lizzie Grant) is gorgeous, with lips to rival Angelina Jolie’s. It might be just another flash in the pan but, even so, I will enjoy this brief ride at a time when great pop songs are in scarce supply.