Lana Del Rey and The Malevolent Backhand of Pitchfork Popularity

Why did Pitchfork Media scrub the original ending of their Lana Del Rey review?

lana del ray pitchfork e1327952238549 Lana Del Rey and The Malevolent Backhand of Pitchfork PopularityLana Del Rey is probably a name you are no doubt sick of hearing regardless of whether you understand who or what a Lana Del Rey is. Rest assured, that will soon be over. The singer formerly known at least one lip-injection ago as Lizzy Grant received her proper, full-length Pitchfork Media review today.

Can you guess how she scored?

If you guessed “not well,” then you’re quite adept at guessing the answers to easy questions. Yes, in Lindsay Zoladz’s review for quintessentially hip music site Pitchfork of Lana Del Ray’s full-length album Born to Die, Lana scores a mere 5.5. Not worthy of brickbat-style derision, nor serious praise.

Mind you, it hasn’t been but four months since Pitchfork’s Ian Cohen scored Ms. Del Rey’s track “Video Games” with the coveted “Best New Track” designation that set off an indomitable firestorm of hype.

In the time between the two reviews, public sentiment for Ms. Del Rey has, well, dwindled.

Ms. Del Rey’s career was found to be one of corporate construct and deliberate artifice, flying in the face of the “indie” image of her that was carefully cultivated (the starter pistol if which, for all intents and purposes, was started by Pitchfork).

Whether consciously or not, Pitchfork’s reputation for building an emerging act’s hype in one hand only to swat it down in the other continues to be cemented herein.

Another recent example: Mr. Cohen reviewed Queens rap act Das Racist‘s mixtape with an 8.7, one of the highest scores a mixtape has ever received on Pitchfork. Mr. Cohen was subject to a second-hand derision by the group after a blogger noted that he had mis-identified some of the rappers in his review and highlighted the jokes, thereby missing the ideas core to the album concerning race and identity. When Das Racist’s full-length album came out, like Ms. Del Rey, their single was given a “Best New Track,” though not by Mr. Cohen, who gave the album a 6.3/10.0.

Furthermore, while Ms. Zoladz acknowledges the early critical success of “Video Games” (as it, to her, “felt frank, pointed, and true, and it had a chord progression and melody to match”) it would appear a final paragraph vaguely acknowledging some of Pitchfork’s responsibility in Ms. Del Rey’s hyperinflated rise in popularity (one that could be on the precipice of crashing down to earth) was scrubbed from the review shortly after it was posted last night.

Music writer and journalist David Greenwald caught the scrub, and posted it on his blog. The paragraph read:

Given the lengthy build-up and all the YouTube leaks, think-pieces, and controversy that followed, you can only spend so much time in Born To Die’s nihilistic Never Land before Peggy Lee’s famous question starts to nag: Is that all there is?

Ms. Zoladz has not returned The Observer‘s immediate request for comment, though to be fair, last-minute edits happen all the time. Sometimes, something goes up on a website and just doesn’t read well. It happens. Yet, it’s been noted: “That seems like a pretty hefty edit to make after pushing the post live.”

One wonders if Pitchfork couldn’t rescind their entire history with Ms. Del Rey’s rise, or if they will. One musn’t forget the classic Best New Music review Pitchfork bestowed upon 90s ska-act Save Ferris in the site’s salad days. For the record, you won’t find it on Pitchfork, because they scrubbed it out of existence.

Either way, you can expect Pitchfork to say very little on the matter. Why would they? The conclusion to this saga demonstrates— inadvertently or not—Pitchfork in the role of tastemaker. Just like Google with their top secret algorithms, whether the site has an awareness of this role while writing reviews or not, they stand to gain nothing by giving up their secrets.

One of the great secrets of rock and roll, after all, involves the preservation of mystique, even if you’re playing nothing but up-and-coming music acts and the people who buy into them.

fkamer@observer.com | @weareyourfek

Comments

  1. guest says:

    another reviewer I think for the La times used the smae Peggy Lee quote a few days ago.  Thats probably why they scratched it.

  2. Brad Nelson says:

     “(the starter pistol if which, for all intents and purposes, was started by Pitchfork)”

    I don’t see how this is so, unless, say, something celebrated by Pitchfork is also automatically codified “indie.”

    1. Brad Nelson says:

      Also the Das Racist example seems a different thing entirely. The inconsistencies you identify stem from, like, how different writers wrote about them.

    2. Foster Kamer says:

      I wouldn’t say it’s “codified” so much as “given an invaluable stamp of ostensibly ‘quality’ certification by one of the most undeniably popular tastemaking establishments of the last decade,” one which rose to popularity on the desires of early adopters to find a place to get their non-mainstream kicks before anywhere else. 

      And whereas the inconsistencies I identify are indeed more likely to stem from different critical and reviewing styles than some grand conspiratorial tastemaking modus operandi, I don’t think the context was unwarranted.  But maybe we’re just on different sides of the fence, here. 

  3. Paul says:

    Chicago Tribune’s Greg Kot ended his review the same way. Seemed too likely to invite plagiarism charges I’d guess.

  4. Jeannie says:

    An even more amazing example of Pitchfork’s hindsight-scrubbing: at some point they completely removed their review of Belle & Sebastian’s “The Boy with the Arab Strap,” which they’d given a 0.0!!! (or at least a score very close to that…it was a long time ago)

  5. I never heard of Pitchfork until today, and been a fan of Lana Del Rey’s YouTube videos for months, so much for this absurd article.

    1. Jose says:

      Ah, the “no taste in music” lover. I do sometimes pity the lot of you.

    2. Mick Hairaway says:

      I don’t even own a television, therefore your argument is invalid.

    3. Pedantic Douchebag says:

      “I’m not a hipster. I don’t even know what that word means.”

      - You

  6. Aaron Darc says:

    I think there’s a bit of overestimation on the power of online going on here though. The media that heralded her are crucifying hyerl, yes. But the people are buying both the album and tickets to her shows in droves. Are the self-appointed cyber judge and jury now just having a nasty conversation amongst themselves?

  7. Outerlocal says:

    I discovered Lana long after any of this on my own and fell in love with her voice and songs. The media’s opinion, whether positive or negative, will not influence how I feel about her as an artist. She has a wonderful voice and does not deserve the negative publicity she’s receiving. 

    1. Jose says:

      Yes, she does. 

    2. Mariela says:

      People need to realize that there is often no such thing as “discovering something on your own.”

      Whether or not you heard about Lana from Pitchfork doesn’t mean Pitchfork didn’t make her career. Wherever you or others happened to hear of her probably trickled down from someone who DOES read Pitchfork.

      1. Erik Erikson says:

        Can’t “like” this enough. Ignoring a thing doesn’t make it not exist.

  8. Not that I’d like to get into the habit of defending Pitchfork (they’ve inflicted some much undeserved and career-affecting derision to both friend’s bands and my own), but it is totally plausible to find one single good and then suffer the disappointment of hearing what is covered in the rest of the album.  Many bands have made careers off of selling shite albums through the strength of one song. Kaiser Chiefs comes to mind. 

  9. Pedantic Douchebag says:

    You know who the “gangster Nancy Sinatra” is? NANCY FUCKING SINATRA. I could give a shit about the rich daddy, the PR team, the bland music, the plastic surgery, the name change, how she’s “manufactured”…every pop tart, in some way, is manufactured. But calling yourself the “gangster Nancy Sinatra” is just fucking stupid. It’s like calling yourself the Gay Liberace.

  10. Therealdjfakt says:

    FUCK Pitchfork…GARBAGE taste for “taste-makers’…
    And the peeps the rely on them for ideas of what’s “cool” should be gassed.

  11. Therealdjfakt says:

    Have y’all heard that dope track I’m the Butthole Man?! Tits.

  12. DMKL says:

    I can understand why Video Games was “Best New Track” on Pitchfork, its a great song! The rest of the album however, is really nothing to be very excited about, hence the lower score