There are really only two ways to parody and shed light on the pop manufacturing of modern music. You can either toy with the idea lyrically (say it) or you just go out there and revamp everything (do it). Case in point: When Lana Del Rey omitted all the pop hooks, decipherable lyrics, and cohesive song structures out of her sophomore release Ultraviolence, she was acting out against a pop machine- the same one that created her career. It is worth mentioning that only one song from this daring escapist release ever made it to radio. Lana Del Rey did not want to play their game, and she thought she had enough confidence and momentum to call an album Ultraviolence, first of all, and dress it in seedy pseudo-ballads with production akin to an underground soul album.
Lily Lambert may possibly admire the guts Lana Del Rey had to do something so wildly inventive- especially as a female in mainstream pop. Lily Lambert even speaks about these same topics on her own sophomore release, So Far. Lead track ‘Pop Culture’ admittedly though subtly provokes mainstream country and pop. It’s out of control, she boasts. Her hook ‘it’s no one else’s business what someone else will choose.’ Jealousy is everywhere, and friends will talk behind your back.
The problem is that Lambert seems to be speaking against pop culture as a whole. This little bout of pandering is what can be frustrating because, well, she is in it. Now, that is not to say that musicians can talk about this subject. But with a song like this you get the impression of a little bit of pandering. By talking about the absurdities of pop culture, she is trying to bring about positivism and acceptance. It is like committing a cliché in a song and having the singer wink at the camera in the video- ‘see how cliché this is!’ So the question is, is country pop music the best forum for this type of message?
I completely agree that our culture as a whole is entirely too stuck on the idiom of celebrity culture. Unfortunately it has always been this way. Secondly, doesn’t Lily Lambert need to enter this flawed haven to craft a career in, umm, country pop?
I do not fault her at all for this message, because it is an important one. And fortunately, the bulk of the material takes a more subtle approach to this topic and focuses more on ethereal prettiness and sun-soaked instrumentation. Better yet, her voice is drenched in saccharine pastels. It has a beauty that is deceptively simple yet enchantingly large. She whispers softly when she needs to, hoping that a soft call will make the words more poignant. It mostly worked. I did spend three paragraphs writing about two or so lines in a song.
I think Lambert is seductive not in a traditional way, but in a way that gets you to listen. Like Lana Del Rey’s borderline unapproachable sophomore album, Lambert plays with ideas larger than people would give her credit for. She deploys soundscapes that are challenging and that mold against her voice. Her inviting sound could use a little refining, and she gets a bit self-indulgent when railing on universal ideas of music and humanity (yes, people get jealous. Yes, you should live your own life). But when Lambert flexes her actual voice over the content of her words, she finds a balance that IS universal, that IS inviting, and that makes her music more powerful and more piercing.
Ryan Merkel is a cool writer guy and contributor all over the internet, from blogs on music to magazines about music to sites about playing music. He is currently founder of SunState Investing and is head editor of the music entertainment magazine, CultureTease. He has written two novels, and is currently working on a third full-length novel, surprisingly, not about music. His novel “Splatter the Noise” earned accolades for independent publishing. Be sure to check out: www.sunstateinvesting.com
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