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Trace the arc of Liz Phair's career via her Wall Street Journal piece on Lana Del Rey

Liz Phair's career is a mishmash of excellence and embarrassment, where invigorating insight duels to the death with the incredibly insipid. So, you could say that the piece she wrote for yesterday's Wall Street Journal on Lana Del Rey is the most interesting Phair-like work since 1994's Whip-Smart. The op-ed is a defense of the beleaguered (and popular) singer-songwriter, and just as Phair's brilliant 1993 debut Exile On Guyville kicked off her career smashingly well, the story begins promisingly:

Let me break it down for you: she’s writing herself into existence. She’s giving herself a part to play because, God knows, no one else will and she wants to matter in this life. As far as I can tell, it’s working … I would argue that the uncomfortable feelings she elicits are simply the by-product of watching a woman wanting and taking like a man.


Pretty compelling argument, and not just because Phair seems to be commenting on herself as much as Del Rey. We think this could one of the brightest op-ed writers of her generation. Oh, wait: She's starting to lose focus. It's 1998's whitechocolatespaceegg all over again:

Can you picture our society, “one nation under The Goddess, indivisible… etc.?” If the president was always a woman and all the senators, judges and key business leaders were all female? Picture being forced to talk endlessly about your feelings and listen and care when what you needed was just to get something done. Doesn’t that sound sh–ty? Tiresome? Oppressive?

Yes, gender politics are a part of the Lana Del Rey conversation. But isn't making her (pretty crappy) album Born To Die a referendum on feminism a little much?  It's not like we're talking about a truly great record here, like Guyville. And aren't Phair's blanket generalizations about femininity—women talk about their feelings all the time, etc.—kinda sexist? Oh no, we've hit 2003's Liz Phair territory:

Yeah, I know the feeling


Using an emoticon in the Wall Street Journal is a bold move, not unlike singing (in the song "Rock Me") "I want to play XBox on your floor" to a guy you're trying to nail. Hm, a song that uses video games as a metaphor for the emotional distance in a romantic relationship—is LDR Liz Phair 10 years after Liz Phair's artistic peak? The spaceman has become the star child. [via the Wall Street Journal]


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