Lana Del Rey vs. Sharon Van Etten in a battle for music's gloomiest female singer - Reverb

Lana Del Rey vs. Sharon Van Etten in a battle for 2012’s gloomiest female singer

                       Photo illustration by John Hendrickson

Sharon Van Etten’s “Tramp,” released today, is likely to be one of the year’s best albums. Lana Del Rey’s “Born To Die,” released last Tuesday, is not.

While Rey (er, Del Rey? Devil Ray? Del Boca Vista?) has reached critical mass in the blogosphere and beyond, Etten’s hype is just beginning. Both women are ostensibly chasing the same goal: To create arrestingly gloomy, dour, lonesome, nasally ballads with a slight indie tinge. Etten’s “Tramp” is a walk-off home run in this regard; Rey has merely made it to first base on a dropped third strike.

The similarities — and subtle differences — between the two acts recall the Britney/Christina battles of the late ’90s. However, instead of nuzzling up to Carson Daly for “TRL” airtime, the two singers are vying for hipster approval far and wide.

Etten is the real deal, Rey is not. But at the end of the day, real talent, quality and credibility run a distant second to mere entrance into the cultural lexicon (see: “Tebow”). In this respect, Etten has a long way to go.

Below is a breakdown of the two artists, for no particular reason besides a slow news day:

Number of words in name

LDR: 3
SVE: 3

Number of stage names

LDR: 1
SVE: 0

Current residence

LDR: Brooklyn
SVE: Brooklyn

Under 30

LDR: Yes
SVE: No

Preferred vocal inflection

LDR: Nasal whispered strain
SVE: Nasal, withered, wistful strain

Late-night appearances

LDR: “Saturday Night Live,” “Letterman”
SVE: “Jimmy Fallon”

Facebook fans

LDR: 600,000 +
SVE: 13,000 +

Record label

LDR: Interscope
SVE: Jagjaguar

Biggest YouTube hit

LDR: “Video Games,” 26,000,000+
SVE: “For You,” 162,000+

Best song on current release

LDR: “Born To Die”
SVE: “In Line”

Meme’d

LDR: Yes
SVE: No

SXSW 2012

LDR: Yes (but maybe not, see bottom)
SVE: Yes

Brian Williams’ seal of approval

LDR: No
SVE: TBD

Substantial NPR feature

LDR: Yes
SVE: Yes

Substantial New York Times feature

LDR: Yes
SVE: Yes

Impersonators

LDR: Kristin Wiig, the entirety of the Internet
SVE: TBD

Who's gloomier?

View Results

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Catch Sharon Van Etten at the Bluebird Theater with the War on Drugs on March 28. Lana Del Rey has suspended her plans to tour this spring.

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John Hendrickson is the managing editor of Reverb and a multimedia journalist for The Denver Post. Follow his rants on music and more on Twitter.

  • Supernatural_92

    Talk about not being biased!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the recommendation but i think I’ll stick to my lovely, talented Lana. Good luck to Sharon all the same. But to me it sounds a little overblown for my tastes. Genius using Lana’s fame to get those web hits, though. Well done. 

  • Laura M.

    Definitive Sharon Van Etten, she’s more natural and her music is more honest. Lana is just hyped to much!!!