At the risk of exploding the Internet, Noah Davis traces the trajectories of two of the web’s latest sensations.
If you get right down to it, Lana Del Rey and Jeremy Lin aren’t all that different.
The same Internet mechanisms that fueled the New York Knicks newest star’s unfathomable rise last week unleashed themselves upon the pop star in late January. We couldn’t decide whether we loved or hated her, but we all had an opinion. And those thoughts, all of them, Needed. To. Be. Shared.
Thank Tim Tebow that Al Gore invented the Internet.
For a few weeks, avoiding the ex-“Lizzy Grant” became impossible. Her face, her story, her inauthenticity was everywhere. At least it was so for a certain subset of the population, those of us who spend our days on Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, and Tumblr. So, basically, everyone I know (and, most likely if you’re reading this column, everyone you do, too).
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. He’s good. Not good enough to boost Madison Square Garden Co. stock price to absurd heights but “no fluke,” as Nate Silver articulates by doing his stats thing. Lin’s performance as point guard of the NBA’s most historically important team electrified its most important arena, saved the job of the Knick’s coach, and made everyone start talking. His first six games caused an avalanche of goodness in the press. Moron Jason Whitlock aside, there was nary a negative word written about the Harvard sensation, which was was amazing to watch. The Internet went soft and sweet, all metaphoric candy and blow jobs for Lin’s arrival.
Contrast that with the singer. The derision toward her started quickly and built strength. Elizabeth Woolridge Grant was posing as someone she wasn’t: Del Rey. Despite her “stunning debut single,” she was pretending. The horror. Cue Hipster Runoff, et al. (Her terrible Saturday Night Live performance did not help matters, but by that time, the narrative was already written.) By the time her not-all-together-terrible album dropped, it was too late.
Lin would appear to fall on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. He is exceedingly human. He is likable. He has a sense of humor. He is genuine and authentic, a Tim Tebow-type who is playing well and sleeping on his teammate’s couch.
But give it a little while and I suspect February’s Internet sensation will find himself close to January’s. He can’t keep playing this well, just like the river of hate toward Del Rey had to let up eventually. Reviews of her album, which debuted at No. 2 in the US and No. 1 in the United Kingdom, were remarkably… average. Perhaps even a bit above that threshold. Which, when you think about it, is pretty much exactly where you’d expect Lin to end up once his rocket ship loses propulsion.
Lin’s underdog story—Harvard-educated Asian-American underdog makes it in the NBA—reads differently than Del Rey’s, both in the details and the world’s reaction to their respective rises. But when it’s all settled out, they are both ending right where they belong: Somewhere just north of the middle.
The real question: How does Adele feel about all this jazz?