Lana Del Rey was widely criticized as being awkward and pitchy in her appearance on Saturday Night Live last month, and she clearly took that advice to heart before returning to American television last night on Late Show with David Letterman. Her body language is still fairly stiff, but this time around, her performance was staged in a way that made her stillness seem deliberate and sort of unnerving. She comes off as understandably self-conscious in her singing, but delivers a much more controlled and dramatic performance than on SNL.
Part of what makes this live take of “Video Game” work in comparison to the SNL version is the arrangement, which starts off as stark as can be with simple piano accompaniment, gradually adding layers of strings as it moves along. It’s filmed so that each new change registers on the camera, which takes a bit of pressure off Del Rey needing to be the most dynamic presence on stage. This performance might not change the minds of the young singer’s many detractors, but it’s proof that her act is still a work in progress and that she’s taking her public evolution very seriously.