Tags: Lana Del Rey, Lizzy Grant, Music, Pop, Review
- Born To Die
- Off To The Races
- Blue Jeans
- Video Games
- Diet Mountain Dew
- National Anthem
- Dark Paradise
- Million Dollar Man
- Summertime Sadness
- This Is What Makes Us Girls
- Without You
- Lucky Ones
Lana Del Rey went from being the internet’s best-kept secret to making headlines all over the world, all in the span of a year. Her debut album, Born To Die, was on everyone’s radar, fans and haters. The album quickly became one of the most anticipated releases of 2012. Last year, when she released her first song, she was praised by the indie crowd. However, people started digging up information on her, discovering her real name is Lizzy Grant, a girl from New York who spent years living in a trailer. It didn’t end there though. Discovering that her father is a real-estate entrepreneur, supposedly a millionaire, the people who once praised her began to tear her down. Accusations of her using her father’s money to buy a record contract became a hot topic. Her lips came under fire as articles attacked her for changing her appearance. To make matters worse, her Saturday Night Live performance caused a huge backlash. She experienced a hate rarely seen by new artists, a hate that went too far. The scrutiny that she has received is uncalled for and ridiculous. All artists, in some way, put on an image for the general public, an image meant to reflect their music. I’ve never seen popular mainstream artists face this dilemma so it’s saddening to see her be a target of unfathomable hatred. Her 50s inspired glam look is beautiful, captivating and demands attention. It reflects her music which she has labeled Hollywood sadcore and the album blends crafty hip hop beats with string arrangements that are as beautiful as they are unique. The protests of her being fake are ridiculous. Looking into her musical past you can clearly see that her music has always been essentially the same. Her trailer park persona and sound are very apparent on her old release, Lana Del Rey a.k.a. Lizzy Grant, as well as her demo tracks. Regardless of all the controversy surrounding her, people can’t stop talking about her. Lana was thrust into stardom and Born To Die has set the bar extremely high for music this year.
The album starts with the title track, Born To Die, the song that introduced me to Lana. This is the most haunting and beautiful ballad that was released last year. A gorgeous orchestral procession of strings leads to her chilling sighs and the echoes from male backing vocals, setting up a looming atmosphere. The moment she spews her first words, you’re immediately hooked. Her deep voice, monotonous but eerily expressive, is dramatic as it blends with a new set of profound strings and she croons what has to be the most impacting opening line in a song ever, “feet don’t fail me now/take me to the finish line.” Lana laments about a tragic and doomed relationship over a light hip hop beat that underlines the strings. The morbid atmosphere created by her voice and the instrumental is intense and stunning. It’s hard to turn away from it because it’s so powerful. The chorus heightens all the elements in the verses and takes the song to a whole different level. The hip hop beats are more apparent and the crying strings tug at your heart while her droning voice expresses a sadness like no other, “don’t make me sad, don’t make me cry/sometimes love is not enough and the road gets tough/I don’t know why.” The way her voice rises into a high tone in the latter half of the chorus is divine and one of my favourite parts, “come and take a walk on the wild side/let me kiss you hard in the pouring rain/you like your girls insane.” It’s so amazing and the weird, echoing noises in the background are mind-blowing. All the sounds come together perfectly, painting a beautiful picture of love and loss. After the second chorus, the melody doesn’t die down and it continues with its engaging sound until the final chorus. It’s much slower and void of the hip hop beats but as her voice rises the melody explodes back to its original form. What a sublime way to start the album.
Off To The Races blew me away the first time I heard it. It’s the first song that clicked with me and made me fall in love with her music. The song is so eccentric and it’s her most evocative performance. She abruptly begins with her amazing, deep vocals and heavy percussion beats, “my old man is a bad man but I can’t deny the way he holds my hand/and he grabs me, he has me by my heart.” Thrown into the background are the screams of kids playing at a pool but they’re extremely creepy. As the verses progress, the beats get more malicious and dramatic sounds are thrown around. In the third stanza of the verse, she quickens her singing and another set of her vocals is intertwined beneath it. She turns provocative in the pre-chorus where she alters her voice into a high, childish tone. It’s so unexpected, so bizarre and surprisingly radiant. The arrangement blossoms in the chorus as the percussion gains one final push and a remarkable array of strings join the mix. The way her voice jumps between different tones and sounds is crazy. It makes for such an engrossing and addictive song. Her dive into different tones really reflects her state of mind. One minute she’s in control, “light of my life, fire of my loins/be a good baby, do what I want,” and the next she’s docile, “I need you to come here and save me/I’m your little scarlet, starlet/singing in the garden.” Her little laugh when she chants the latter lyrics is amazing and suits the persona she’s playing. This song is a treasure of brilliant production and delicious vocals. There are so many flawless vocal moments where she sounds ecstatic and then downright scary. The lyrics are so descriptive and the chorus features different lyrics each time it’s performed so the song never loses its excitement. The bridge turns out to be the most dramatic part with an intense string production as Lana gives an emotional performance, “but I trust in the decision of the lord to watch over us,” and her voice rises into a fantastic high tone, “I said ‘hun’ you never looked so beautiful as you do now my man’,” before the final chorus. This song is so vivid and she paints the story beautifully with her voice. The theatrical aspects bring the song to life and you can clearly imagine what she’s singing about. I’ve never heard a song that plays out like a film and it’s unbelievable.
Blue Jeans, another song that I could not stop playing before the album came out, is a hybrid between a mid-tempo and a ballad. The shriek of a man is echoed through the verses and the plucking of a guitar acts as the main melody. Lana confesses “you were sorta punk rock, I grew up on hip hop” which comes to fruition as the percussion provides an urban/hip hop feel. Her husky voice sends you on to a trip to the past as she references “James Dean” and throws out lines that could fit nicely on a rap song, “you’re so fresh to death and sick as cancer” and “love you more/than those bitches before.” The ballad elements come out in the chorus as she expresses her undying love and she uses her soaring high register which is laced with tragedy, “I will love you till the end of time/I would wait a million years/promise you’ll remember that you’re mine/baby can you see through the tears?” Even though the melody keeps the urban production, her vocals change mood entirely. The contrast between her vocal tones in the verses and chorus really makes this a special track because the different textures bring out different moods and the overall vintage feel is superb. I love how the drums pick up in the bridge with a dramatic force and the way she moves from her low register up into her high voice. It’s not everyday you hear a ballad collide into hip hop but it works and the whole gangster side of her image comes out in this song.
The song that started it all for Lana, Video Games, is introduced by church bells which lead into its magical melody of strings, piano, percussion and harp. It’s the most stripped-down song on the album and it shines in its simplicity. I actually came across this song early last year but I never listened to it. I kept coming across her name and when I finally decided to hear her music, late last year, she blew me away. While this isn’t the song that won me over, I’ve come to love this track. The instrumental is divine and the way it builds up as it progresses is so sweet. Once again, there’s a joyful yet tragic feel to the song that evokes such a strong emotion, “swinging in the backyard/pull up in your fast car/whistling my name/open up a beer/and you say get over here/and play a video game.” She coos with a breathy, deep voice for the majority of the song but she does heighten it a few times during the chorus. Her relaxed delivery compliments the minimal melody beautifully. When it starts entering the chorus, the swooping strings come in and fill it with a grandiose air. It’s very elegant and sensual. Her voice, as it dips high and low, is extraordinary and the lyrics are stunning, “it’s better than I ever even knew/they say that the world was built for two/only worth living if somebody is loving you/baby now you do.” Her low humming and her sugary backing vocals after the chorus are wonderful. I can’t believe I missed out on this because it’s one of the best songs released last year.
“You’re no good for me/baby you’re no good for me/you’re no good for me/but baby I want you, I want you,” she chants in the intro of Diet Mountain Dew. This is unlike the previous songs because it’s very lighthearted. There are still strings and a hip hop influence but it’s all sweetened up into a delectable melody. Her cute, girly voice dominates this tune and it suits the bright arrangement. I really enjoy her balanced vocals because they have a very smooth tone. There’s more energy in the verses due to the pounding drums and her lively delivery is a breath of fresh air, “baby put on heart-shaped sunglasses/‘cause we gonna take a ride/I’m not gonna listen to what the past says/I’ve been waiting up all night.” It’s really nice to hear this side of her and the chorus makes it even better. The percussion is toned down and a vibrant, melodic piano is added which combines with the strings for an infectious melody, “diet mountain dew, baby, New York City/never was there ever a girl so pretty/do you think we’ll be in love forever?/do you think we’ll be in love?” It’s so fresh and it’s an awesome feel-good tune. The hook is extremely catchy and it’s cute, vibrant sound will get lodged in your head. The stripped chorus near the end which features just the piano is delicious and the intro is used as the backing vocals for the final chorus. It’s fun, bubbly and a great relief from the previous tracks.
“Money is the reason/we exist/everybody knows it/it’s a fact/kiss, kiss.” National Anthem is one of the songs I could not wait to hear and it turned out to be better than I expected. The introduction is mind-blowing. Beautiful and powerful strings lead with the sounds of fireworks. It’s so elegant and festive but it doesn’t stay that way. Once the introductory strings are concluded, a doom and gloom melody of percussion and malicious strings takes over. The entire track is filled with dread and despair due to the war-like instrumental. It’s paired with her somber voice which takes the darkness even further, “I’m your national anthem/God, you’re so handsome/take me to the Hamptons/Bugatti Veyron.” Her delivery is fantastic and it makes the song so addicting. The chorus is beyond amazing as the arrangement crescendos as Lana chants one of the catchiest hooks, “red, white, blue is in the sky/summer’s in the air and baby, heaven’s in your eyes/I’m your national anthem.” It’s dark but there’s so much energy and intensity contained in the chorus. Her vocals soar to incredible heights and the chanting backing vocals really make it feel like an anthem. Her faux-rap in the breakdown is hot and I love the way she enunciates certain words, “excessive buying, overdose and dying” and “boy, put your hands up/give me a standing ovation.” This is everything I hoped it would be and it’s such a gem. It’s exciting, crazy and her delivery is impeccable. This is one of the highlights and it’s truly amazing.
Dark Paradise is a standout track for many people and it’s easy to see why. With a haunting melody of lush percussion and the gentle strokes of guitar and piano that has a ray of light shining beneath it, Lana takes on the role of a Siren and delivers her most impressive vocal performance. She grieves for a lost love, conveying her undying love for the person through an emotional and invigorating tone. Sadness, desire and longing are all portrayed effortlessly by her angelic voice and her Siren call in the verses is otherworldly, “loving you forever can’t be wrong/even though you’re not here, won’t move on/ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ahh/that’s how we played it.” It’s an unexpected, magical note and one of the reasons why I love this song. The slight key change in the pre-chorus elevates the song and the lyrics are so depressing, “but I wish I was dead (dead like you).” In the chorus, the magic is stronger as immaculate strings transcend it into a dream-like state and it melts your heart, “every time I close my eyes, it’s like a dark paradise/no one compares to you/I’m scared that you won’t be waiting on the other side.” The hook is beautiful and breathtaking, a true feast for the ears. The song continues to blow my mind when it hits the bridge and it’s, hands-down, the best on the album. Her vocalizing, “oh-oh-oh-oh-hah-hah-hah-hah,” is impossible to resist. It’s immensely addicting and brings an upbeat vibe to the song. The way her voice strains into a high register makes it more enticing. The bridge is also utilized as the song’s outro but it appears in a down-tempo form and it’s the perfect closing. This is Lana’s most enchanting track and its beauty resonates loud.
I am so obsessed with the album’s summer anthem, Radio. I wasn’t expecting it to sound so breezy and the instant she sang the opening line I was completely drawn in. “Not even they can stop me now,” she purrs with her deep, rich voice. With the crackling of the speakers, the echoing synths and the licks of the guitar, it gives the impression that it will follow suit in the sound of the previous songs but then the melody cheers up as the percussion beats come to life and her voice shifts to a hopeful tone where she announces, “I’ve finally found you.” Then the feel-good chorus takes you on a musical high. All the instruments are induced with a consuming brightness and her fluttering vocals are beautiful. It’s such a mood lifter and it’s one of the most infectious hooks on the album, thanks to the upbeat arrangement, “now my life is sweet like cinnamon/like a fucking dream I’m livin’ in.” I love how she even throws in a line which can be interpreted for the haters, “baby love me ‘cause I’m playing on the radio/how do you like me now?” Throw in some digitized backing vocals, reverberating synths and percussion and you have the delicious bridge which takes the already amazing aspects of the chorus and intensifies them. The final chorus is beyond epic and made so much better by the addition of a glorious flute. This is one of the most memorable songs because of how cheerful and different it sounds from the rest of the album but it still manages to fit in without throwing off the flow.
Carmen wasn’t an instant hit for me but after I listened to the album a few more times and became familiar with it, I started to see how amazing it really is. It doesn’t have the immediate infectiousness of other tracks but there’s a unique quality to it that makes it a standout. The sound of a car/motorcycle is enveloped in the crying strings and it leads to the mysterious ambience of the verses. Lana carries that mystifying feel into her droning voice as she sings about the curious character of Carmen, “darlin’, darlin’/doesn’t have a problem/lyin’ to herself/‘cause her liquor’s top shelf.” The production has a very mature sound to it and it’s terrifyingly ominous with gritty strings, the soft licks of a piano and a looming percussion beat. The tragedy of Carmen’s story becomes more apparent as it intensifies in the pre-chorus where her voice is struck with death, “she says you don’t wanna be like me/don’t wanna see all the things I’ve seen/I’m dyin’, I’m dyin’.” The dramatic chorus is touched by an overwhelming despair because of the weeping strings, heavier beats and her evocative vocals. “The boys, the girls/they all like Carmen/she gives them butterflies/bats her cartoon eyes/she laughs like God/her mind’s like a diamond/audiotune lies/she’s still shinin’/like lightning/white lightning,” she chants and I love the way her register rises as she reaches the end, stuttering her words to the beat. The song then delves into pure sophistication as the strings take all the attention for the bridge where a woman speaks French. It really adds a different dynamic to the song and takes it to a whole new level. The French suits the song’s overall feel and is a very welcome addition.
Lana is taken into the cool setting of jazz with the warm and passionate ballad, Million Dollar Man. As expected, this jazz number is so different compared to its usual sound. Jazz rarely ventures into darkness but this one breathes and lives it. “And I don’t know how you get over, get over/someone as dangerous, tainted, and flawed as you,” she coos to a sultry blend of piano chords, drums and a murmuring set of strings. Furthermore, this track is very unique because of her vocal tone. Her voice is the anchor that holds it together and it’s really pushed to the forefront. She performs with her laid-back style but in a slightly higher pitch than usual. There’s a tough and gritty element to her voice but laced over that is a fragility that still manages to capture the silkiness of the smooth jazz composition. The different textures of her voice really come out to play and it makes this a euphoric delicacy. The lyrics are wonderfully crafted, insightful and gorgeous. Every word and note she sings carries a strong meaning and passion. It’s such an emotional tune and she puts her heart into every word. I love the second verse because she sinks into a fantastic high note and it just gives me goose bumps every time, “you got the world/but baby, at what price?/something so strange/hard to define.” Once the chorus hits, her voice transcends beauty as she flows between high and low tones that mesmerize, “one for the money/two for the show/I love you honey/I’m ready, I’m ready to go.” The melody crescendos slightly and a wailing, ghostly beat is embedded into it. Despite the overall dark atmosphere, it’s very sophisticated and soothing. There’s also a seductive and sexual feel to it that resonates louder as the song progresses. This was one of my most anticipated tracks and it’s another song that blew me way. It’s definitely a favourite of mine and just hearing how lush her voice is, is enough to win anyone over.
Atmospheric synths and the rich, gentle twang of a guitar opens Summertime Sadness, a fan favourite and Lana’s favourite tune from the record. “I got my red dress on tonight/dancing in the dark in the pale moonlight/done my hair up real big, beauty queen style/high heels off, I’m feeling alive,” she coos to a marching drum beat, her elegant voice drizzled with a huskiness. The music is raised just a touch for the pre-chorus where her voice elevates in pitch and she exudes a confidence as she sings “honey I’m on fire, I feel it everywhere/nothing scares me anymore.” The chorus is where all the magic happens and her breathy vocals bring on such an addicting aura. I love the desolate feel of the melody which is really brought out by the lonely guitar and her emotive performance, “kiss me hard before you go/summertime sadness/I just wanted you to know/that baby, you the best.” In the post-chorus the song suddenly morphs into an up-tempo with a more engaging instrumental. Her voice mimics the increase in vibrancy and the way she repeats and stutters “I got that summertime, summertime sadness” is highly contagious. She manages to slip into her high register for the bridge and the sweeter arrangement works wonders with her tone, bringing hopefulness to the melody. A version of the post-chorus, focusing only on the strings, acts as the transition to the final chorus and it builds back into it perfectly. This song has it all. The warmth and love of summer all resonate through the melody. The typical associations with summer, new life and pure love, are all very evident and the lingering sense of loss that Lana so perfectly crafts into her music comes together in a magnificent way. That’s why I love this track so much. It’s a very hopeful but dark song mixed with the taste of summertime.
This Is What Makes Us Girls is a female anthem about rebelling, falling in love and being sixteen. Almost like reading out of a diary, Lana reminisces on her teenage years, “remember how we used to party up all night/sneakin’ out and lookin’ for a taste of real life/drinkin’ in the small town firelight/Pabst Blue Ribbon on ice.” What makes this song so enjoyable are the rebellious nature of the lyrics and the constant build-up of the melody. The song, at first, has a slick, laid-back arrangement of strings but for every stanza it gets busier. Percussion beats are added to the second stanza while banging drums join the rest of the instruments in the pre-chorus for a heavier melody as Lana employs a higher vocal tone, “runnin’ from the cops in our black bikini tops/screamin’, ‘get us while we’re hot/get us while we’re hot’/come on take a shot.” I love her delivery on this track. When the melody is laid-back she uses a lower register but as the instrumental blossoms her voice mimics it and becomes girly. Her sweet, feminine vocals melt into the track amazingly well and it’s a great match for the subject matter. “This is what makes us girls/we all look for heaven and we put our love first/something that we’d die for, it’s a curse/don’t cry about it, don’t cry about it,” she sings and the arrangement gets one last makeover as it increases tempo, becoming even more amazing and infectious. I love the all’s fair in love and war mentality of the chorus and it’s obsession with love. She easily conveys the themes associated with sweet sixteen and young romance. My favourite part of the song is its dark bridge where she whispers “the prettiest in-crowd that you had ever seen/ribbons in our hair and our eyes gleamed mean/a freshmen generation of degenerate beauty queens.” The melody dies down for a lush array of strings, chimes and there’s even screaming in the background. She paints a picture of her and her friends, intensifying and expanding on the ideas presented in the chorus. I love how it suddenly shifts to a depressing tone as Lana admits “they were the only friends I ever had.” The tragedy of the song comes out in that one moment and it’s the first time where you actually feel for this group of friends.
Without You begins with one of my favourite opening lines ever, “everything I want, I have/money, notoriety and Rivieras/I even think I found God/in the flash bulbs of the pretty cameras.” Her voice is astonishing as she expresses dissatisfaction and grief. Her husky tone is paired with a simplistic chirping, piano and acoustic guitar-driven beat. Though simple, it’s such a captivating opening that draws you in with its vulnerability. There’s a moment of silence after the verse and what comes next is a beautiful and angelic array of instruments and vocals. “Hello, hello/ca-can you hear me?/I can be your china doll/If you want to see me fall,” she croons, sounding fragile as if she’ll break any moment. She puts all of her emotions out on display and the livelier arrangement is so magical. The percussion gives it a much greater impact and emotional pull. The way her voice strengthens when she sings “I have nothing without you/all my dreams and all the lights mean/nothing without you” is glorious. It flows extremely well and the way she drags “nothing” for that slight second makes all the difference. The sad lyrics are enough to pull at your heartstrings but Lana takes it even further with her delicate voice. The lingering sense of unconditional love is tragically affected when the realization of lost love occurs, “can you picture it/babe, that life we could’ve lived.” It’s such a melodic track and it impresses me every time I listen to it. The bridge takes it in a new direction with its dazzling production and her upbeat vocals. What follows is a subdued version of the chorus that brings a different flavour to it and it leads into the final, epic chorus. This is a wonderful song with amazing production and lyrics.
The dark, ominous and dramatic strings that introduce Lolita are fierce. It’s definitely surprising because it’s so malicious and different from the strings that dominate the rest of the album. For the verses, a plethora of strange and sexy hip-hop beats are utilized while she performs in a vocal style that does not appear anywhere else on the album. “It’s you that I adore/though I make the boys fall like dominoes,” she sings in a high voice that takes on a very childish and sexual nature that reflects the title of the track perfectly. The ominous production becomes overtly sexual when Lana begins chanting and teasing with her backing vocals, “kiss me in the D-A-R-K, dark tonight/(D-A-R-K, do it my way)/kiss me in the P-A-R-K, park tonight/(P-A-R-K, let them all say).” It’s the highlight of the track and her delivery is exceptional, especially her backing vocals. The chorus is packed with a dramatic sound thanks to the heavy drums, claps and strings. This is the loudest and most in-your-face melody that the album boasts and it’s a breath of fresh air “hey Lolita, hey!/hey Lolita, hey!/I know what the boys want, I’m not gonna play.” Bringing this sound to the album makes it stand out that much more and it certainly is a much-needed track. The energy of the melody and vocals is totally addicting. The sadistic, sexual tone that she dominates with is flawless and even near the end of the album she’s showcasing another side to her voice. She embodies the role of a vixen in the bridge where she muses provocatively, “I want my cake and I want to eat it too/I want to have fun and be in love with you.” Lana has the most fun she’s had on the entire album and it’s playful, sexual atmosphere will have many hooked.
Lucky Ones closes the album and it does so in the best possible way. I had no idea what to expect from it but it turned out to be the most magical ballad on the album. What makes this special is its light at the end of the tunnel feel. Lana hooks you in with the first line, sung a capella, “let’s get outta this town, baby we’re on fire.” The instrumental comes to life right after with grandiose strings that are heavenly. The melody is elegance at its finest. Her celestial voice is so full of passion and it flutters into a breathless beauty at the end of each line. During the pre-chorus, her voice rises to such an extraordinary high register that is downright amazing,” I got so scared/I thought no one could save me/you came along, scooped me up like a baby.” The chorus is the most hopeful, loving and blissful moment on the album and it’s a listen to behold. The bells and strings are so beautiful and full of life. Her voice breathes a happiness that she rarely conveys and it’s refreshing, “every now and then the stars align/boy and girl meet by the great design/could it be that you and me are the lucky ones?” For an album that relishes in the dark side of love, this is a complete 180 but it still carries that delicious vintage and cinematic feel. Lana continues to impress with her angelic vocals in the bridge where she proclaims “feels like, feels like, you know it feels like/falling in love for the first time.” The outro really allows the instrumental to shine and you get to hear the great display of strings. It’s stunning from start to finish and it’s such an optimistic track, the complete opposite of the opening track. All in all, this is an unbelievable way to end the album.
Conclusion: Born To Die was hyped up so much but Lana delivered and went beyond all expectations. Her album is one of the most stunning pieces of work I have ever had the pleasure of listening to and it gets better the more I hear it. The production is marvelous as are the lyrics that accompany them. Her entire look reflects, so perfectly, what her album represents. Her voice is unbelievable and it’s great to see an artist who plays with their voice constantly. Throughout the album, she showcases so many different textures and sides to her voice. It’s very rare for an artist to jump between registers as frequently as she does but it makes her so interesting. She’s doing what no other artist has done before. She creates a world where hip hop mingles with the glamorous and retro side of Hollywood. Blending these two sounds is an unusual pairing but it results in mesmerizing productions. The string melodies are some of the most extravagant and gorgeous ones I’ve heard. It makes the album stand out from all other releases and its unique vintage sound is not being explored by any other artists at the moment. Lana has a sound that is distinctively hers and hers alone. There’s a unifying sound and tone that is carried through the album but there isn’t a moment on it where I feel that a song sounds similar to another. Furthermore, there are also lyrical connections between songs and it bonds the tracks together. These repeated phrases reveal the authenticity of the record. These are real experiences that are significant and have been lived out by the songstress. Each song has its own unique feel, message and beauty. This results in a very cohesive record with songs that bring something new to it while remaining true to the overall theme. Lana brings two worlds, love and death, together in a stunning way. The album is very dark but there are few moments of pure bliss that overwhelm you with joy. The album is full of surprises and there’s not a single song I consider weak. They’re all crafted to perfection. Lana Del Rey has proven that she is a truly amazing and unique artist. Her music isn’t just a listening experience. It’s a visual one as well because every song paints a picture and the whole album has a very theatrical and cinematic feel. I’ve never experienced this with an album before and she really brings you into her world. Lana has come along way from her first album. The themes and sound are still there but they’ve been improved. Her voice has developed well and she sounds richer, using deep tones she never explored before. Many have hoped she would fade into obscurity but looking at the success of the album, it looks like she won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Born To Die starts the year on a high note and even though it’s just the beginning of the year, the album is definitely going to be a contender for “Album of the Year.”
Recommended Tracks: Radio, Without You, Summertime Sadness, Million Dollar Man, Off To The Races, Born To Die, Lucky Ones, National Anthem, Dark Paradise, Blue Jeans and Video Games
Tags: Lana Del Rey, Lizzy Grant, Music, Pop, Review
- Kill Kill
- Queen Of The Gas Station
- Oh Say Can You See
- Gramma (Blue Ribbon Sparkler Trailer Heaven)
- For K Part 2
- Mermaid Motel
- Raise Me Up (Mississippi South)
- Pawn Shop Blues
- Brite Lites
- Put Me In A Movie
Before Lana Del Rey became a huge internet sensation, she released her self-titled album, Lana Del Rey a.k.a. Lizzy Grant, in 2010. However, it was removed for purchase shortly after due to new management. The record was first put under her real name Lizzy Grant but later she wanted to use the name she created, Lana Del Ray. It received a third and final name change from Ray to Rey. According to her first label, Lana wanted to take the record off of the market but she has stated the reason it was taken down was because they didn’t have money to fund it. After hearing all the hype about her and only hearing a few of her new songs, I decided to cave in and see what all the big fuss was about. I discovered she had released this album and used it as a starting point for her music. Her voice ranges from deep to high tones which she shows off quite frequently throughout the tracks. This isn’t the type of music I usually like but as I started to listen to it, I became more entranced by Lana Del Rey. Her music is gorgeous but there’s such an eerie ambience that flows through, making it unlike anything I’ve heard before.
The soft, creeping piano of Kill Kill sets the mood for the entire album. Her rich, lifeless voice flutters along the somber melody, shrouding it in a deadly air, “bound up the stairs/I’m in the shower/do you know I am going to leave you?” The verses are haunting, taking you to a very unsettling place but then the lounge guitars and drums are added while the piano livens up for the chorus. “I’m in love with a dying man/I’m in love with a dying man/I’m in love, lying in the sand,” she coos tragically and it’s so atmospheric. Despite having a livelier arrangement, it’s deadlier than the barren verses. I was struck by the hook instantly because of how otherworldly it sounds. Her deep voice lacks emotion but it evokes such a strong feeling. The heavier arrangement continues in the second verse where she plays with her vocals, using a higher register. The bridge is insanely creepy as she whispers with her high vocals backing her up, “want to/make it fun/don’t trust/anyone.” The dark elements are contagious and it’s very beautiful. The song is a good starting point for her music and an excellent opener because it represents the album well. Queen Of The Gas Station has a light rock composition with the taste of the countryside. There’s a very old school, roadtrip-esque atmosphere that comes out of the melody as well as her intonation as she speaks in the verses, “give me coffee, king-sized cup/come on, kitty cat, fill her up/what’s your name, little buttercup?/that’s for me to know and you to make up.” I really like the lazy feel of the verses and her slurring vocals are quite sexy. The chorus isn’t very strong or catchy but it does have some redeeming qualities like the drums which take precedence in the melody and her high register. However, the most memorable section is the bridge where she speaks softly until she repeats “again” over and over, each time increasing the pitch of her voice. This isn’t the best the album has to offer but it’s one of the few up-tempos so it has a special place on the album.
Oh Say Can You See follows in the footsteps of the opening track with its somber feel but the composition is much more extravagant. A piano, guitar and string melody carries the entire track. It’s stunning beyond belief and her vocals loom over the melody, becoming the focal point of the song. The song is comprised of three gorgeous stanzas with subtle changes vocally and instrumentally. I love the second stanza because of the way her voice heightens as she sings “the voice of Nirvana says ‘come as you are’/and I will/the night time is almost ours.” The final stanza is the only one to get a change in the instrumental and it picks up ever so slightly due to the drumline. This is such a soothing track and it just carries you along with it so effortlessly. Everything about this song is raw and organic, a true beauty. Gramma (Blue Ribbon Sparkler Trailer Heaven) is a delicious mid-tempo and one of the catchiest cuts on the record. The instrumental is mesmerizing. Opening to the sound of swooping strings and synthesizers, it quickly moves to include drums, twinkling beats and an accordion. The verses are led by quirky percussion and synths as Lana, once again, sing-talks, “A.M.E.R.I.C.A./all I want to do is play/see the city every day/pretty party nation.” I really enjoy the light, high tone of her voice in the verses and how she switches to a different register in the chorus which is the highlight. The hook is so simple but it’s flawless, “gramma said she’ll leave the lights on for me/gramma said the flags are waving for me/gramma said that somewhere out there there’s a good man, waiting for me.” It’s the most addicting chorus on the album and the repetition just ingrains it into your mind. The bridge is a pure delight and I adore it so much. It’s a dialogue between her and the “gramma” with her using a different vocal tone for each speaker. It’s really interesting and the song finishes as her voice becomes distorted into the background.
Up next is, For K Part 2, a marvelous song wrapped up in an exotic sound. This composition utilizes a flute and its call is subtle but it’s where the exotic flavour comes from. The rest consists of a heavy drum and guitar beat with Lana offering a subdued performance. Her relaxed vocals are a little too creepy, especially since this is quite a romantic song, “I like the way you wear your sweater off your shoulder/the way your hair comes down and makes you look older/how are you getting so handsome, my boy?” Her cry of relief midway in is stunning because of how tired yet invigorating it sounds. Even though it doesn’t change vocally or musically, there’s a mystical quality to it that keeps you interested. Jump brings a new sound to the album with its fresh summer flavour. Lana’s vocals are much livelier than they have been so far and her high register is used quite frequently. This is straightforward pop with synths, clapping drums and sweet, sugary vocals. The chorus is lacking any real depth because it’s the same line repeated but it’s actually really addicting. The synths gain a greater focus and they switch to a lighter tone that blends deliciously with her girly vocals. I love her voice in the last portion where she increases her range to a childish tone and sings with a sense of urgency. It brings a little more energy to the song. While I’m not crazy about it, I love the sound that it brings to the record and it’s pretty much the only happy, carefree tune.
The album wastes no time returning to its dark side and Mermaid Motel is, by far, the most twisted she gets. A low hum from Lana sets in motion the slow, foreboding and haunting melody which is made up of intense percussion beats. They’re so sporadic and it just emphasizes their dark nature more. The verses find her speaking in a calm and horrifying manner that is laced with a sexual charm, “buy my purple wig/for my mermaid video/walk back to where we live/in a motel/I’ll never tell, never knew.” Her voice sweetens during the chorus and a set of strings joins the moody percussion, mellowing it out just a bit. The chorus still carries a dark atmosphere. It’s just not as pronounced because of the way she sings during it but the sexual undertones are emphasized more, “you call me lavender, you call me sunshine/you say take it off, take it off.” It’s all very intense and there’s nothing really catchy about it but it’s one of my favourite tracks. Raise Me Up (Mississippi South) is all sorts of bizarre. What begins with an echoing call from the singer and a majestic guitar riff quickly turns into a gritty affair of guitars and drums. The invasive instrumental is engaging and I love how her vocals are the complete opposite. Her murmuring is powerless against the melody but she invokes a demonic feel to it. There are moments where she sings with more power and the second verse has her sounding maniacal, desperate even. “Ray, ray, ray/raise me up,” she croons in the chorus, a simple yet haunting little hook accented by the guitar licks. Her aggressive tone in the bridge is amazing, especially the way her voice becomes more and more intense as she continues singing. The final chorus gets a massive boost because she performs it in the desperate vocal tone from the second verse and it adds a whole different vibe to it. It’s so much darker and dramatic.
Pawn Shop Blues is a splendid ballad that has Lana exploring the deeper timbre of her voice. The song is a stunner with its sad-tinged acoustic guitar and I can’t get enough of her voice. The deep pitch to it is so amazing and she opens up, showing her vulnerability, “well, I didn’t know it would come to this/but that’s what happens when you’re on your own/and you’re alright letting nice things go.” What makes this even better is her vocalizing at the end of two of the stanzas where her voice gradually crescendos into a beautiful sigh. The added strings and harmonica at the end are a nice surprise and a fantastic addition, elevating the song’s beauty. Strange foreign vocalizing and a pounding beat act as the introduction to Brite Lites. With occasional screeches from the synths, she performs in the speaking style that she uses in many of the songs. “I look for you in magazines,” she repeats thrice before she confesses, “I’m taking off my wedding ring” The pre-chorus gets a dose of strings while a guitar is thrown into the mix for the chorus. This song is extremely repetitive but it’s very effective in keeping your attention and it’s more active than the other dark tunes. The shift in the bridge is unexpected and it gets overtaken by a set of eerie, wailing synths. It’s short-lived but it’s a nice change of pace nonetheless. This is a weird little track that sticks to you.
Put Me In A Movie is my favourite track and it’s unbelievable. Lana speaks to a topic that many artists have voiced an opinion on, men taking advantage of women who try to make it in the industry, but I’ve never heard one quite like this, “lights, camera, axiom/you know I can’t make it on my own.” A constant drumline leads the song, accompanied by dashes of twinkles and guitar chords. The verses consist of the same line repeated three times and each time the music and vocals get louder. She performs in her high register for the verses and takes on a childish persona in the chorus which is where the song becomes uncomfortable. This isn’t like other songs that deal with the subject because it has a very pedophilic atmosphere, “come on, you know you like little girls/you can be my daddy” It brings such a horrifying element to the track but the fact that she’s singing with childish naivety makes it tragic. The song is executed perfectly and I love how she conveys this message in a way that not many singers have done. It’s a unique twist to an overused topic that makes it fresh. The change in lyrics at the end where she adds the title to the chorus wraps it up nicely, “put me in a movie/you can be my daddy.” Smarty is the shortest song on the record but it’s a standout. She speaks through the entire track in an intoxicating deep voice, occasionally dipping into her high register, supported by a kooky blend of guitars, drums, piano and synths. The composition is mellow but it packs a punch due to the heaviness of the instruments. Her deep tone matches that heaviness well. The chorus is where it gets addicting because a gritty, buzzing synth line takes over with Lana speaking sexually to it, “who has the face like smarty does?/who has the voice like smarty does?/who has the choice like smarty does?/nobody, nobody.” Her backing vocals push the dark, sexual nature out and make it stronger. It’s a cool song to chill out to and it has the edge to keep your attention locked on it.
Lana concludes the album with Yayo, the most beautiful track on it. This ballad is raw to the core and the composition is stripped to just bare acoustics. It’s chilling, haunting, dark and serene all at the same time. Her voice is magnificent. Her luscious, deep tone is remarkable and the way she delves into her high register brings a delicious contrast to the song, “put me onto your black motorcycle/fifty baby dollar dress for my “I do”/it’ll only take two hours to Nevada/I wear your sparkle, you call me your mama.” Her voice is so controlled and despite sounding fragile, is full of power and emotion. This is the longest song on the album but it never once feels like it drags. Her voice is more than enough to keep you interested but the instrumental is just as gorgeous. It opens up into an elegant blend of guitars, piano and strings. It’s so magical and there are so many moments that leave me in awe. Moreover, there’s a sexual undertone to her voice that just makes it so much better, “let me put on a show for you, daddy/let me put on a show.” The way she stretches out the notes is amazing and one of the highlights. This song does a spectacular job showcasing the depth of her voice and what a unique vocalist she is.
Conclusion: Lana Del Rey a.k.a. Lizzy Grant is a grim and beautiful album that brings the listener to a world that is hardly explored nowadays. The vintage atmosphere, dark compositions and vocals make this such a special experience. I’ve never listened to an artist like Lana before. She’s one of a kind and she continuously shows that in every song. Her writing is distinct and poignant while her themes are tragically romantic and disturbing. I’ve never been fond of this type of music but she has won me over so easily. Even though it lacks refinement, it brings out a quality that is enticing. It works with the sound she’s going for and really captures an indie feel. There’s been a lot of debate surrounding her but after listening to this album, there’s more to her than what people are saying. Lana is a remarkable singer with a style and sound that is a breath of fresh air in today’s industry.
Recommended Tracks: Put Me In A Movie, Yayo, Kill Kill, Mermaid Motel, Gramma (Blue Ribbon Sparkler Trailer Heaven), Smarty, Raise Me Up (Mississippi South) and Pawn Shop Blues