Tags: JAPONESQUE, Koda Kumi, Kumi Koda, Mr. Blistah, Omarion, Review, T-Pain, 倖田來未
- Introduction ~JAPONESQUE~
- So Nice feat. Mr. Blistah
- Boom Boom Boys
- V.I.P. feat. T-Pain (Album Version)
- Slow feat. Omarion
- IN THE AIR
- You are not alone (Acoustic Version)
- Interlude ~JAPONESQUE~
- Love Me Back
- No Man’s Land
- Ai wo Tomenaide
- Lay Down
- Love Technique
- Poppin’love cocktail feat. TEEDA
- All for you
It was quite crazy for Koda last year. She announced that she was getting married and then shortly after revealed that she was pregnant. Her tenth album, JAPONESQUE, was pushed up due to her pregnancy which had fans even more excited. I went into the album with little knowledge of what to expect because I didn’t keep up with her releases during this era. I only listened to a handful of tracks and I wasn’t too amazed with what I heard. The album cover certainly caught my eye and it’s the best concept she’s done so far. The sexy and mature look of the oiran style is gorgeous and pure eye candy. I was interested to see if this traditional appearance would be a reflection of the record. When the album started getting praised as one of her best, I couldn’t help but get excited.
Introduction ~JAPONESQUE~ is exactly what you would expect after seeing the album cover. Its ethnic beauty comes through immediately as the shamisen comes to life. Contrasting against the organic, oriental instrumental, are Koda’s seductive vocoded vocals repeating “follow me.” As the song reaches it’s centre, her voice becomes even more distorted and the melody explodes with a slew of new beats including chimes and drums. She’s never had such an oriental-based introduction before and it’s very alluring. It does an amazing job of raising your interest and making you excited for what the album has to offer. The ethnic theme continues in the first true song, So Nice feat. Mr. Blistah, marking the second time she’s worked with Mr. Blistah. Like their previous collaboration, this song is wrapped in a luxurious and sexual Middle Eastern air. This mid-tempo oozes sex with its hot production and her provocative performance. She hasn’t had an Arabic song in a long time so it’s great to hear her return to it because she always slays these types of songs. Koda coos seductively over the percussion while Mr. Blistah provides the background vocals. The song doesn’t ignite until the chorus but once it does, it’s impossible to resist. She switches between a breathy, sex-charged tone and a sharp, high register in the chorus. Thrown into the background is some intense moaning from the singer. With the busier sultry melody, it’s so intimate and steamy. Mr. Blistah’s breakdown is just as captivating. He raps hard but still manages to convey the soft, sexual elements that she performs with. The track is incredibly addicting, one of the album’s best. Boom Boom Boys brings up the heat with a combination of rock and electronic elements. A gritty guitar riff is paired with her sassy vocals and it’s very in-your-face. The blend of genres really aids in the song’s catchiness and makes it stand out. I’m not usually a fan of her rock-oriented songs but the dance-oriented side of the melody does wonders. The chorus bursts into a fiery hook that is dominated with energy, power and attitude. The guitar becomes even more insane and during the middle portion of the chorus, her voice gets a large dose of vocoder that just meshes right into the intense riff. She takes the brash nature of rock and throws it right into the non-stop energy of dance-pop. Her “oh oh ohs” are so damn catchy and she’s so playful throughout the entire track. The breakdown is electrifying due to the barrage of synths and there’s a slight annoyance to her voice but her sassy attitude makes up for it.
V.I.P. feat. T-Pain (Album Version) was one of the songs I checked out before the album’s release and now it’s been updated with the inclusion of T-Pain. I’m always up for a slutty anthem from Koda but this is kind of a mess. The beat is fire though. It’s sexy, fierce and it has a banging display of provocative synths. It’s very quirky and full of that Koda charm. What brings the song down for me is the vocal work. She doesn’t sound bad but there’s so much going on, resulting in a lack of focus. Everything kind of muddles together. There’s vocoded backing vocals, panting backing vocals and unaltered backing vocals. She even jumps between registers and it just comes across as a huge mess. All these elements bring it down and take away from its potential infectiousness. It’s such a shame because I really want to like this track because it has such an interesting composition. I do enjoy the bridge because of her ad-libs and the spastic synth line. After this, it hits an all-time low as T-Pain makes a horrendous appearance with a completely generic rap. The next collaboration, Slow feat. Omarion, is much better. With its slick and smooth R&B/hip hop style, it’s a winner. This mid-tempo is led by a fresh synth and percussion beat, drenched in an edgy hip hop sound. Her voice has a nice layer of vocoder and it suits the nature of the track. She sounds so good with that slight dosage and it blends magically into the electronic melody. The chorus shifts the melody into a slightly more upbeat one and she delivers a strong performance. Her voice is sharp, clear and emotive. There’s a nice laid-back and smooth tone to it that screams R&B. It’s very delicious and makes for a fresh hook. Omarion’s backing vocals blend well with hers and there’s great chemistry between the two of them. Unlike the last collaboration, Omarion’s rap is much more fitting and sounds great. They sound so good together and it’s a very enjoyable tune.
Brave is the album’s first ballad and it’s somewhat typical but it’s quite lovely. The opening piano is soothing and blissful, a great-lead up to her sweet vocals. The song throws out a few surprises as it becomes a lot more complex as it progresses to its chorus as more instruments are incorporated. The chorus is very powerful due to the strings and her passionate delivery. There’s a gorgeous winter and romantic feel to the chorus that really brings a spark to the track. The instrumental break in the bridge is so pretty and her vocals are amazing. She puts so much emotion and strength into them. It’s a nice ballad but it’s just a bit too safe and similar to many of her other ballads. Up next is the first cute track, Everyday, and it comes in the form of a bright R&B tune. Her voice is sweet, innocent and sugary. It definitely has a feel-good flavour to it and its adorableness is hard to resist. This is the lightest tune so far and the playfulness that she evokes is really nice. In the verses, the light synth work is molded with a smooth R&B sound that is very pleasant. The song isn’t anything new for her and she’s done this sound countless times but it’s one of those songs you just can’t hate because of how sweet it sounds. Koda’s voice is so smooth and cute, a perfect match for the colourful arrangement. I really enjoy the chimes that are included because they add a level of innocence to it. The chorus is a burst of sugar as the instrumental livens up and she offers some lovely ad-libs. This is a simple but a lovable tune from start to finish.
In The Air follows the same breezy atmosphere of the previous track but it’s romantic and carries a bit more power. The song opens with a summery, elegant melody consisting of a piano, electric guitar and soft drum beat which makes up the verses. Her voice takes on a deep quality, setting a light-hearted atmosphere. It’s very beautiful but then the song takes an unexpected turn and explodes into an upbeat arrangement which makes the song even more spectacular. The chorus is filled with an uplifting air and Koda’s vocals soar through it, occasionally reaching some lush high notes. The mood in the chorus is so pleasant and such a contrast from the subdued verses. I wasn’t too keen on this song when I first heard it but it’s definitely a grower, thanks to the powerful chorus. A pounding drum and clapping beat is joined by a gentle acoustic guitar in the next track, You Are Not Alone (Acoustic Version). Koda begins ad-libbing before the background vocals chant the chorus with her. There’s much more power to the chorus thanks to the background singers and her heightened vocal delivery. On the other hand, the verses take a mellow approach as she performs with a soft tone. There’s not really much going on in this song and the melody isn’t that ear-catching. The campfire feel that dominates this track isn’t very appealing. Interlude ~JAPONESQUE~ is somewhat of a continuation of the introduction but this is much darker and aggressive. The oriental melody carries a dramatic feel but it eventually morphs to include a barrage of electronic beats just like the introduction. When her voice enters the track, it shifts into a calm, euphoric state and the instrumental slowly builds up into its climax.
Up next is the fast and furious dance anthem, ESCALATE. This up-tempo starts with distorted vocals and is supported by a catchy synth line. The beat is extremely aggressive as it consists of strong percussion and crazy electronic sounds. She opts for an attitude-packed delivery instead of a sexual approach. The song ignites in the chorus because the synths go into overdrive and she sings with a ferocity she hasn’t shown very much on the record. Even though it’s not her catchiest dance song, it’s pretty damn good. Koda jumps into her sexy style for Love Me Back, a spy-esque banger. Donning a sultry tone, she entices her way through a hot and groovy synth beat for the verses. There’s a very cool air about them that really works with the light sexiness she spills into her delivery. Of course, as the track progresses, the melody becomes more exciting and reaches its climax during the chorus where she sings in a delicious high register. I love how provocative this tune is and all the moaning that she does makes it even better. I didn’t like this song very much at first but it’s really grown on me. I still don’t like the English lyrics,“diamonds and sapphires and you, oh my,” but it’s not as intolerable as it was before. The instrumental break in the bridge allows for a better listen of the slick electro beats. This is a playful and wild track that the album desperately needed.
A lonely guitar opens No Man’s Land, the signature rock song of the album, but it’s soon joined by massive drums and even more guitars. This is quite different from her typical rock sound because in the verses she’s mostly rapping and speaking with a vocoder effect and it sounds really good. Her deep voice is perfect for the gritty instrumentation and it’s great to see her experiment even if it is only just slightly. Things pick up in the chorus where the guitars come to life and her flow is impeccable. The hook is easily the most addicting part and I love how her voice gets stronger as it approaches the end. In the bridge, the music dies down but quickly starts to build-up again as a marching drumline comes in which then leads into a fiery combination of drums, guitars and synths while she chants “everybody put your hands like this.” This has a very grand feel to it and it’s one of her most memorable attempts at rock. The experimenting is over as soon as it begins because Ai wo Tomenaide is another typical ballad. With a piano, set of strings and light drum beat, Koda offers a safe ballad that is pleasant to the ears but hardly anything to get excited over. The verses are led by the piano and array of strings with her performing in an elegant manner that becomes more emotionally charged in the chorus which is when the percussion is intertwined with the rest of the instruments. There’s a massive climax in the bridge that is followed by a gentle version of the chorus before it returns to its expressive melody. She sounds strong and passionate, the instrumental is extravagant but it’s just not that impressive and it runs on far too long.
KO-SO-KO-SO is the records saviour and most original track. I’m usually stunned by her club bangers but this is the first album where one of her mid-tempos ends up being my favourite. This is the sexiest song she’s done in a long time and it’s done in such a sultry and classy way. The synths are very European which makes for a much steamier melody. Her voice melts into the futuristic beats and her breathing backing vocals are pure sex. More synths are added during the chorus while she sings energetically, providing a dancier vibe. The song is quite repetitive but it’s marvelous. It has the most addicting and exciting melody on the entire record. Her performance is outstanding and she’s never sounded so hot. It’s raunchy but tasteful and it’s one of her best tracks. Lay Down is another highlight and it’s the big dance number. “U gonna love it,” she declares, initiating an onslaught of dark and intense synths. Vocoder runs rampant but it works so well with the heavy synth beats. She’s very playful during the verses and I love how sassy she sounds. This is the sexy Koda that I have been dying to hear on the record and it’s exactly what I hoped for. While the previous dance tracks all showed different sides of her, this one combines them all. Throughout the track, she’s sexy, flirty and aggressive. Surprisingly, the chorus isn’t as energetic as I expected it to be. Compared to the verses, her delivery is a lot more relaxed as she seductively sings, “take u, break u, make u mine…/and u gonna love it.” However, it fits wonderfully and she keeps the energy high throughout the song.
A computerized synth line is paired with her sugary ad-libs for the start of Love Technique. The melody is so electronic, filled with sporadic synth beats that are extremely infectious. Halfway into the verses, she sings rapidly while the synths begin to malfunction and this leads into the chorus which consists of magical chimes that make for a sweet surprise. The chorus is so catchy and it’s not overly cute. The heavy electronic elements balance the sugary atmosphere perfectly and it makes for a truly playful tune. Poppin’ love cocktail feat. TEEDA comes in and messes up streak that the end of the album had going for it. It’s a fun, summery rock tune that’s full of life and energy but I would have loved it more if TEEDA wasn’t featured on it. His intro is probably the most embarrassing thing I have ever heard and it was a terrible idea for him to start the track, “you looks like horny.” Luckily, all of Koda’s parts are fun, fresh and super contagious. The song never runs out of force and it is constantly bombarding you with guitars. In the verses, a simple guitar riff joins her but it transitions into a crazy riff that is then replaced by drum and clapping beats. It’s interesting and really enhances the summer vibe of the track. However, the chorus is where the song turns into a party of electric guitars and it’s fantastic. TEEDA’s raps are unnecessary and he affects the flow of the track. It would have been so much better without him. The record ends with All for you and it’s quite a surprise because it’s a live acoustic performance. She’s never ended an album like this before so it’s nice to see her strip down and focus solely on her voice. The acoustic instrumental is so minimal which allows her voice to shine. This is a song dedicated to her fans so it’s very sentimental and beautiful. The raw approach she takes makes it heartfelt and shows her love for her fans. It’s a lovely ballad but, sadly, I have an issue with the way it was recorded. The quality of the song is a little weird and it’s not as clear as it should be. Despite this, it’s a sweet song and a beautiful way to conclude the album.
Conclusion: While I went into JAPONESQUE with high hopes, I came out slightly disappointed because it doesn’t bring anything new to her discography. For a loaded album, she doesn’t take any risks at all and plays it safe from start to end. However, that does not mean the album isn’t solid because it’s very enjoyable. Koda covers everything from acoustic to dance to rock to R&B and to bubblegum pop. There’s not a single song that I outright dislike, they all have redeeming qualities. She stays in her comfort zone but she does everything extremely well, much better than what she’s done in her last few albums. It would have been interesting if she worked an oriental sound into more of the tracks which is what I assumed was going to happen after seeing the album cover. It’s a great album and fans will certainly be happy with the material.
Recommended Tracks: KO-SO-KO-SO, Lay Down, So Nice feat. Mr.Blistah, Everyday, Slow feat. Omarion, IN THE AIR, Love Me Back, ESCALATE and Boom Boom Boys
It was never my intention of becoming inactive for three months so I’m very sorry to all my readers. I had so many reviews planned but I lost all my motivation. I was also taking an extra class which kept me occupied in April and I was hoping that I would start updating again early May but I just couldn’t write. I think I’ve been gone long enough and I’ll have a new review posted very soon! I have a lot of catching up to do and I’ve discovered so many great new artists during my little break. Once again, I’m sorry for the lack of updates and I hope to make this blog even better than it was before.
Tags: Brown Eyed Girls, 미료, Girls' Generation, LeeSsang, Miryo, MIRYO aka JOHONEY, Narsha, Review, Rude Paper, SNSD, Sunny, THE KOXX
- Party Rock (feat. Gary Of LeeSsang & THE KOXX)
- I Love You, I Love You (feat. Sunny Of SNSD)
- Revenger (feat. Rude Paper)
- Leggo (feat. Narsha Of Brown Eyed Girls)
Brown Eyed Girls’ fierce rapper, Miryo, has finally released her first solo effort, MIRYO aka JOHONEY. I’m not going to lie and say I was ecstatic when she announced a solo mini-album because I certainly wasn’t. She’s not my favourite member of the group but I do enjoy her raps most of the time. I was interested to see what type of concept and sound she would come up with for her record. Narsha and Ga-In’s solo albums were amazing so there was a part of me hoping that Miryo would continue that trend and surprise me. When the teaser for her album was released, it had a dark tone to it that had me intrigued. I assumed the album would be on the dark side with some great, heavy raps from the singer but I couldn’t have been more wrong. She went into a very pop direction, a direction that I honestly thought she would not embrace.
Miryo doesn’t escape the trends that K-pop holds onto rigidly because Party Rock (feat. Gary Of LeeSsang & THE KOXX) has a club-ready synth and hip hop production. This is definitely not the type of sound I had assumed she would venture into so it was a huge surprise for me. She throws out some quick, sharp raps in the verses with a slight dose of vocoder on them. There are light spasms of synths that give it a hectic, dance feel. It’s quite catchy but the chorus amps it up and blows up into an infectious party anthem. THE KOXX’s ad-libs in the chorus are vocoded to perfection and his vocals are the highlight of the entire track. Miryo’s vocals are pretty hilarious due to the way she enunciates. They’re both incredibly fun and mixed with the arcade synth line, it makes for a great hook. Gary gets to shine in the second verse and his hard rap is reflected by the melody as it explodes into a bombardment of crazy beats. Things just get crazier during the bridge as the music kicks into high gear while Miryo and THE KOXX provide fast-paced raps. This song is a whole lot of fun and one of the most memorable on the album. A part of me was hoping DIRTY would be an amazing dark rap song but it turned out to be very lighthearted. Although it’s not what I wanted, I like it a lot. The light guitar, synths and percussion are all mellow and contrast against her tough, smooth voice. It’s a pop and rap hybrid, more on the pop side though. She does quicken up her rapping occasionally during the verse to add a bit more power to it. She throws in some rock for the chorus and it blends into the synths for a breezy and massively addicting melody. Despite having a sad lyrical theme, the song is quite poppy and playful. Her light vocals are wondrous and very infectious. I love the sweet acoustic guitar in the middle eight. It’s so melodic and vibrant but sadly, her upset speech doesn’t mesh with it. The part where she lashes out should have been paired with a heavier beat because it ends up not having any impact. Luckily, the second half of the bridge remedies this as the melody is much more fitting for her intense rap. The final chorus gets a face lift and is much better due to her ad-libs. I didn’t like this at first but it’s a grower.
What would a Korean mini-album be without a ballad and I Love You, I Love You (feat. Sunny Of SNSD) opens with a clicking clock and a soft piano. A lovely set of strings joins the mix once she starts rapping and the melody progressively becomes more involved and engaging as it blossoms. Her voice is vocoded and it’s so unnecessary because it would have been fine without it since this ballad focuses more on organic instruments. Sunny’s voice remains untouched so it’s odd that only Miryo’s voice is digitized. The chorus is the highlight due to Sunny’s lush voice and it’s touching, especially her fragile “goodbyes.” Miryo’s raps just don’t carry the same feel. They sound awkward with the ballad arrangement and the sentiment isn’t carried through. Sunny’s actual singing sounds so much better with the melody and her performance is more emotional. Overall, it’s enjoyable but it’s not outstanding. Revenger (feat. Rude Paper) also starts with a piano but Miryo’s performance is a lot more dramatic and aggressive. As the song progresses, the melody starts to develop into a darker and heavier sound. Hard and gritty synths burst into the composition during the chorus and Rude Paper offers a rap that is just as tough as the melody while Miryo does the backing vocals. This is the type of song that I imagined would dominate the album. I really like the anger that she conveys and it reflects the title of the song. My issue with the track is that in the most aggressive parts, she’s relegated as the backing singer. This would have been so good if she had a larger role in the chorus because the verses are toned down compared to the rest of the song. I had no idea Narsha was going to be featured on the album so Leggo (feat. Narsha Of Brown Eyed Girls) was a great surprise. Miryo raps to a bouncy synth beat and as it quickens so does her singing. The fast-paced sections are very catchy and it gets more addicting in the chorus where Narsha steals the spotlight. She makes the song incredible. Her sweet, digitized vocals are delightful and paired with delicious synths, “and baby you‘re the only one I need.” Miryo adds the attitude and power while Narsha adds the love and beauty. It’s a great combination and it’s my favourite song off the record. The breakdown is amazing and it dies down into an atmospheric melody with fresh backing vocals and great vocoded vocals from both singers.
Conclusion: Miryo’s mini-album is the weakest of the three solo albums that have been released but it’s still enjoyable. My biggest fear for her was that she wouldn’t be able to stand alone without the rest of the group and that’s exactly what happens. Her raps just aren’t strong enough to carry a whole song and the direction she took didn’t help at all. Her guest artists, especially Narsha and Sunny, outshone her. She should have stayed away from light pop because it just didn’t work out too well. Furthermore, her vocals are heavily vocoded on the majority of the album. In her group material, her voice never received this much vocoder and she’s proven that she has a strong voice so it’s shocking that she uses so much of it here. If she went into a darker and heavier rap direction similar to Brown Eyed Girls’ recent music, the album would have been great. It’s commendable that she took an unexpected route and risk but it didn’t blow me away.
Recommended Tracks: Leggo (feat. Narsha Of Brown Eyed Girls), DIRTY and Party Rock (feat. Gary Of LeeSsang & THE KOXX)
Tags: Born To Die, Lana Del Rey, 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, Lana Del Rey aka Lizzy Grant, 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