Every person in the modern world seems to have an opinion about Lana Del Rey. I have already declared my love for her in various other posts, and that love continues on the release of her (sort-of) debut album, Born to Die. However, after receiving this album earlier this week, and pressing play, something unexpected happened. I didn’t know how I felt about this record. I’ve spent a long time thinking about it, trying to work out if she is a genius, a puppet or just a bit fucked in the head. Since everyone else is sharing their opinions, I thought I would too.
The first thing that grabbed me about this album is the melodies. Golden, golden melodies and brilliant pop song writing that is about ten thousand times more interesting than any pop record that’s come out, at least in my life-time. But despite the melodies, one thing you can’t ignore is the lyrics. It’s the lyrics that has caused people to question the brilliance of this album, and I think for some people, it’s just a bit too much. It’s not just that the lyrics are dark, they are beyond that. They are somewhat disturbing and if anyone was wondering why Lana Del Rey has been called ‘controversial’ listen to what she is singing about.
One third of what Lana is singing about is materialism, how it controls society and how we are all driven by money. In National Anthem she sings ‘Money is the reason we exist / Everybody Knows it / Kiss Kiss’. The other third is about men, how men control women and how far in love you can fall. But everyone writes love songs right? No, not like this. Lana sings about how love can drive death, as she sings on Dark Paradise ‘Your soul is hunting me / And telling me that everything is fine / but i wish i was dead’. It’s taking love and obsession to the next level.
The other third of this album is about fame. How fame can destroy you, something that was first glimmered at in the clip of the actress falling over in the video for Video Games. This is the third I find the most interesting and makes me think that Lana has a whole lot more genius than certain people are giving her credit for. Lana Del Rey has been one of the biggest victims of sudden fame, criticism and hate more than any musician I can remember. She has become unavoidable over the last 4 or so months. Every move she makes, every comment in an interview, and every note she sings live has been criticized, mocked and written about in someway or another. The character of Lana Del Rey has become music’s No. 1 fame game.
While you could say that Lana may be being naive about love and money, I don’t think you can say that about fame. Which makes me think that maybe she is just being extremely clever about the whole thing. Money, love to the point of obsession, and fame are three things which are fundamentally wrong with modern culture. Maybe Lana is trying to open everyones eyes to that. She has become everything that is wrong with modern culture, but it’s purposeful, and maybe the whole ‘Lana Del Rey’ phenomenon is just trying to teach us something about our obsessions with fame, money and love and then more fame, money and love.
She may be as manufactured, as blank and puppet-like as everyone wants to make out. But maybe the girl who went to university to study metaphysics, who can write melodies as beautiful as these, has a little more substance to her then we are all making out.
Now, because no one is talking about the music on this album. I shall. The production is exquisite. Luscious strings and orchestration mixed with hip hop beats and Lana’s truly unique swooping voice. Each song is a star in it’s own right. Video Games is the strongest but I don’t think anyone expected anything to top that. Off to the Races, Diet Mountain Dew and National Anthem seem to come directly from Lana’s more urban NYC influenced side whereas songs like Radio, Carmen and Million Dollar Man have a more torch song influence with stunning fairytale-ish melodies. Lucky Ones, a bonus track, is also a highlight for me, and I think works as a perfect end to the album.
I think the Lana Del Rey character is a landmark in pop music, she actually makes the genre interesting. This album, if taken in the right way, is really quite stunning. Just don’t play it to your 11 year old daughter. A reader commenting on the Independent’s review of the album, calls to mind Jessica Rabbit’s words ‘I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way’. Take it as that, if you will.
Best Tracks: Video Games, Born to Die, Million Dollar Man, Radio, Lucky Ones.