Remember Susan Boyle? The one that came out of nowhere, sang one
song, scored millions of hits on YouTube and became an overnight sensation?
Then, with media furore reaching an unprecedented level of mental, went
a bit mad for a while and checked herself into The Priory? See where we're
going with this?
Now, Lana might not have reached rehab yet, but it's fair to say she's had more ups and downs in her short career than the Nemesis ride at Alton Towers. For every 'Video Games' high there's been a Saturday Night Live low (with her recent cancellation at Koko seeming all too much like pre-album damage control) and it's essentially all been leading up to this. On Monday, 'Born To Die' – seemingly the most anticipated album since the dawn of music – finally hits the shelves. But will the artist formerly known as Lizzie Grant hurdle the hype or see her career mirror her debut's nihilistic prediction? Here's the rundown...
A flourish of strings and we're off. You'll know this one, LDR's second proper single, already, but the swelling, cinematic production and Hollywood heroine lyricisms still hit the mark and set up the album's schtick perfectly.
More 'gangster Gwen Stefani' than 'gangster Nancy Sinatra', 'Off To The
Races' is all playful, sing-song vocals and trashy glamour. The omnipresent
“red dress” still pops up but this time it's paired with “gold chains” and “cigars”, the grandiose atmospherics of the title track giving way to harder beats save for the occasional orchestral flourish.
Forget about this track's disastrous SNL outing; it's still a corker.
Guitars plucked straight out of a 1950s Western and expansive sonics abound,
and when Lana coos that she'll “love you more than those bitches before” just try and tell us you don't wish you were him.
Unless you have no access to computers, the radio, TV, ears, the outside
world or are clinically dead then you'll know this one inside out. We won't
bore you with the details then. Suffice to say it's quite good.
Opening on girl band-esque chants of “you're no good for me”, this sees Lana in a more whimsical mood, flipping back to the style of 'Off To The Races'
but packing less of a punch. The album's first non-potential-single.
Utterly overblown, bombastic and brilliant from the off, 'National Anthem'
picks up the pace with strings that sound like 'Bittersweet Symphony',
pouty-face, tongue-in-cheek raps and (quite literally) fireworks.
Capitalising on Del Ray's ability to bleed Big Screen Hollywood in the most
understated of fashions, this harks back to the title track with swoops,
swoons and baby-voiced laments. This'll be one to keep the cynics happy.
The first track to properly combine Lana's high-end glamour and street-smart
sass in one, dropping cold-blooded lyrics (“Now my life is sweet like
cinnamon / Like a fuckin' dream I'm living in”) over layers of strings and
mid-tempo balladry. A weird combo, but it works.
One of the record's most closely guarded secrets, 'Carmen' is 'Born To Die's
most adventurous offering by far. Pitting LDR as both the husky, world-weary
advisor and wide-eyed young starlet, it's pure theatricality from start to
French-speaking finish. Perhaps this is a glimpse as to where Lizzie becomes
Another slight curveball, albeit a more subtle one. Slipping back into
ballad territory but eschewing vocal quirks for affective simplicity, this
rolls by on jazz pianos and an almost Christmassy air to provide a rare
moment when Lana truly lets her guard down.
“Kiss me hard before you go”... “Baby you the best”... “Put my red dress on” - 'Summertime Sadness' may be the singer's personal favourite but it's perhaps the only moment when the motifs start to become a little tired. It's not that it's bad per se, just maybe a little unnecessary.
Like 'Born This Way' without the morals, 'TIWMUG' rounds off the record in
brilliantly bratty, Mean Girls fashion.
Utterly immersive from start to finish, 'Born To Die' might be the most stylised thing you'll hear all year but that's its main strength rather than an 'inauthentic' weakness. Staying steadfastly true to its vision throughout, it's an album that invites you into its hyper-real world and keeps you there. If you want to stick around in mundane ol' reality, that's your loss.
Lana Del Rey graces the cover of NME magazine this week. For the full feature grab a copy of the mag, download the digital issue, or subscribe to NME.