Those who have not yet heard of Lana Del Rey are part of a rapidly shrinking group. Del Rey has just reissued her breakthrough LP, “Born to Die,” with the inclusion of a new EP called “Paradise.”
“Born to Die: The Paradise Edition” features a collection of glimmering pop songs. Del Rey’s style is slow smoky grime infused with orchestral strings; dangerously provocative, yet defiantly classy.
In an age where so much pop music has become predictable and homogenous, Del Rey is breaking the mold. Borrowing strongly from the trip hop artists of the 1990s, Del Rey weaves elegant vocals over a clash of real instruments and synthesizers. The songs that emerge are breathtakingly cinematic. Del Rey’s sound is moving, sometimes ethereal.
Despite Del Rey’s dedication to a sound that is authentic and original, she has received a fair amount of criticism since breaking through to the mainstream. The dreary New York club singer flubbed an appearance on Saturday Night Live earlier this year, leaving audiences unimpressed. Meanwhile, critics of her persona insist that she is taking herself too seriously.
Despite these criticisms, however, there is no denying Del Rey’s talent. Her languid voice affects emotion with every line, with vocal delivery that is truly Broadway-worthy. Impeccable compositions complement the singer-songwriter’s gorgeous vocal performances.
Del Rey’s LP, “Born to Die,” was originally released in January of this year. The album dreamily carries listeners from start to finish, sometimes feeling like a collection of lullabies.
The single “Video Games” is a perfect example of Del Rey’s dreamy sound. The five-minute ballad soars with airy instrumentation and rich poetry. Other tracks like “Diet Mountain Dew” juxtapose Del Rey’s heavenly element with down tempo dance beats, keeping with the trip hop tradition.
Song titles like those mentioned above might create the impression that Del Rey’s music is petty “bubble gum,” a mere vehicle for shameless pop culture references. The depth of Del Rey’s songwriting then comes as a delightful surprise.
Del Rey is a dynamic singer, able to dramatically shift her approach on certain tracks. “Off to the Races” flirts with rap influences, adopting a half-spoken method of vocal delivery that drips with ice-cold cynicism. Del Rey’s cryptic lyrics tell stories of love, loss and the coming of age.
The new EP, “Paradise,” develops not only Del Rey’s sound, but her optimistically tragic character. With a 10-minute short film that serves as the music video for the EP’s opening single “Ride,” Del Rey tells her fans a story of seeking freedom on the open road.
In the video, Del Rey is depicted traveling and romancing with a host of middle-aged American men, mostly gun-toting bikers. The video opens and closes with dramatic monologues in which Del Rey proclaims that her life goal has been to “live fast, die young” and “be wild.” This is the major theme of “Ride,” in which Del Rey sings, “Living fast and playing hard: that’s the way my father made his life an art.”
Del Rey remains poised, even when bravely professing blatant vulgarities during songs like “Cola.” The singer-songwriter’s unabashed sexuality may make unsuspecting listeners blush, but Del Rey deserves credit for being able to tread these waters while still portraying a respectable image.
“Paradise” is an effective addition to “Born to Die,” with the two records bearing a resemblance to one another while also creating subtle contrasts – evidence that Del Rey’s songwriting is in a state of ongoing development. The two infectiously catchy albums complement each other perfectly.
“Born to Die: The Paradise Edition” was a great idea given the fact that so many people are still learning about Lana Del Rey.
Chris Trubac can be reached at [email protected]