It’s easy to forget Lana Del Rey is a new artist. Her debut album, Born to Die, was released ten months ago at the start of the year and it feels as if her Nancy Sinatra-esque vocals and shimmering American backing beats have been around for years. With the arguments about her authenticity now faded away, Lana Del Rey has popped up with a release to book-end her debut year.
Born To Die: The Paradise Edition features eleven new songs (three plonked on the end of the original version of Born to Die) and a new disc. Whilst Born to Die is flawed in hindsight, it does still hold year-defining moments. The delectable ‘Video Games’ may have been over-played but was by no means over-hyped, whilst the deeply American ‘Blue Jeans’ and ‘Diet Mountain Dew’ escaped the album as contenders for pop song of the year. The Paradise Edition is more than just a grab for Christmas money, though.
The first three new tracks could easily have made the original album track-listing themselves. ‘Lolita’ is a stark companion to ‘Off to the Races’ with Del Rey gushing “it’s you that I adore” whilst conceding she “makes the boys fall like dominoes”. ‘Lucky Ones’, meanwhile, is reminiscent of the swooping, grandiose nature of ‘Video Games’ as Del Rey muses whether “you and me are the lucky ones”.
It’s really the second disc where you get your money’s worth, though. Opener ‘Ride’ is almost a femme fatale take on Springsteen’s finest work with Del Rey combining themes of escapism, hedonism and the American dream. Del Rey’s persona is neatly honed in the second disc, and her attributes as a ‘gangster Nancy Sinatra’ are infused with an anti-hero’s characteristics from some Tennessee Williams play. The whole Lana Del Rey hype becomes clearer and you get a sense of who she truly is.
Second track ‘American’ is quintessentially Del Rey in itself, giving nods to Springsteen “being the King” and Elvis “being the best”. Whilst the reflective lyricism and conventional operatic music is already something of an expected Del Rey attribute, she still has the ability to shock you. “Be young, be dope, be proud” she hums on ‘American’ before suggesting “my pussy tastes like Pepsi Cola” in track three ‘Cola’, which is almost worth buying the record alone.
In truth, the record’s new tracks stray too far into the tried and tested lyrical formulae with heard from Del Rey in the past. ‘Body Electric’ has connotations of the deep south and gives name checks to Marilyn Monroe, whilst ‘Bel Air’ is a love letter to Los Angeles. Despite these faults, ‘Gods and Monsters’ breaks new ground for Del Rey with a religious exploration. It’s just a shame that even when calling herself an “angel” Del Rey has to revert to singing about “fame and liquor”. ‘Yayo’ is the record highlight, though, and it’s a gorgeous ballad which swoops over you and was made for summer nights.
The record cements Del Rey’s place as the it girl of 2012 but also provides some cause for concern. If she can break from the rigid shackles of what her label wants her to write about she will flourish because she has a distinctive enough voice and witty turn of phrase. Her second record is looking like a crucial point of her career already.
By James Daniel Rodger
Dance Yrself Clean