One could be forgiven for calling Lana Del Rey a manufactured pop starlet wannabe. Her disastrous US television debut on SNL earlier in the year had many questioning both her vocal abilities and her stage presence. The hype she had garnered with her first single ‘Born to Die’ could have easily faded out and left her as just another failed pop star.
However, somewhere along the line people started actually listening to her music. Underneath the overproduced songs on her debut album ‘Born to Die’, they discovered a talented songwriter with a unique voice. Lana is back with her second album of 2012, entitled “Paradise”. It is billed as a companion piece to “Born to Die” and it works well in that role.
Starting off with ‘Ride’, a Rick Rubin produced ballad, it is clear that Lana wants to improve upon her first album. The lush, sweeping sounds of the first track pick up where ‘Born to Die’ left off and gives us the most commercial song of the record. In ‘Ride’, the gimmicky themes and vocal acrobatics that she has become known for are gone and they have been replaced with a simple, elegant song that is a nod to earlier times. Comparisons to Adele are not unwarranted.
‘American’ is less ambitious in its delivery, but gives us the best chorus of the album with You make me crazy, You make me wild, Just like a baby, Spin me around like a child, Your skin so golden brown, Be young, be dope, be proud, Like an American. With references to both Bruce Springsteen and Crystal Method in a song about America, it is admittedly hard not to like.
Lana Del Rey’s “National Anthem”
The most talked about song on the album is ‘Cola’, which begins with the controversial line ‘my pussy tastes like Pepsi Cola.’ Musically, the song sticks out on this album and sounds like it would be better suited on ‘Born to Die’. One might assume that the provocative lyric was written purely for shock value, however Ms. Del Rey credits the lyric to her boyfriend Barrie-James O’Neill: “I have a Scottish boyfriend, and that’s just what he says!”
Songs inspired by Walt Whitman poems are not very common in popular music; however with the track ‘Body Electric’ we are given an ode to Whitman’s famous poem ‘I sing the body electric’. The sweeping, down tempo song invokes a feeling of melancholy that is in stark contrast with the meaning of the song, which may be the most positive lyrics Ms. Del Rey has given us. However, even at her most optimistic she still gives us lines like I pretend I’m not hurt, I walk about the world like I’m havin’ fun.
‘Blue Velvet’ is the first cover song that Lana Del Rey has released on a full length album and it fits in nicely on “Paradise”. Even with its lush arrangement, she stays pretty true to the original song. Her vocal strengths are more evident on this song than on any other song she has released.
Sex and drugs aren’t new topics for Lana Del Rey, but in ‘God and Monsters’ she uses them to create a beautifully haunting song. She sings about being an angel in the land of Gods and monsters and if you close your eyes it is not hard to imagine that being true. However, that line is just a ruse and the main theme of the song is about enjoying every decadence life has to offer and not feeling guilty about it.
A reissue of a previous song she recorded before she found fame, ‘Yayo’ sounds like it belongs on the Twin Peaks soundtrack. The lo-fi ballad doesn’t really fit with the previous 6 songs on the album, but it does blend in nicely with the ending track ‘Bel Air’. In fact it is hard to tell where one ends and the other beings.
In many ways ‘Paradise’ is better than ‘Born to Die’. You can see a progressive growth of Lana Del Rey as an artist in both her singing and her songwriting. That said, the album does end with its two weakest songs, which may make some listeners wanting more.
Written by Adam Gibson
OurVinyl | Contributor