Lana Del Rey: Born To Die

You’d pretty much have needed to be in a coma to have missed the arrival of Lana Del Rey; shrouded by controversy, former Lizzy Grant has become a YouTube sensation, boasting millions of hits per video and a series of prestigious public performances. After the commercial failure of a first album, daughter of millionaire domain investor Rob Grant has hit the indie music scene with the backing of an ingeniously recruited team of producers, writers and publicists who have assisted her in constructing a  50s femme-fatale, or as she dubs it ‘Gangster Nancy Sinatra’, image.

With her debut album Born to Die, set to be released in the UK on the 30th of January and a rapid rise to fame forecasted, one question poses a problem: are we just looking at another untalented, cosmetically enhanced pop-construction or witnessing the rise of a genuinely talented individual?

Released last October, Del Rey’s notably popular single ‘Video Games’ evokes a haunting melancholy. Echoing the romantic bliss of Belinda Carlisle’s ‘Heaven is a Place on Earth,’ Del Rey sings “Heaven is a place on earth with you” followed by the sinisterly sexual “tell me all the things you wanna do”. Her lyrics are dark, engaging; she asks “I heard that you like the bad girls honey, is that true?” in a tone conveying a tragic willingness to be shaped, to play ‘bad girl’ for the sake of romantic interest.

The song is enchanting, owing itself to her vocal range and an inherent eeriness in her voice. If forced to categorise, she is a torch singer; her songs largely revolve around lost love and an unwillingness to let go. Yet unlike her contemporary Adele whose answer to a broken heart is to wish “nothing but the best” to he who has dumped her, Del Rey puts up a fight: In single ‘Born to Die’ she sings “Keep making me laugh/Let’s go get high” with a seductive sultriness.

In a music scene overcrowded by a plethora of monotonous female artists, namely Lady Gaga and Rihanna, who resort to openly and crudely discussing their sex lives to achieve the shock factor, Del Rey offers something undoubtedly new. Free from dreary ‘dance’ music rhythms and auto tuned vocals, Del Rey’s album is set to provide a truly interesting listen. Musically, ‘Born to Die’ is reminiscent of the sound of Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrop’ had it been accompanied by filmic strings and rearranged by Morricone. Wonderfully for the listener seeking variation, this falls into contrast with other tracks on the album which promise to pick up the pace, so to speak. In the opening verse of ‘Blue Jeans,’ Del Rey claims “I grew up on hip-hop”, made believable by the rap-rhythm beat over which she poetically reigns. ‘Diet Mountain Dew’ features an equally original sound, merging elements of early British R&B with smooth, effortless vocals.

‘Lolita’ best exemplifies her curious fascination with the 60s and Nancy Sinatra’s vocal style. Combined with samples from Western movies and slipping in and out of a 90s bubblegum-pop voice reminiscent of Spears’, Del Rey girlishly chants: “Hey Lolita, hey/I know what the boys want, I’m not gonna play”.

Her music and the persona she has imprinted upon it are riddled with contrast; she is innocent yet dangerous, trashy whilst entirely sophisticated. The character she plays is a point of intrigue at the centre of her music; sweetly sarcastic and mischievously malign. Rich and well-connected indeed yet there is no question that Grant, talented singer and artful actress, is deserving of the success that is set to soar in 2012.

Jonjo Lowe