Man how time flies. It’s been a whole five years to the week since Lana Del Rey released her debut album, the wonderful haunting ‘Born to die’. We all know Lana Del Rey now, since this album made her a household name in the contemporary music world, and we all know her morose, down beat style, that some would perhaps call a little depressing, but she holds a style and projects an image that made her somebody to take notice of from the beginning. The beautiful young woman from New York City was unique in her approach to pop music and songs like ‘Video Games’ and the title track ‘Born to Die’ were unlike anything else played on the radio at the time. Once the album was finally released in the final days of January 2012, we found that there was so much more, and were given a chance to finally sit and analyse the lyrical content as well as the depth of the music. The lyrics in particular, once studies a little further with more attentive ears actually told the story behind the relatively downbeat themes.
The songs tell the story of a troubled girl, addicted to danger, the dirtier side of life and men that were unlikely to ever become a fitting soul mate. With ambitions of freedom and a laid back, live fast, die young frame of mind and a “we’ll be okay if we have each other” attitude, the outcome either became, or was glaringly obvious to the listener that it would become a complete disaster when all was said and done. Hypothetical situations? I really couldn’t comment, as Del Rey also held a quality for producing music that appeared so open and honest, but maintains a career that appears quite private and hidden away from public scrutiny or the media world. Aside from an early alcohol addiction, we don’t know that much more about her than what we hear in her music, which is what I suppose we think we know.
So begins a brooding, dark, and alternatively minded record that featured fantastic tracks back to back throughout. The title track opens the album with classical strings and closely followed by drums and samples, causing an amazing contrast, especially when laid over with Lana’s dreamy and dulcet vocals. Her flow on ‘Off To The Races’ feels like quite a departure from the previous track and we’re aware now that there’s an element of diversity to this record, especially when the track builds and the pitch of her vocals shoots up. ‘Blue Jeans’ starts with that minimalist guitar pick that I could listen to over and over again before even playing the song in full. Every inch of the record has something great.
Standouts include ‘National Anthem’ which features even more strings and an amazing chorus, and ‘Summertime Sadness’ which is without a doubt the slowest on the album until it received a hell of a makeover much later by Cedric Gervais, and the remix became a dance floor classic on its release. But really, they’re all highlights and ‘Born to Die’ really does appear to be one of the greatest albums of the past ten years. Although her next two records didn’t receive as much acclaim as her debut, there’s no question of the talent Lana Del Rey is, was and always has been. For fans of the first album go check out her brilliant cover of Nina Simone’s ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ on her 2015 album ‘Honeymoon’ and for real historians, check out her appearance on Swedish indie rock band Mando Diao’s MTV unplugged special from 2010 where she covers their track ‘Chet Baker’ in a solo effort and then joins them for one of their biggest hits ‘Gloria’ immediately after. That Mando Diao collaboration was the first time I ever heard of Lana Del Rey, and I’m certain there’s much more to come.
Words by Stuart Green (@mojo20_music)