Reflecting On: Lana Del Rey – Born to Die

lana-del-rey-2012

Ah yes, the year is 2012. I am 14, a few months away from 15, and simply desperate to prove I am “not like other girls.” I am at a friend’s birthday sleepover, and one of the girls asks if we should turn on some music. I volunteer immediately, pulling my orange 5th gen iPod Nano, camera and all, out of my pocket. I say, “Listen to this,” and proceed to play Lana Del Rey’s “Video Games” that I ripped off YouTube, complete with the vocal interpolations from the music video’s found footage clips. I am on top of the world. Then one of my friends says it sucks and is not God-honoring and I lose aux privileges for the rest of the night.

BornToDieAlbumCover

You can buy or stream Born to Die on Apple Music

It took me a few more years to get into the rest of Born to Die, an album I still consider to be Lana Del Rey’s magnum opus, the album that will be remembered long after she retires from making new music. The album outlines a lifestyle I have never and don’t ever want to experience, so why do I continue to get lost in this materialistic, drug-addled work?

I once jokingly texted a friend that listening to Lana made me feel “slutty” in the best way. There’s something about the image she portrayed in this first album that made me feel powerful and excited to be a woman. Feeling like I could take hold of this weird twisted destiny she was singing about. When really, in looking at the lyrics, the album is a story of abuse: emotional, and in some versions (I’m looking at you, “Diet Mountain Dew” demo) physical. There is a sick obsession with youth and what it can buy you. It’s an ode to the sugar daddy. It was a portrait of the American Dream, but it’s definitely not idealistic.

Born to Die was like nothing I’d ever heard at that point in time. Even when I didn’t get the literary allusions and references to pop culture from yesteryear, I could still sense something special in what Lana was trying to do. She has changed her style in every way possible since this album, and yet I will always see her with her 40s Rita Hayworth curls sitting between those tigers. I will always see her as a stand in for Jackie Kennedy, lamenting over the lost love in her marriage. I will always see her as the perfect pin-up girl, plucked from the 60s and dropped into a music scene that still doesn’t quite appreciate what she has to offer. With Born to Die, she ushered in an entire generation of girls who went on to make music for themselves, and outside of and despite the male gaze.

Of course, I couldn’t see any of that when I was 14. I only saw a way to appear edgy and cool and on top of the newest and best of pop culture. In a way, Born to Die has brought me here to this 10-year anniversary. I don’t doubt if I hadn’t started branching out back then I wouldn’t be writing this now. Songs like “This Is What Makes Us Girls” were so refreshing to me back then. She can try to hide it behind dramatic metaphors about the Kentucky Derby and by singing about drugs and alcohol, but there’s a truth and a timelessness to Born to Die that is impossible to separate. It’s at once a picture of the best and worst of luxury, two sides of a dangerous coin, and it never grows old for me.

by Nadia Alves

kiel_hauckNadia Alves has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Review: Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell

Lana Del Rey is America’s queen. She’s an expert in mixing the modern with the retro. Her cinematic take on Americana remains fresh with each release and Norman F*****g Rockwell is no different. 

While initially very skeptical of Lana’s brand, these days, I call myself a die-hard fan. Born to Die came to me in a time where I was really desperate to branch out and I had started to really look at women in music and embracing artists like Marina Diamandis and Lorde. My background in music is very male oriented, and I listened to a lot of rock and indie bands – genres that, in the mid 2000s, were generally devoid of female talent. As I’ve gotten older, it’s become a personal goal that I openly support women in music. So I started listening to Lana Del Rey.

You can buy or stream Norman Fucking Rockwell on Apple Music.

My favorite thing about her music is how she seamlessly moves from genre to genre and era to era. She’ll have Jazz Age influences in one track and then in the next it’s like you’ve been transported to Woodstock. I’ve always had a thing for oldies, and the fact that she can pull it off so authentically has always intrigued me. With each album, I feel like we’re moving further in time, and with Norman F*****g Rockwell, we’re arrived in the late 70s, early 80s.

It opens with the title track, one of the softer, but no less hard hitting, songs on the album. Her goal with the album is to draw parallels, something she does through referencing pop culture. She said of the title in an interview with Vanity Fair that, “[She and Jack Antonoff, they] just joke  around constantly about all the random headlines [they] might see that week…but it’s not a cynical thing, really. To [her], it’s hopeful, to see everything as a little bit funnier.”

With that being said, the album isn’t necessarily lighthearted. I would argue that it’s her most personal album yet, from the line in “Mariner’s Apartment Complex” where she refers to an interview she did where the publication titled it, “I wish I was dead already.” To use such a statement as a way to get clicks isn’t fair, and the actual context of what she said has nothing to do with any of those sentiments. 

The album gets more personal about her career than any of the previous five albums before it, but it also pushes the envelope of that career more than the other albums as well. One of the singles, “Venice B***h”, is almost 10 minutes long, and is one of the best tracks on the album. I know I often say this about female artists, but she’s not afraid (and has never been afraid) to take control of her creativity. I feel like that’s because women have to work 50 times as hard to gain any artistic control at all, so the best way is to just keep all of your decisions close, and it’s something that, as unfortunate of a concept as it is, makes for the most authentic and raw music. She’s set the precedent of having complete control, which at the end of the day, gives her the most freedom.

This album is the culmination of everything she’s done up until now. From a little bit of the jazz influence seen in her first two albums, to the transparent lyricism from 2017’s Lust for Life, we have little pieces of each of her past releases showcased here. The closer, “Hope is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me to Have, but I Have It”, is the most poignant of all of her closers. She’s brought everything full circle. Throughout all the difficulties in her life and career she’s still always believed in her art and keeping her creative license. And that’s what makes Norman F*****g Rockwell explosive.

5/5

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.