Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Lana Del Rey
Born To Die: Deluxe Edition 


When Lana starting creating her album, Born To Die, she had a very specific idea as to what kind of sound she wanted sonically throughout the record. Musically, she's been described as the "Gangster Nancy Sinatra", and when you hear the album, it's obvious she took that name literally, with the majority of the record sounding like the soundtrack to a romantic urban mobster movie set in the 1950's.
The production on the songs moves beautifully between lush, vast melodies and string heavy hip hop beats. There's a dream like quality to the music that helps listeners become absorbed into Lana's world, and that's exactly what Lana and her producers have created with Born To Die, a complete audio and visual universe, a place to escape to.

The booming strings of the title track, Born To Die, open the album. Lana sings about a doomed relationship amidst a thunderous hip hop beat. It's the perfect way to start the record, the song feels like the opening credits to an old Hollywood film.
There's no time to take a breath however once Off To The Races immediatly kicks into gear literally a second after the title track ends. Lana's vocals sweep in and out of even louder hip hop beats this time, as the song builds and builds to a beautiful and cinematic string heavy finale.
The sexy, Blue Jeans is next, taking obvious notes from Chris Isaac's, 'Wicked Game'. The very haunting and timeless sounding torch ballad, Video Games, follows, which shares the same themes lyrically as the song before it.
The album takes a welcome change of direction at this point with, Diet Mountain Dew. The more lighter and upbeat vibe of the song is a nice way to pick the mood up after the more darker opening tracks. This song has had a few incarnations over the last few months with it's various demos. For the album version, the beat has been given an obvious "kick" and a lovely piano melody has been added to the already catchy chorus. This isn't my favourite version of the song, but the hook is so strong, it doesn't really matter to me either way. This wouldn't sound too far removed on an Amy Whinehouse album.
The small glimmer of light Diet Mountain Dew gives us doesn't last too long once the next track, National Anthem, begins. Similar to the previous track, this is known a much different sounding song by fans due to a demo leaking online last year. Gone is the summery chanting sound of the previous version, now the song sounds more like a war march at a funeral, with dark heavy synths and a creepy haunting chorus. It's a beautiful and eerie track, i like the song in both forms, but this version fits the feel of the album better.
Dark Paradise follows, and is the biggest surprise on the album for me. I'd heard a live snippet of the song months ago, and it didn't grab me as much as other new live songs did at the time. On the album however, the song is incredible. I especially love the opening few chords and the surprising change of direction during the bridge. Production wise, it's the best song on the album.
The sweet sound of Radio changes the tone of the album once again, with Lana singing about being in love over a very charming and catchy melancholic beat. Like earlier in the album however, it's yet another short lived lighter side to the record once the sinister, noir-esque and dark, Carmen, begins. This song seems to divide fans, it has a musical feel to it which might be off putting to some. Personally it's an album highlight for me.
The last few tracks that round off the standard edition of the album are the mid tempo, jazz-lite, Million Dollar Man. It's a sexy moody ballad and Lana's vocals sound their best on this. Summertime Sadness, a fan favourite, is next. It has the same beachy feel of Blue Jeans, with an even catchier chorus.
Last but not least, This Is What Makes Us Girls, closes the standard edition of the album. Like a few of the other songs, this has a different sounding demo that's been around for a while. On the album the song has been changed with newly added vocals and a Kanye West inspired hip hop beat.

The deluxe edition features 3 extra songs, but they don't feel tagged on to the end like an after thought, they blend nicely with the rest of the album.
Like Carmen and Dark Paradise, the first of the bonus tracks, Without You, features some of the most unique production on the album. The song is only a few tempos away from being a dance song, yet the beat is kept restrained throughout the track, making the song a mid-tempo ballad with a subtle bassline that feels like a tease.
Lolita, is next. Gone is the 1950's pop sound of the demo, Lolita now sounds like the next Bond theme with it's cinematic, dark and dramatic production. This should have made the standard edition, it's fantastic.
The final song on the deluxe album, Lucky Ones, ends it all on a surprisingly lighter note. This is Lana's ode to falling in love, and after the mostly depressing tone of the previous 14 tracks, Lucky Ones is a nice way to say goodbye to listeners by ending on a positive and hopeful note. Production wise, it's my least favourite song on the album though.

There are a few minor issues with the album that i have. Even though the production is beautifully lavish and rich, that also means the album as a whole can be a bit of a heavy listen.
More of an attempt to make each song not blend together so much would have benefited the overall experience of hearing the album by adding some variety. The differences in the production are actually there, but they're subtle,and you may need to give the album time to showcase that a little.
Also, i did prefer the previous finished version of Diet Mountain Dew [titled 'Diet Mtn Dew'] over the album version. The new version is nice, but it's missing the pre-chorus lyrics which were my favourite part of the previous version.

The only other album that has captivated my "imagination" as much as Born To Die was Fever Rey's debut album from a few years ago. Lana's music features the same other wordly feel as that album, she has a very unique and distinct voice, and when combined with her lush and atmospheric music, she sets herself apart from what any other artist is doing at the moment.
Whether you like Lana's overall product as an artist or not, there's no denying the amount of ambition and passion that has gone into this album. From Lana's incredible lyrics and signature voice to the rich and vast sound of the music, every inch of this album is absolutley dripping with passion. I doubt i'll find a better album this year, she's set the bar very high.

Born To Die 5/5
Off To The Races 5/5
Blue Jeans 5/5
Video Games 5/5
Diet Mountain Dew 3.5/5
National Anthem 4/5

Dark Paradise 5/5
Radio 3.5/5
Carmen 5/5
Million Dollar Man 4/5
Summertime Sadness 5/5
This Is What Makes Us Girls 5/5
Without You 4/5
Lolita 5/5
Lucky Ones 3/5