There is no denying that the sound, the lyrics, the excess behind Lana Del Rey’s music is an experiment. There is the ‘cinematic’ rich sound which is grounded in 1960’s americana and it manages to conjure up some really instagram-ified pictures. And this is the whole package. The music and the videos go together. You cannot listen to a Lana Del Rey song anymore without thinking about those retro video’s and color burn effects. Or for that matter tigers and a crown and a woman who conveys no emotions from her face. Stuck in the 60’s or not, Ms. Rey has carved a niche for herself. With her new album ‘Ultraviolence’, she veers into more melancholy. But that is all good. We never expected Lana Del Rey to be a peppy pop princess. She created a brand for herself when she gave her self an excotic name. Shedding behind the image of Lizzy Grant, she has experimented with the vintage lifestyle- which has too often been about the excesses involved.
Don’t get me wrong. I like her music a lot. But the excess that was Born to Die, (i refer to the tigers again) is quite jarring in my world. I find Lorde’s music more relatable even if she is a little weird as well. When Lorde says, ‘We will never be royals’ – I get it. I am not proud of my address either. My choice of music is a little alternative. I listen to ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah’s’, ‘Sara Bareilles’, ‘Paramore’, ‘Katie Melua’, ‘The Clash’ ,’The Shins’, ‘She and Him’ – sometimes all in the same playlist. Maybe I have no idea what good music is… But it isnt me avoiding popular music. I would enjoy the next Katy Perry track just as much as you. But I would also grow weary of it pretty soon. There are a few artists whose music however is ephemeral in my books. I have discovered them sometimes by accident – ‘The Magic Numbers’ and fallen in love with them
With Lizzy Grant a.k.a ‘Lana Del Rey’, I dont even know what is the hook. With most musicians its a single track and then you continue to listen to them because they used to be good (i’m looking at you Coldplay) The best way to describe Lana Del Rey’s music is what it reminds me of- and it has always been old beautiful things. An old Mercedes driving off in the sunset. Women with big hats. Retro cameras and phones with physical dialers. Yet, all those things define her and not me. And this is why sticking to the brand is okay. With Coldplay changing their look and sound with each album I have lost track of what they started out as… atleast with Ms. Rey I have some consistency.
Her music is unique because she fills it with things she has read, likes and wants to talk about. If you will forgive me a transgression here, I am quickly going to compare her, a pop singer to the masters of progressive rock- Pink Floyd. Listening to Lana Del Rey is an experience quite similar to Floyd. And here is why…
These albums are constructions. They are not simply thoughts put together, but crafted to adhere to a vision. They have different purposes however… while Roger Waters wrote about war and loss and politics, Ms. Rey seems to confine her music to love and pretty things. Vintage is her brand. In both cases we are only passengers in what the artist wanted us to experience. We listen, we observe, we cheer and we praise how creative they are,
Maybe all it takes to make a lana del rey video is to type ‘vintage’ in google image search and pick the most beautiful images you find… here, like this-
No. You see, there is no consistency. Maybe I need more time with this stuff but clearly there is more art in this process. You maybe have to live with the idea that you can make something special, and then develop your own unique style. After all, isn’t the music derived from these tastes?
With Born to Die, I saw glimpses of true genius. ‘Video Games’, ‘Blue Jeans’, ‘Radio’ are signature tracks. There is nothing to compare the sound or the visual images they can conjure up. In fact, with Radio, I always pictured excess like one of Gatsby’s parties. So it was really apt that Ms. Rey contributed one of her the most haunting tracks ‘Young and Beautiful’ to the movie.
What followed was a hiccup in the journey. ‘Ride’ was artistic vision going a bit overboard. It made me regret liking her music. Here was a 15 minute ‘movie’ where she talked about her struggles? It was pretentious. Let’s not talk about this again.
With her new album Ultraviolence, I am hooked again. Clearly there is more coherence in her music. It is… sadder. It is still rich and cinematic. The videos still promote her as some sort of artist stuck in the 60’s. Ultraviolence has fewer ‘pop’ songs and this is good. It fits my mood and makes me want to tear some paper and throw things around. ‘Sad Girl’ could be the soundtrack of nervous breakdown. ‘Brooklyn Baby’ is the perfect song if you are driving down the road, leaving a city behind- imagining all the people you are leaving behind. And yes, the imagery I conjure up is always vast open landscapes and long drives. Maybe this is what Ms. Rey wanted to convey. Sooner or later there will be a video that will show us what she really wanted to capture. And then we will again be tourists of the past- where the fashion was a little better, the cars more prettier and the life a whole lot simpler. Until then, we are free to imagine.
Ultraviolence is a good album. An improvement over Born to Die and I am looking forward to those videos Ms Rey.