September Artist – Lana Del Rey (Part 2)
This post is part of my Deep Dive Music Project. This month I’m listening to some music by Lana Del Rey. Be sure to check out the Lana Del Rey playlist I have on Spotify. Note: Chemtrails Over The Country Club wasn’t released when this post was first published, but I have added it to this playlist. This post has all my thoughts about the music I’ve listened to this month, and is broken up into three parts including this one. Click on a link below if you’d like to read another section.
For this post, I’m going to write briefly about each of the Lana Del Rey albums I’ve listened to this month.
Since this is a different type of post than what I normally publish I’ll be describing things in some weird vague terms. Get ready throughout the Deep Dive Music Project (not just for this post) to see phrases like “sounds like” “reminds me of” “this vibe is like” “feels like” and so on. While I took piano for about 10 years I only have a couple of years of music theory so there won’t be much for “wow I really loved the Gsus7 chord here. And the fact that this song is in E Aeolian symbolizes the sad contemplation of humanity.” I mean there might be some, “I think this is in a major key. I like how it sounds.” However in general this project isn’t going to be very theory-based. I’m also not at all familiar with music production, so that might not be very detailed or accurate. I’ll likely say things like “those drums in the opening on the songs are fucking great” and “I liked the synths (I think) in this song” and so on.
General Overview and Impressions
On the whole, I’ve been enjoying Lana Del Rey’s music. While there are some songs and albums I may like a little bit more than others there isn’t a song or album I hated or wouldn’t listen to again. I could easily see myself going down the rabbit hole with her music, so I’m glad I’m restricting this project to one month per artist. I know there are probably bootlegs of unreleased songs before she went by Lana Del Rey. I would like to listen to them at some point, but I wanted to focus on her main releases under the moniker of Lana Del Rey and not the earlier stuff she made under the name May Jailer or Lizzy Grant.
I see images when I listen to a lot of Lana Del Rey’s songs. Like in my mind, which is weird because I’m not a very visual person. I have a hard time picturing things in my mind (meditations that are all you’re walking along a stone path and you come to a big wooden door make me frustrated because visualizing is really hard for me and I just don’t “see” anything). With many of her songs, I could picture little vignettes and scenes in my head. This doesn’t happen for me with every music artist. Like I love Queen, but I don’t picture anything in my mind when I listen to Queen’s music (I just enjoy some great fucking songs by Queen).
Lana Del Rey’s vocal delivery is kind of great. Whispering with strength. There’s a lot of vocal control to do that. She still sounds clear, but her voice isn’t overpowering. I’ve been reading articles looking back at how Lana Del Rey’s sad pop sound influenced the back half of 2010’s music. I didn’t really realize this until I started this project, but there’s even a Taylor Swift song from a few years ago “Wildest Dreams” where Swift was clearly going for a Lana Del Rey vibe (like very “Without You” from Born to Die vibes – Taylor Swift’s album coming out after Born to Die).
I find it really interesting when a singer puts on an accent (for lack of a better term) in songs. I notice Lana Del Rey does some different vocalizations like this, like the higher, breathy vocalizations she does in songs like “Off To The Races” (in the chorus) and in “Lolita” for example. Many of her songs have a story element to it, without being having a folk song structure or “once upon a time…” kind of deal. These vocalizations she does adds to the feeling of this story element to some of her music.
Born to Die -Paradise Edition (Special Version)
I started with Born to Die – Paradise Edition (Special Version). This album is basically Born to Die (which has 12 tracks) and the Paradise EP (which has 8 tracks) in one album. There are also a couple of tracks that weren’t on the original release of Born to Die or the Paradise EP as well. The handful of the Lana Del Rey songs I knew beforehand were from this album, most being from the Born to Die part of this album.
I liked this album, but I think because I was familiar with several songs from here I kind of knew what to expect. Don’t get me wrong this album was pretty good. If we lived in a world where all music sounded like the songs from Born to Die I’d be okay with that, but it didn’t blow my mind. I kind of knew there was going to be a theme of Americana (or maybe a postmodern version of Americana) and ideas about that. Maybe because I’m Canadian and don’t always connect to that idea of Americana, but yet I consume a lot of media meant for American audiences there’s a bit of a separation in that regard.
I found “Lucky Ones” to be kind of meh. Like it’s not bad, but also it was the one song I was most likely to skip from this album when listening to it. The melody for the verses I really enjoyed, but the bridge and the chorus just didn’t do it for me, it kind of fell flat. And the background jungle noises (which worked in other songs like “Born to Die” for me) just felt distracting.
Also, the sample of the “hey” voice (not sure what’s actually being said, but you hear it in several songs) was all right. It added to the trip-hop element, and I generally didn’t notice it. Except my brain decided that the sample in the song “Blue Jeans” was yelling “Sharks!” Now, I understand that’s not what is being said at all, but that’s what my brain decided to hear and I can’t unhear it (like the whole Yanny/Laurel thing from a few years back). I hope now you hear “Sharks!” when listening to this song. You’re Welcome.
Ultraviolence (Deluxe Edition)
This album blew me out of the water. I was not expecting a guitar-heavy psychedelic rock 60s and 70s inspired album. And maybe because I listened to a lot of 60s and 70s rock music growing up (music my parents listened to a lot) that my brain was basically primed to love this album right off the bat. In fact, this album has definitely become my favourite Lana Del Rey album (so far), and it was the one I wanted to constantly repeat. I do tend to get pretty fixated on a particular album/song when listening to music, so that doesn’t mean the other albums weren’t also fantastic in their own way. It’s just that Ultraviolence was the one where (at least now) I want to keep listening to it.
In fact this album for me comes pretty damn close to being a perfect album, which is a complete misnomer. When I use the term “perfect album” I don’t mean it’s a flawless masterpiece beyond criticism. To me, a perfect album shares several qualities. They are
- I love all the tracks equally and don’t have any desire to skip any tracks. There are many albums I love, but most usually have a track or two that I don’t like as much as the other tracks.
- It’s an album I can listen to at any time, no matter how I’m feeling or what I’m doing. Again there are lots of albums I love but sometimes I’ve got be in a certain frame of mind to listen to some albums or artists.
- It’s an album where I can play any track on repeat multiple times (like say 10 times in a row) and not be tired of the track, and I’ll still want to listen to more of the album.
On first listen I loved every song from Ultraviolence, but after multiple relistens there are a couple of songs I don’t love as much and would sometimes skip. But I was not expecting to hear a close to perfect album for the second album I listened to on this project.
Ultraviolence is an album that sounds very different from her other albums, but yet when I heard it I was like oh yeah that’s a Lana Del Rey song for sure. Like there are some artists/bands who have a pretty consistent sound and that’s cool. Then there are artists whose albums can sound a bit different from each other, but yet you’d never mistake their song for someone else’s. I’d put Lana Del Rey in that second category.
This album has more of a Born to Die vibe with less hip hop. Very slow tempo, but to be fair I don’t think there’s any high tempo Lana Del Rey song. I mean if you’re looking for music to do cardio to then Honeymoon probably isn’t the best choice. Though if someone played this album in a yoga class or something I’d totally understand that. Wikipedia says this is a baroque pop album, but that’s a pretty broad category (basically just means pop music that has classical elements to it). I could definitely hear that and several songs sounded like they could be in a film score. The songs “Honeymoon” and “Swan Song” stand out for these reasons.
I did find this album harder to get into than Ultraviolence and maybe because I loved that album right away (like from the opening bars of “Cruel World”). Honeymoon is a very different album than the last one, and it just didn’t connect with me right away. I still really enjoyed Honeymoon overall, but there were certainly less earworm songs for me (catchy songs that get stuck in your head) on this album than from the other two I’d listened to. Even if this album isn’t a perfect (according to my completely random and biased opinion) it’s still pretty damn good. Sometimes there are albums I don’t connect with right away. Then I’ll go back to these albums months later and become obsessed with them. I feel that Honeymoon could be one of those albums for me.
Lust For Life
In my first post where I mentioned the previous Lana Del Rey songs I knew before starting this project, there was one song from this album (unbeknownst to me) I’d heard many times before. The first track from Lust For Life “Love” is a song that plays on the random music player we have at my retail job. It’s a pre-made playlist we can’t change, with maybe 100 or so songs. So because of this, I’ve heard this song a lot (and just didn’t realize it was a Lana Del Rey song…I tend to try to tune out the music I hear at work). “Love” isn’t a bad song by any means, and if I didn’t hear it all the time I’d really enjoy it. Since I hear it so often I probably won’t listen to it much outside work.
I wondered if the song “Lust For Life” would be a cover of the Iggy Pop song of the same name, but it was a different song (a duet with The Weeknd). This album had several features from other artists, and it was the first album that does this. On this album, there are songs featuring The Weeknd, A$AP Rocky, Playboi Carti, Stevie Nicks, and Sean Ono Lennon. I find it interesting when an artist collaborates with artists from different music genres. My favourite features here were “Summer Bummer (Featuring A$AP Rocky, Playboi Carti)” and “Tomorrow Never Came (Featuring Sean Lennon Ono).” On that last song the vocals were gorgeous, and I would classify it as a song that sounds pretty.
Several songs from here have a Born to Die vibe with hip hop elements like sample use and all that, but not as much of a trip-hop album as Born to Die. I found this album easier to get into than Honeymoon and there were several catchy songs that got stuck in my head right away “Cherry” and “13 Beaches” being two of them. “When the World Was at War We Kept Dancing” feels like a vibe for 2020. Just saying.
Norman Fucking Rockwell
This was just a really solid album. Does Lana Del Rey have a bad album? No, I don’t think so. Maybe her next release will prove that wrong, but I’m sure it’ll be great.
The song “Norman Fucking Rockwell” gave me some serious Fiona Apple vibes with its sound (like from the Extraordinary Machine era). The production for this album feels scaled back, and tighter. It’s another great Lana Del Rey album, and I can see why it got the praise it did. What I will say about this album is I found the first few songs and the last few songs to be fucking great, and the songs in the middle I just didn’t love as much. Are those few middle songs bad? No, but they weren’t ones I kept repeating. Again they could be songs that I get into at another point in time, but I just wasn’t feeling them right now.
One thing I didn’t mention about the previous albums is how poetic a lot of Lana Del Rey songs sound. I know she wrote a book of poetry (and the song “Burnt Norton – Interlude” from Honeymoon is a TS Elliot poem that Lana Del Rey reads). But in NFR songs like “Mariner’s Apartment Complex” and “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but I have it” feel like they could just be poems on their own, or that they could have started as poems rather than being intended as songs.
I know I didn’t write a lot for this album, but there are only so many ways I can say this album was pretty fucking great. It was pretty fucking great.
Since Lana Del Rey’s 2020 album Chemtrails Over the Country Club hasn’t come out (as of this post’s publication) I listened to a few extra songs that were not on the previous albums. “Looking For America” is a standalone track released last year, which is a contemplative look at the idea of America and Americana. She also wrote two songs (“Big Eyes” and “I Can Fly”) for the soundtrack of the film Big Eyes. Both of those songs I enjoyed, but I think I liked the more somber tone of “Big Eyes” than the uplifting tone of “I Can Fly.” As well as her song “Young and Beautiful” for the film adaptation of The Great Gatsby, a song I heard before and enjoyed.
There are also a few cover songs I listened to not featured on the previous albums. “Once Upon A Dream” from the Maleficent soundtrack works so well (and also made me think a Lana Del Rey cover of “Sally’s Song” from The Nightmare Before Christmas would be great). And a cover of the 1966 Donovan song “Season Of The Witch” for the film Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark. I found the tempo of this last song to be a bit too slow and it kind of dragged for me.
Finally, Spotify has the single track “L.A Who Am I To Love You?” which isn’t a song, but a poem from her book of poetry Violet Bent Backward Over The Grass with some accompanying background music. I really enjoyed this track, and while I’m not one to read poetry books I’d like to give the audiobook of Violet Bent Backward Over The Grass a listen.
If you’ve read all that congratulations on getting through that, maybe. I didn’t know exactly what to expect with Lana Del Rey’s discography, but on the whole, I’ve really been enjoying her music. Considering that’s she’s released an album every couple of years or so since 2012, and those albums have all been really great to fucking stellar I am quite impressed with Lana Del Rey. I’m looking forward to hearing her new album. If it comes out this month I’ll try to listen to it and add my thoughts about it in this post.
In the next post, I’m gonna pick a couple of songs from each album and write a little something about them.
What’s your favourite album by Lana Del Rey?