Elizabeth Grant or Lana Del Rey as you may know her. A somewhat enigma that’s been caught up in constant controversy over the past year, with harsh criticism over alleged racist views and support of Donald Trump. However, Lana Del Rey is much more than a scapegoat for a corrupt industry and the latest victim of cancel culture. Her misjudged attempts to defend herself – seriously let’s never look at her Instagram again – may overshadow the immense talent and intelligence she has at times. But let’s not forget, she’s a highly successful woman who’s impact on the industry is legendary.
From the opening strings of Born To Die, it was gold and displayed more variation and flavour than the music industry had seen in a long time. The likes of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj all dominated with big, fun pop songs when Del Rey dropped Video Games - arguably one of the best debut singles of all time - a sad, cinematic ballad which showed her being entranced by her lover. The simple yet intricate production of fluttering synths and a minimal piano chord proved popular among listeners. What came with the song’s popularity was the intense and severe dissection of Grant, who faced scrutiny from every angle, including the infamous SNL performance of Video Games where her lyricism and vocal ability were torn apart.
Almost a decade later and she’s still facing immense criticism, this time it’s for her politics and not her music. Video Games, however, has aged like a sweet wine and can be attributed to the major sonic change of the music industry of the 2010’s. Many of Lana’s thriving peers credit her and Born To Die as main inspirations for them. Billie Eilish, a big fan of Del Rey dismissed comparisons between the artists in a 2019 Los Angeles Times interview telling them “I don’t’ want to hear that Billie Eilish is the new Lana Del Rey. Do not disrespect Lana like that!”. The 19-year-old singer has also declared her love for Del Rey’s Off To The Races multiple times in interviews.
It’s not hard to see why Eilish lists Off To The Races as a favourite. It's a sharp, quicker cut from the record in which she sings about the tough past she has and luxuries of a wild relationship she’s tangled up in. There’s no denying Lana isn’t a great lyricist, during the brief five minutes of the track she paints a cinematic story of a Bonnie & Clyde style love which is dangerous, but she loves it. Taking inspiration from both real-life events and Lolita, Del Rey uses playful vocal flicks and takes on a seductive tone which makes her lyrics utterly believable and drags you in for the ride.
Songs like Blue Jeans and Dark Paradise also follow similar lyrical content of Lana loving her boyfriend endlessly, despite questionable things he may have done. “There’s no remedy for memory … Your face is like a melody … It won’t leave my head” she murmurs during Dark Paradise, longing to be with her late boyfriend and citing her idea of paradise is a struggle at night where she cannot escape the painful memories of him.
The overall theme of the record is a grand, cinematic love which she explores through orchestral arrangements and retro lyricism, she’s used this idea many times in later records showing she’s found her niche and ran with it. However, don’t mistake her as a one trick pony. Her romanticisation of a dangerous love has come under fire for being antifeminist multiple times, but damn she tells a great love story which people eat up.
She’s never been an artist to chase success or chart positions, however, it fell into her lap by accident in the summer of 2012 when DJ Cedric Gervais remixed her single Summertime Sadness. Despite Lana’s moodier aesthetic, dance music was still dominating, and the remix gave Del Rey the opportunity to broaden her audience and gain a great position in the charts. It peaked at six on the Billboard Hot 100 and four on the UK Official Charts. The lyrical content of the track is much darker, with there being multiple rumours that it’s about a friend of Lana’s who sadly committed suicide, which can also be seen in the music video. Regardless if the rumours are true or not, the emotional quality of the lyrics remain. They can also be perceived as Lana longing for her dead lover, past the point of caring if she lived or died, “Think I’ll miss you forever, like the stars miss the sun in the morning sky”.
I was only nine when Born To Die was released but there’s truly no other record which carried my teen years more. This album - along with Ultraviolence - shaped what it was like to be a moody teenager bubbling with angst and a false sense of naivety. It provided comfort at my lowest points and gave me vivid ideas of what love was and what it meant to be cool. I soon grew up and developed my own ideas of those two and realised that I didn’t actually know it all, but I’m glad I had such a special record to soundtrack those crucial years of experimentation and learning.
It’s not hard to see why Born To Die set Lana up for success, it’s stood the test of time and bagged over 300 weeks and counting on the Billboard 200, one of only four female albums to do so. It’s a rare release that was such a contrast to anything in the landscape of music in 2012 but somehow managed never too feel unauthentic. It gave her the opportunity to showcase her vast range of skills and develop a cult following who’d follow her throughout the highs and lows of her career. Sure, it’s not my favourite album nor is it the best work she’s produced but my god it’s certainly the most impactful.
Lana Del Rey is set to release “Chemtrails Over The Country Club”, the follow up to the Grammy nominated “Norman Fucking Rockwell!” on March 19th.