Lana Del Rey: All Smoke No Mirrors?

By Lauren White
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Oh Miss Lana Del Rey, I really want to like you.

Is Lana a Stepford wife?
According to MTV and various other music blogs, as a female college student, I am your target demographic. Especially as a student in a quirky and liberal city, your adorable, yet sultry retro style in singing and in fashion is suppose to appeal. Maybe it’s just me, but I cannot take anyone seriously when they refer to themselves as “the gangsta Nancy Sinatra”. Even then, I decided to finally look up the music video that has repeatedly been mentioned on MTV’s late night music video blocks and appearing on the sidebar of any VEVO video for the past few weeks. After watching the five minute long video for Lana’s latest single “Born To Die”, the most I could muster for a reaction was “meh”.

The song itself is okay, certainly nothing to write home about. While it is infectious for a ballad, the musical composition and arrangement prevents it from being a great, chart-topping song. “Born To Die” relies a lot on the instrumentation to shape the song instead of Lana’s voice. All throughout the song, her voice stays static, aside from the Marilyn Monroe-esque whispers that make up part of the hook. Even at what should be the climax of the song, her voice is drowned out by the instrumentation instead of it being the moment where her vocal ability should have been showcased. She does have a lovely dream-like quality to her voice, but the songwriting reduces it and her songs to elevator music; you are aware you are listening to it, but you really don’t care to pay attention to what you are listening to.

California flower child?
The lyrics are another story. In an effort to qualify my opinion, I will say that I used to work on a literary magazine when I was in high school. That being said, I can spot teen angst and a puddle of thoughts masquerading as an ocean a mile away. However, I was almost fooled this time by Lana’s voice distracting from the lyrics. After looking over the lyrics, it was clear that this was case of shallow song writing. “Born To Die” pretty much talks about the same subject matter that a few other mainstream artists have either addressed through lyrics and/or video plot in the past few months. The lyrics discuss a destined to fail relationship due the volatile natures of both parties. The lyrics also discuss the need for drug use and long make out sessions to stave off the problems in the relationship. In case this does not sound familiar, I offer the videos for Rihanna’s “We Found Love” and Katy Perry’s “The One That Got Away”. While Lana’s lyrics sound slightly more poetic, the use of cliché lines like “come and take a walk on the wild side” weighs down the song.

The video itself is a string of clichés that tries to pass itself off as art.

Neighbors Naughty Daughter?
Again, when I first watched it, I thought it was Katy Perry’s “The One That Got Away” for indie lovers. The first scene consists of our retro beauty topless and embracing a similarly undressed man covered in tattoos while the American flag ripples in the background. I’m not sure what the flag is supposed to represent, but I am assuming the guy is there to establish her indie cred. The next few scenes are of the camera capturing an ornate room while zooming in to settle on Lana. Sitting on a throne and flanked by CGI tigers, she dresses the part of indie goddess in a retro inspired white gown and flower head dress that any hipster chick would drool over. Unfortunately, this constitutes the performance part of the video and we are forced to watch her fail miserably. When she begins singing, her movements look half-assed and her eyes dart back and forth nervously, as though she was unaware that people were filming her. It then cuts to the main “story” that starts with the indie scene queen running into the arms of her “I’m too hardcore to show emotions” lover. In an attempt to progress the story, they smoke what we are assuming is weed from the lyrics and tumble around the back seat.

Meek Indie Songbird?
Between all of this, a few more performance shots of unsure motions are interjected. Then, we are presented with a new location as a white night gown clad Lana lies down in a bed full of flowers (pay attention folks, this is important at the end). There are more shots of her with her lover and posing as the light illuminates them in the darkness. It switches back to the main story where lover boy is driving and leans over to kiss Lana. Before we can see what happens next, it is back to the performance shots and Lana’s awkward hand gestures that are either too subtle or ridiculous, like when she mimes smoking a blunt. The camera leads us down a dimly lit hallway where we see Lana doing that supposedly sexy slo-mo walk, that all popular girls do in every teen movie, to open a door that exposes a bright light. It then cuts to her tattooed and indifferent lover boy holding her bloodied body while flames burn in the background. For those that did not heed my warning a few sentences back, the white nightgown Lana is her ghost wandering around and reminiscing about her relationship. This is what her label is selling as the artsy and deep part of her vision (and at this, I laugh). Then, for some odd reason, the video ends with the same image as it started with, despite our indie goddess being dead.

A 24 Karat Warning?
Bottom line, she can actually sing, but she is not doing her career any favors by working with horrible song writers and making shallow music videos. Who knows, maybe she will shock us later in the year.

[Full Disclosure: This review was indeed scheduled and written before Lana Del Rey's recent, "mixed-reaction" SNL  performance on 1/14/12]

1 comment:

  1. I can not stand her already & I just heard of her today. She reportedly writes all of her songs herself & also comes up with every detail of all of her videos herself. & since SNL we now know she is actually a terrible singer as well.