At the outset let me put something very straight – I like what she is selling here. I like this album. I don’t like this album in the way I like the classics, but I like this as much I can like any new music. People have criticised this album on the basis that “Lana Del Rey is fake” and “Her daddy is rich, what the hell is she complaining about?” and “She changed her name” and “the music sounds like a corny hollywood soundtrack” and that “her vocal range is limited” and worst of all “her lips are botoxed” and “She sucked on SNL”. None of these criticisms are valid points to put down the music on this album even though they might be inherently true. Let me clarify one more point :- I don’t listen to a lot of contemporary music so I am pretty much ignorant about most of the music that has come out this year or in the last decade. I don’t even understand how people can end up listening to so much of the contemporary scene – I ain’t done with the past.
However, here we are, with a what I like to call “mainstream money grubbing sleazy pop record with a haute chick” and I it ain’t half bad, not just because the people chastise Lana or Lizzy or Elizabeth or whatever you want to call her for the wrong reasons, but because the lush pop arrangements, Hollywood film-True Romance/Pulp Fiction/Titanic esque noir lyrics (most likely a Tarantino/James Cameron fan, I betcher), the alcoholic deadened cynical lady singing in a lower register than normal shtick works. The production is excellent (but that is par for the course) and it does sound like a Hollywood soundtrack (something that is not prima facie bad), but Lana or whoever is behind this record makes it all work. The low register of her voice means that when she goes higher and peppier it sounds great (see “Off to the Races”) and the lyrical imagery while not exactly being poetry work for the music and is catchy (see gems like “I’m your little harlot, starlet, Queen of Coney Island” and the way in which it is spouted by Lana). The emotional cues are obvious (its pop music) but the hooks ain’t Katy Perry or Lady Gaga-ish cheap (nor are they as repetitive), they take time to sink in.
The negatives are that while the record is coherent and full of singles and potential singles, all of them use the same songwriting techniques (lush pop, hard hip hop beats, an attempt at trip hoppish Portishead posturing) which can cause fatigue so its best heard in small doses (this goes for mostly all pop albums), this is hardly The Cure, so that moping around can only work for so long, and some of the songs are outright generic (‘Summertime Sadness”, “Radio”, “Born to Die”, “Million Dollar Man”), and after a few listens, the only songs I listen to are “Off to the Races”, “Carmen”, “Dark Paradise”, “Diet Mountain Dew” and “Video Games”. The atmosphere created is one dimensional – she herself has described it as Hollywood sad core, and I can hardly do better than that – not as colorful as the lyrics which are corny most of the time ( for example “this is what makes us girls/We all look for heaven and we put our love first” – will have to take the opinion of the girls on this one, and oh, did I tell you I love the sort of lyrics she is peddling here?) inspite of which everything hangs together, for the most part anyway. So, manufactured music? Absolutely. Doesn’t detract from the entertainment value. There are missteps, and overall I am on the fence about the shelf life of this art but as of today, I am on board with putting this on “Good Albums from 2012”. These songs stick in your head, and in a good way, and that pretty much is my criteria while judging a pop album, sorry to dissapoint the critics.