On a dark note

Her first album Lizzy Grant aka Lana Del Rey (2009) may have vanished without a blip on the charts,but her second one,Born to Die,delivers

Written by Suanshu Khurana | Published: April 21, 2012 12:05:06 am

Album: Born to Die

Records: Universal Records

Price: Rs 295

Rating: ***

The Cantankerous moniker “gangster Nancy Sinatra” has followed Lana Del Rey like a ghost,and when that happens one’s music is bound to be strained with expectations and apprehensions. Her first album Lizzy Grant aka Lana Del Rey (2009) may have vanished without a blip on the charts,but her second one,Born to Die,delivers. To a certain extent.

A slew of piquant and exquisite hooks in the first half of the album,by way of those 1950s style twangs and interesting mix of orchestration,gives you a melody that works for most parts.

Del Rey,who grew up as Elizabeth Grant in upstate New York and learnt to play basic guitar chords at 18 (quite a late start in the pesky and demanding world of music),introduced us to the sound of her second album with a grainy home-made video floating around on You Tube. The song,the extremely haunting Video games,that had girls and boys swooning,a hit on the internet,remains one of the finest of the album. It comes with a soft piano arrangement in the background that beautifully accompanies her syrupy voice while she sings about her devotion to a man — Heaven is a place on earth with you. The song feels honest,is soft and husky in parts. Only the basic beat of the piano accompanies this dark ballad.

The album opens with an eerie yet interesting title track that only takes a haunting turn after a wonderful string arrangement promises us a Cold Play-esque sound. But then,Del Rey surprises with her husky and echo-ey delivery of the infectious track. It is played with a full orchestra and is a great opening track as Del Rey gives it an edge by magnifying various references to sex,drugs and glamour in a dark and twisted fantasy world. Off to the races belongs to the same setting as she sings I am your little harlot/ scarlet,singing in the garden with her falsetto voice sounding as bright as the original — thanks to a brilliant contralto vocal range. This fantasy world which is overpowered with laidback,lazy atmospherics also comes with numerous references to Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. She convolutes the novel’s references even as she gives it a pop-culture turn and drawls Light of my life,fire of my loins.

Blue Jeans and Diet Mountain Dew are catchy tracks with the latter full of Nineties style hip-hop beats and a quavery voice that works to her advantage. These are followed by Dark Paradise — a song with regular blippy and boppy beats that tell us of her devotion to her favourite pop icon,Britney Spears. It is here that we are fatigued and are looking for a different something,apart from her highly-sedated Fiona Apple style.

But it all just starts dwindling after Track 8 in the 12-track album. Radio is saved by some good drumming and interesting hip hop beats .

One can get through the drawls in This is what makes us girls,but only because it is well-produced. Del Rey isn’t able to do much here either. She gets chatty at times and that cinematic voice that had earlier sung He knows me,every bit of my tall dark soul,begins to sound boring. At times her metaphors (like money references in National anthem) are outlandish and one finds it hard to connect with them.

Listen to the album for the first seven tracks,which are infectious. She could have done away with the last three for sure.

suanshu.khurana@expressindia.com

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