What To Listen To – Born To Die (The Paradise Edition) by Lana Del Rey

Photo courtesy of lanadelrey.com

In celebration of the lead-up to Ultraviolence, I felt it was only right that we take a look back at Lana Del Rey’s first collection of songs from her album, Born To Die (The Paradise Edition)! This album launched the singer’s career back in 2012, so when she released the deluxe edition (known as The Paradise Edition), my love for her as a songwriter and vocalist only grew! If you haven’t listened to this album before, I’m going to do my best to convince you to because it is truly a masterpiece! Kick back, relax and settle into your own idea of paradise and get ready to experience the warmth and tender seduction of Lana’s musical talents.

First up, we have the title track, “Born To Die”. This song was my first experience of listening to Lana Del Rey and let me tell you, my life literally changed significantly that day. In an intense story of what seems to be the relation between love and life, a soft beat guides us through the song which is delicately dressed up with beautiful string-work and vocals. For many of us, it was the first Lana song we ever heard and it was the perfect choice because it introduces us to her music really well but doesn’t give us everything she has to offer.

“Off To The Races” follows and was another track that introduced us to Lana. It was a free download on iTunes for a week so many of us first heard this unusual rhythm of pizzicato strings and hip-hop influences.

“Blue Jeans” was a single from this album cycle and won over many people who were on the edge about this new artist. A story of unconditional and timeless love with an iconic broken-chord on guitar in the intro and a chorus that really takes flight. And the accompanying music video is sheer beauty.

Probably the biggest hit from this album was “Video Games”. It was simple and yet was so different to anything most radio listeners had ever heard on the radio. Piano and strings dance with Lana’s voice. An absolutely stunning love song that has bagged Lana many awards. It embodies the love themes of the album perfectly and uses the relationship described in the lyrics to reflect the simplicity of the music.

My favourite music video from Lana Del Rey is for the next song, “National Anthem”. It explores American political and social history and power and how they were present in her relationship at the time. Some of the lyrics are quite sexual and flirty, but in the most romantic way. It also has similar beat and string-work to “Born To Die”.

“Radio” is a gorgeously uplifting track that was made to be listened to in the sunshine. Lana’s voice opens hitting each note of a D chord and then elevates to create one of the warmest verses on the album. You’ll also be singing the chorus to yourself for the next few days.

“Beautifully tragic” is the only way I can describe the next song, “Carmen”. The lyrics tell the classic story of a woman who is a stripper/prostitute or something along those lines and it is clearly taking its toll on her. The piano and strings are used so expertly in enhancing the emotion offered in the vocals. Lana’s range and execution in this song is just something you have to hear.

I love the next song so much. “Million Dollar Man” is, in my opinion, the perfect romantic song. It’s almost a song of borderline worship towards this man she’s deeply in love with. It’s just pure admiration for how this guy is and the bridge before the chorus really captures that “in-love” sound. If anything, what we really need to fall in love with is Lana’s style vocally, which is displayed beautifully in this song.

You might of heard the remix to the next song because it has literally been on every radio station and music TV channel since last year. “Summertime Sadness” is exactly what it says on the tin. Expect romance, sadness, warmth and poetic lyrics.

“This Is What Makes Us Girls” is a very different story to the previous songs. Exploring memories from her teenage years in school, we get an insight into Lana’s relationships with friends and past boyfriends. It’s technically a female-empowerment track but is ultimately a look-back on what shaped Lana’s lyrics and personality.

We steer straight back into the theme of love in “Without You” but this time, it’s in relation to fame. Featuring similar musical aspects to many of the previous tracks, this song’s value is in the lyrics. Lana’s declaring that she has found faith in some way through the flashes of the cameras but she has nothing without her man. “All my dreams and all the lights mean nothing without you” is my favourite lyric because it sums up the song’s theme perfectly.

The main reason I love the next song is because it’s so different and generally bad-ass. “Lolita” not only brings us a different sound to the orchestral strings and vocal accompaniment, but it also has very suggestive lyrics such as “could be kissing my fruit punch lips”, “kiss me in the D-A-R-K dark tonight, kiss me in the P-A-R-K park tonight’. There’s also more hip-hop beat infusions and interesting chord-work.

“Lucky Ones” is such a sweet little tune that really flaunts the prettier side to Lana’s use of strings and lyrics. Even the chorus just sounds… pretty! There’s wedding bells in the song also, which suggests Lana was completely set on being with this guy forever. But then again, she is the current queen of love songs so it wasn’t exactly that hard to guess. There’s a strong sense of youth and an almost a childlike fascination towards the relationship.

“Diet Mountain Dew” is just cool. Like, honestly there is no other jam like it on the album. One of my favourite choruses on the entire 23-song long tracklist. Such a marvelous downtown/urban vibe has a noticeable bass line, which I never really noticed in the previous tracks.

Time for one of my favourites! “Dark Paradise” is the song to listen to when you’re upset and in love with someone. It has such desperate and depressed lyrical content and has a powerful chorus. There’s another version of the song online also, but this one is so much better. The song genuinely suggests Lana may have suffered from depression at some point. She places herself in situations that seem almost suffocating to listen to. She’s drowning in the ocean and then also in complete darkness when thinking of this guy. She even wishes she was dead at this point! Dark, dark times methinks.

Moving into The Paradise Edition of the album, we have “Ride”! The mini-movie music video she made for this song is the only way to fully experience the glory of this song. She is very talented visually when making her videos and if there was any music video you had to watch from Lana, it’d be this one.

“American” is one of the greats on the entire album. Although fairly simple, the delivery of the song is what makes it so good. There is a very sensual beat that isn’t heard anywhere else on the album. This song could send you into a deep and blissful sleep.

Okay, before I get into the next song, let me give you a bit of background. So, before releasing these newer songs, Lana previewed some of the songs online for fans to hear. The preview of “Cola” had everyone losing their minds because of the opening lyric, “my p***y tastes like Pepsi Cola”. Lana has had some pretty out-there and filthy lyrics before but GURL. We loved it from the moment she shared that with us. It’s also apparently a true story – based on a compliment her boyfriend gave her, telling her exactly what the lyrics say. You will never drink Pepsi Cola the same way again… Oh, it’s also a great song. Very rock & roll and her vocals towards the end are just everything. It’s safe to say this song is a fan-favourite.

“Body Electric” was one of the first songs from the deluxe version that we heard. Performing it live, she caused a lot of excitement because it sounded great. And, it turned out, the album version is great too! It’s a lot more instrumental to the live version she performed. It was also one of the songs used in her recent short-movie, Tropico.

“Blue Velvet” is indeed a cover of the classic song performed by artists such as Bobby Vinton, Tony Bennett and The Clovers . Lana brings an extremely sultry and rich element to the song. As always, her voice is like a smooth, silky/velvet heaven that suits the instrumentation perfectly.

Back on the bad-ass side, “Gods And Monsters” is possibly an angry questioning of faith. The chorus will send shivers up your spine. The low and high string fusion with guitar just really brings out so much feeling. Also, there are much heavier drums that contribute to the anger. Most teens love a song about the abandoning of innocence and faith and this is that song!

The last two songs are tied as my favourite Lana Del Rey songs of all time. The first, “Yayo”, is a sickeningly low piano ballad that has an alternate guitar version. Lana’s vocals are slurry and a mix between really low and really high. It was also one of the first songs I learned in-depth on piano so it has a special place in my heart. It’s complex in terms of chord and melody and has rock & roll, jazz and classical influences that make it one of her best written songs of all time.

The album ends with “Bel Air”. This song is literally what I imagine heaven sounds like. You can almost see the clouds and huge golden gates… Also a piano-lead song, this song pushes harmonic boundaries and is also rather complex. Although the melody is a gorgeous ascending scale for some parts, it also experiments in its switches between movements in tones and semitones. The song is essentially a sweet lullaby to put you to sleep as the album ends, drifting blissfully into a state of peace.

Overall, the album is incredible. Although it’s not exactly diverse and experimental in the instrument department, Lana Del Rey still manages to bring timeless music to us in 23-songs with this album in a way that can capture all kinds of audiences. Its incredibly deep adventures into themes of love, faith, nostalgia and beauty are a common mix, but I don’t think we’ve heard it quite like this before. All I can say is listen to this album and get ready for Ultraviolence!

Sunil Gangarh
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