“Baby put on heart-shaped sunglasses ‘cause we’re gonna take a ride” she commands in the haunting timbre that indicates she is up to no good. That is quite characteristic of the glamorously dark and mysterious sensation that is Lana Del Rey. Throughout her relatively short but swift rise to stardom, Del Rey’s music has received mixed reviews from the general public. However, no one can refute her enormous success since her first publically renowned EP, Born To Die was released. While the patriotic, orange lipstick-wearing star has quickly become the artist behind one of the biggest selling album’s of all time, she has been criticized for teetering along the line separating hauntingly beautiful music and whiny murmurings. With the cinematically dramatic singer’s newly released single, “West Coast”, that line is blurred as Lana drifts dangerously close to boring her audience.
What is the appeal to this bizarre genre of music? Lana Del Rey can certainly sing. However, she is not exactly showing off powerhouse vocals in her music. Her unconventional style is also uncharacteristic of the songs one characteristically hears on the radio and sees topping the charts. However, after Del Rey released “Video Games” independently on YouTube in 2011, she was discovered and signed to a major label in no time. Born To Die was released less than a year later, and it has since gone on to sell over 5 million copies. Once the general public got a taste of her “Summertime Sadness”, they simply could not get enough.
If someone asked me to describe the musical sensation that Lana Del Rey has created, I would call say “Vintage Modernity”. She somehow balances this strange conjuring of old-Hollywood drama and glamour with an alternative approach to a rap-sing crossover. This is especially prevalent in hits like “National Anthem”, “Off To The Races”, and “Diet Mountain Dew”. Modern hip-hop beats are present, however only beneath a shroud of eerie violin, harp, and piano. This results in a ghostly and dark potion that is somehow too enticing to ignore.
Del Rey’s following album, Paradise enjoyed similar success, especially because it was packaged with the re-issue of Born To Die. However, since the 2012 release of the EP, Del Rey has mostly kept herself busy with writing and recording individual songs made for various films such as The Great Gatsby and Maleficent. As excited as I was to see her name on the soundtrack to such films, expecting her eerie sound to complement the glamour and darkness of such stories, her original tracks left much to be desired. “Young And Beautiful” written for The Great Gatsby is what I would point to as Lana’s begin of her downfall. The pure blackness of Lana’s haunting success is interesting and sexy, however her singles began their descent into greying dullness.
My hope was that the queen of Vintage Modernity was just slipping because she was writing for singular movies, not for herself. This fostered optimistic expectations for Lana’s upcoming album, Ultraviolence. Unfortunately, the four minutes and seventeen seconds of “West Coast” somehow seemed to drag on for an eternity. Del Rey has stayed true to her signature song, however her lyrics and swagger have somehow fell a bit flat. Take away her quirky attitude, and she is stripped down to moaning irrelevance. Del Rey has risen to stardom so quickly, my fear is that her sensationalism may be short-lived. However, she has demonstrated her raw artistry through the unique phenomenon she has created by herself. Perhaps that originality will be enough to carry her track to the top of the charts once again.
Written By: Hanna Sutton