It’s been less than a year since Lana Del Rey released her major label debut Born To Die and we proclaimed it one of the best releases of 2012. Since then, we’ve received several video treatments for songs off the record, a small tour, and have all thankfully come to the conclusion that the farcical and pauperized coverage of her unconventional performances on Saturday Night Live are just a burnt out twinkle in our eyes compared to the fifty stars on the United Stated flag that shine bright for the patriotic songbird.
The Paradise Edition is a repackage and semi-new release of Born To Die. The deluxe edition contains the original record in its entirety (plus former Target & iTunes exclusive songs) and a brand new disc with eight new songs, nine if you count “Burning Desire” which is a new iTunes only purchase.
You can read up on our thoughts about Born To Die through our originally published article, which is accessible by clicking here and read on for our thoughts on the new tracks!
Although Paradise is an EP by all standards, it follows a pattern that seems to be set by heavy weights such as Lady Gaga and Ke$ha. We’re not making comparisons to the three’s music, but an interesting note that all three women have released huge debut albums and followed them up by packaging together an accompanied EP with new material that’s focused on darker, more dismal and exploratory land than what’s contained on their initial release. While we’re unsure whether this methodical release process has to do with record label push and expectations or just three artists who feel capable of releasing creativity that is more pop-experimental when it’s packaged together with an already successful project. Regardless of music business semantics, it works wonderfully and the critical response earned from this marketing move has been met with an intense positive movement.
“Ride” is the 10 minute long video/lead single that we reviewed upon its release and kicks off the start of the Paradise EP. It’s a Rick Rubin production that’s high off euphoric reverberation and a lament toward being alone, driving fast, and finding comfort amongst strangers. It’s an easy interpretation into the thoughts of anxiety with lines like “I’m trying hard not to get into trouble but I, I’ve got a war in my mind” and “I’m tired of feeling like I’m fucking crazy”, though it’s also crucially triumphant and comforting at the same time.
What allows these two opposite emotional ends to meet is the combination of lyrical strife and musical crusade. Where Del Rey sounds worn and weathered through the verses, there’s uplifting piano chords, flowing string arrangements, and a rolling stone rhythmic section that’s based off tom drums. The toms aid this track nicely in the quieter sections of the song because they’re the only percussion. Though there’s a soft kick, there’s no snare, no hi-hat or shaker, just the tom which is panned throughout both channels for stereo depth. Once the fucking crazy portion of “Ride” comes in, it’s like an emotional downpour that’s reminiscent of the feelings “Video Games” gave audiences upon their unexpected listening sessions.
“American” continues in the extremely orchestral fashion that “Ride” set for the EP. Nostalgically, the hauntingly distorted male scream that made it’s way into almost all of the songs on Born To Die makes an extremely subtle return on this song and Lana is able to lyrically be smart within it’s opening lines. “Play house, put my favorite record on. Get down, get your Crystal Method on.” She also drops Bruce Springsteen, Elvis through the verses while combining prestigious adjectives proud, wild, and young with 21st century slang dope and crazy, using them freely during the bridge. Afterward, she launches into a repetitious chorus, combining all of the descriptive words into one phrase: “…like an American”.
What’s so wonderful about Paradise is its songwriting. We haven’t heard this sort of wistfulness in popular music since before it was considered reminiscent and it’s never been written in the way that got the blogs and journalists buzzing when a line like “my pussy tastes like Pepsi-cola” made its way into the opening and closing line to the third track, appropriately titled “Cola”. Reverb and delay are constantly on Lana’s vocals through this song, giving depth while feedback oriented distortion is smartly layered lower in the mix and sprinkled throughout the track to give it indelible vision.
Infidelity and adultery run rampant through “Cola” and its more explicit sister track “Gods and Monsters” makes shockingly pugnacious statements of a strayed individual finding corrupt solace and escapism through fame, liquor, and is most candidly open about the complexities of emotionless sex. “Fuck yeah, give it to me. This is heaven, what I truly want. It’s innocence lost” she desolately sings during the chorus and gets belligerently hostile during the second verse when she lets taboo shamelessly take hold with “In the land of Gods and Monsters I was an angel looking to get fucked hard. Like a groupie incognito posing as a real singer, life imitates art.” It’s enough to cause emotional discomfort and creates a vulnerable, and brutally honest disconnect. Enough creativity, but forwardness for an entire David Lynch screenplay.
Speaking of Lynch, do you remember the 1989 release Blue Velvet that utilized a song of the same name which was originally popularized by Bobby Vinton? Leave it up to Lana Del Rey, who claimed she didn’t know who David Lynch was until people started comparing her sound to his cinematic qualities, to create a gorgeous cover of the track. It’s hypnotically sensual, mostly in part due to a eighth note synth rhythm that’s panned more to the left channel and a downtempo and simple rhythmic section that’s full of delayed fluidity. It’s original, it’s perfect, it’s beautiful and an entire Lynch inspired H&M commercial was shot for even more flawless emphasis.
Classical influences seem to make their way into “Yayo,” which is a revamped version of a demo released while Lana was still going under the moniker Lizzy Grant. It’s noticeably different in production as a piano replaces the original releases guitar and goes for a more Erik Satie approach to melodic delicacy. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Satie inklings since she contained the classic “Gymnopédie No.1” in her video for “Carmen” (see our article on the video by clicking here). It’s the most dynamically pleasing part of Paradise as it sits at an extremely likable 9dB of range.
As a whole, the album sits at a less than stellar average of 6dB of dynamic range, but isn’t too aggressive due to the extreme amount of magnitude covered through reverberation and delay techniques.
“Bel Air” also opens to a nice piano beginning with field recordings of children seemingly playing or uniting in some form. It’s interesting chord progression comes at the chorus, where it falls and continues to fall through it’s final lines, reaching sorrowful mourning through the lyrical melodies of the last lines “darling, I’m waiting to greet you. Come to me, baby.”
If you’re smart enough to head over to iTunes, you can also get your hands on the exclusive track “Burning Desire” that features a snyth bass and while it still falls in line with the deeper sounds Paradise offers, it’s the closest sonic reference to Born To Die that the nine song collection reaches toward.
Paradise is an incredible progression and stunning display of Lana Del Rey’s maturing, early discography. American metaphors, combined with 2012 recites and emotional outpours make this singer, songwriter, and occasional director a perfect fit into the alternative music world. It’s a mini-album that never gives up its unfastened principles and paves the path for an unexpected progression toward what we’ll see coming in the next few years from this staggering musician.