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Day 21: Lana del Rey – “Paradise” (2012)
Genre: Pop / Trip-Hop
I am a huge Lana del Rey fan. If you ask me which of the new, big solo pop stars I think will be the most fondly remembered in 20, 30 years, it’s Lana del Rey. No contest there. So far her career highlight has been the Paradise EP, usually tacked onto the end of her Born to Die album. Let’s take a look at it in celebration of her recently announced 2014 album.
The EP opens on the lead single Ride. Lana hums her way through the first bars before the piano melody gives room to some drums and strings. Ride feels like a celebration of life, delving into more optimism than just about any of her other songs. It’s almost happy, though knowing Lana there’s a strong element of self-destruction and melancholy involved. The melody goes up a step for the finale, but rather than cheapening the song it adds to the expressive nature of the vocals.
American is very much like Ride in terms of arrangement, but lacks the underlying despair, instead providing a very relaxing, soothing experience. It’s the type of song you listen to on a hot summer day. An absolutely stunning song without even the hint of a distracting element.
When I listen to Cola I can’t help but feel like it was made to be an internet meme. The song is insanely quotable, some may say notorious for one particular line, and, even at its low tempo, almost feels like a dance track. The arrangement is intricate, with minor electronic accents fleshing out the guitars and strings. Lana proves that she can be fun on Cola. And that she has daddy issues, but we all knew that.
When this EP’s tracklist was announced and I glimpsed Body Electric on it, I was ecstatic. It’s a song she had performed for several months before in her concerts, a song I instantly fell for head over heels. It’s piercing and cold about its dramatic highs, shooting them right at you before going back to low-key tension. I consider it one of her best songs thus far, even if the studio arrangement feels a bit weaker than its live counterpart.
Blue Velvet is a Tony Bennett and as such doesn’t quite fit in melodically, but the arrangement and production stay close to Lana’s usual fare and her smoky, sensual vocals are fit for the song.
A song build around alluring imagery, Gods & Monsters is slightly rougher, less polished than the previous tracks. It feels more in tune with the Trip-Hop roots of Lana’s music while still retaining mainstream accessibility, successfully contrasting the acrimony of the vocals and production with layered strings.
The one song of the EP I’m not all that fond of, Yayo is a rerecorded version of a song from Lana’s Lizzy Grant days. I find it lacking compared to the original recording, the vocals are just a bit grating in parts and it just fails to attain the strong emotional projection of the other songs, even when it’s trying harder. A song that pulls down the EP as a whole ever so slightly, even if only because all the other tracks are just so very good.
Bel Air closes the EP and very much ties everything together. A newfound optimism that is in stark contrast with Born to Die, but always stays recognizable. Bel Air is playful and gentle, a song confident in simplicity, as if Lana was showing the world her growth by proving just how efficiently she can convey a plethora of moods in gorgeously arranged form.
Paradise is proof that Born to Die wasn’t just a lucky accident, if anything it even improved on Lana’s debut album. A glorious EP, packed with fantastic tracks that follow a common theme and flow both musically and in terms of content and mood. Paradise is the birth of a great pop singer, coming into fruition before our eyes. Something that Ultraviolence will hopefully continue later this year. An EP any music fan should have heard.