In 1993 I was starting 11th grade in a suburban Philadelphia high school and as most kids are at that age – uncertain about a lot of things. As things tend to do for teenagers things always came back to music. This was a very strange time to be in high school – we had the emergence of grunge with Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains. On the opposite side we also saw the rise of Dr. Dre, newly solo from the group N.W.A, his protegé Snoop Doggy Dogg, and gangsta rap. Honestly, I loved it all. There was also a strange pop-ish band out of Sweden evoking the spirit of Abba that went by the name of Ace of Base. I remember sitting in my behavioral science class with a friend who was a huge Pantera fan and we started talking about how many times we had heard the song “All That She Wants” on the radio that day. Strangely we both agreed – it was a pretty damn good song. What’s the correlation? Lana Del Rey is 2012’s version of Ace of Base – catchy as hell, a bit polarizing, and a lot of fun.
A lot of attention has been given to Lana Del Rey’s performance on Saturday Night Live. Yes, the same show that saw Ashley Simpson lip sync her way through a performance and typically has not made an impression on me as far as live music goes (with the exception of a blistering performance of B.Y.O.B by System of a Down a few years ago). My thoughts about Lana Del Rey on Saturday Night Live? She was trying to figure it all out and the spotlight can turn into a blinding glare. It has no bearing on the album in question.
Standout tracks for me include the title track, with its Stepford Wives, 1950’s Las Vegas vibe to it, “Video Games” with it’s uh…Stepford Wives, 1950’s Las Vegas vibe to it, “Diet Mt. Dew” which starts with an amazing pop chant “Baby…you’re no good for me…” A really fun song. Elsewhere on the album, things alternately go with a bit of a darker vibe or stick to the pop tune fun displayed by “Diet Mt. Dew”. Towards the end of the album, it felt a little repetitive (maybe if the album was released with 9 or 10 tracks it’d have been a little tighter). “Summertime Sadness” will also get a ton of replays with its incessant beat and dramatic chorus – a bit like if Portishead had decided to make a pop song for the masses (sorry, “Sour Times” doesn’t count).
This brings me back to Ace of Base. That 1st album “the sign” had a handful of hit singles and was a strong album with a few songs of filler. They never quite recaptured the magic of that album and faded into the ether. I hope Miss Del Rey has more tricks up her sleeve for an encore – but if not, well – enjoy this record. It’s pretty, pretty, pretty good. And absolutely stunning in places.
Verdict – Larry David (Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good)
For fans of: Amy Winehouse, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Abba, Ace of Base, El Perro Del Mar
The album is available to buy pretty much everywhere and online via itunes.
|1.||“Born to Die“||Lana Del Rey, Justin Parker||Emile Haynie||4:46|
|2.||“Off to the Races”||Del Rey, Tim Larcombe||Patrick Berger, Haynie||5:00|
|3.||“Blue Jeans“||Del Rey, Haynie, Dan Heath||Haynie||3:30|
|4.||“Video Games“||Del Rey, Parker||Parker, Robopop||4:42|
|5.||“Diet Mountain Dew”||Del Rey, Mike Daly||Haynie, Jeff Bhasker*||3:43|
|6.||“National Anthem”||Del Rey, Parker, The Nexus||Haynie||3:51|
|7.||“Dark Paradise”||Del Rey, Rick Nowels||Haynie, Nowels*||4:03|
|8.||“Radio”||Del Rey, Parker||Haynie||3:34|
|9.||“Carmen“||Del Rey, Parker||Haynie, Bhasker^||4:08|
|10.||“Million Dollar Man”||Del Rey, Chris Braide||Haynie, Braide||3:51|
|11.||“Summertime Sadness”||Del Rey, Nowels||Haynie, Nowels*||4:25|
|12.||“This Is What Makes Us Girls”||Del Rey, Jim Irvin, Larcombe||Al Shux, Haynie||3:58|