‘Self-styled Gangsta Nancy Sinatra’

Lizzy Grant a.k.a. Lana Del Rey
Lizzy Grant a.k.a. Lana Del Rey

The world around me reacts to her variously. Some people fall in love with her, some regard her as an easy-come-easy-go summer pop. And some think that I betrayed my ideals and fell from grace liking her.

Which I do, very much.

The first I heard about Lana Del Rey was in an article my a music and pop culture specialist I admire a lot, wrote even before “Born To Die” was released. Orliński described in detail how fake Lana is, with her stories about growing up in the trailer lot and rising to fame all by herself, but he also mentioned her style as retro, which is quite popular these days (with Florence, Caro, Adele and the late Amy) and that made me want to give her a try. Second contact came with that brief moment I listened to my car radio (CD was broken). A song started, very gentle and delicate, nostalgic even, which immediately caught my attention. And then the vocal came and I somehow knew – this was “Video Games”, Lana’s first single. This made me want to hear more.

And now almost a month passed and

I still listen to it.

Not that often right now, but there were two crazy weeks with “Born To Die” (the whole album, not just the song) on repeat. If not from the speakers, she played in my head. I woke up with her songs in my head and became quite addicted for a short time there. The whole album really stays with you if you give it several listens. The singles (“Born To Die”, “Video Games” and “Blue Jeans”) are powerful, but what’s in between them is even better – “Summertime Sadness” and my favourites: “Off To The Races”, where she really shows what she’s capable of vocally, and one of the deluxe edition bonus tracks, epic “Lolita”.

Though, to be fair, it’s not perfect: there are two lyrics (in one song, “National Anthem”) that make me cringe every time I hear them. The opening line:

Money is the anthem of success, so before we go out, what’s your address?

I mean, what the hell does that mean? And the other is even worse:

Money is the reason we exist, everybody knows it, it’s a fact, kiss kiss

It’s just… What? I mean… Whaaaat? And that “kiss, kiss” at the end, just for the line to rhyme… Painful. Pity though, because otherwise the song is not bad.

And yes, I do realize it’s pop and Lana is the same amount of fake (arguably*) pretty girl, just as Britney, Christina and Shakira were those 5-10 years ago. But there are some differences. First, the music is really good. It can’t be called original – it’s all retro/nostalgia that’s on the roar now, but at least it’s not cheap pop dance rhythms like all aforementioned ladies from last decade. Second, it’s all pure Lana. As fake as she herself may be, the songs are truly hers. And they’re full of emotions that at least feel genuine. Which brings me to the third and most important strength of Lana Del Rey.

The voice.

I don’t know what it is. It’s not perfect, especially when she sings live – there is the need for more practice and training – but something is definitely there. She was described as “self-styled gangsta Nancy Sinatra” and that rings true. My theory is that Lana – little daddy’s girl from trailer park – somehow resonates with that little loathsome pedophile inside all of us (even though she’s just two years younger than me), with her hoarse, low contralto that sends shivers down my spine…

Lana Del Rey proves that even if you are just a calculated product (which I’m not saying she is, but I’m not entirely sure she’s not), if your music is good, it defends itself.

At least in my ears.

PS. Around the same time I started listening to Lana Del Rey, I had a chance to encounter her Polish counterpart – Ada Szulc. Never mind this song – I had a chance to see her live, with her voice similarly hoarse and sexy to Lana’s. As long as she does something creative with her chance, not make cover after cover or some bland industry-forced pop release, I see a bright future for this girl.

* – I would consider her pretty if it wasn’t for those botox-laden lips…

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