Lana Del Rey is Waiting in the Truck
It’s Saturday afternoon. The MTV Cribs crew, just a cameraman and a boom guy, arrive at her white doorstep. The boom guy, Kellum, tugs the belly-button ring doorbell. Cautiously, Lana Del Rey opens the door: she is pouting. Peter and Kellum follow her gown into the foyer, and now she’s smiling, leading them in. Are those teeth? Peter wonders. They trail her up the immaculate grand staircase, past a littering of sapphire and beer cans. Suddenly they’re in her bedroom. Lana is spread across her four-post as the camera rolls.
“I had a party last night,” she says. Peter nods.
She sighs and blinks. “Everything is perfect,” Lana murmurs. She suddenly laughs, ecstatically. Kellum thought he would smell beer on her breath but he doesn’t.
She settles down, and is looking at the lens, or maybe Kellum.
“But I can’t find my man.”
Born to Die, Lana Del Rey’s new album, is the story of a young woman without problems. It’s not that she’s dumb–to feel alone at your own party requires a singular, devastating act of critical thinking. She’s simply blessed. Friday nights are religious not because we don’t have problems, but because Friday night is not the time for problems. So she creates the ultimate problem, the most fortunate one, the only problem tangible in a truck on Friday at 10:14 pm: loneliness.
Where Born To Die glimmers is where Lana only hints at how lonely she is. The debut single, “Video Games,” is corn syrupy and divine, and a paragon of how this album does succeed: establishing that her reality is one of leisure, and then subtly implying her internal pain. “I say you the bestest” is nice, but it means she’s panicking, desperately promising her man the love’s still real. Lana knows that everything is fine–video games are being played–but she’s in a sundress, goddamnit. Her venerations of this man (“It’s all for you / Everything I do”) are striking, because Lana is so obviously realizing their implications as she says them. Nobody’s making Lana wait but herself.
Born To Die is weirdly front strong. It begins with the title song “Born To Die,” made of strings and hard, muffled beats, as much of the album is. The song’s not so much a mortal’s lament as an invitation to, fuck it, make Love before death. After drunkenly fleeing a porch party, I think Lana would sing this to herself, hustling in the evening suburbs to her boyfriend’s house. It’s a preparation of what she’s going to say. Lana’s voice is baritone and lovely, devoted to some crazy idea, and certainly less nervous and twerked than it was in her recent (and lambasted) Saturday Night Live performance.
“Off To The Races” is one of the album’s best. It’s country pin-up; Lana eagerly channels Betty Boop, but it’s hardcore when she dips into her matter-of-fact alto. What’s catchy about “Off To The Races” and the 60’s rock “Blue Jeans” (her second SNL performance) is the Miss Mary Mack like repetition. Lana croons in Blue Jeans, “Say you’ll remember / Say you’ll remember.” She’s assuring us that she’s innocent: that her wants are schoolyard wants.
After the epic “Video Games,” Lana relieves some of the tension with the addictively chic “Diet Mountain Dew.” It’s “Diamonds Are Forever” for the convenience store generation. But while Lana’s Julie London-femininity succeeds here, the album flaunts it very awkwardly in “National Anthem.” We already know that “Money is the reason / we exist,” as she admits, “Everybody knows it / it’s a fact, kiss kiss.” What? Maybe it’s brilliant political theatre, Lana Del Rey equating America and Luxury, dubbing it the country’s anthem. But what comes off, more than boldness, is trying to seem bold or shameless. If Paris Hilton had talked about her diamonds in “Stars Are Blind,” everyone would’ve hated it.
Here the album loses stride, and what follows is a monotonous series of slow-mid songs also trying too hard. “Dark Paradise” is melodrama, and while an easy sing-along, is lyrically questionable. “It’s like a dark paradise,” Lana wails, but the abstract metaphor bears no resemblance to actual feelings of darkness. “Radio” is nice and catchy, especially the repetition of “sweet like cinnamon,” but Lana Del Rey’s lyrics have lost that key element of setting, established in “Video Games.” Where are you Lana? Certainly no longer in a backyard. Maybe her motive (Lana at least co-wrote every song) was to imply a transcendent, senseless state in which nothing is seen or felt but the lack of her man. Probably not, though.
These songs are too manufactured, they are premeditated in their essence. Rarely do Lana’s words seem natural, and maybe that’s because her image has been so quickly saturated, like an eternal Instagram. But if it were real heartbreak, there would be no emotional room in Lana to be quirky, or showy, like in the generally empty “Carmen” and “Million Dollar Man.” “Summertime Sadness,” while beautiful and varied in speed, is literally a statement of the emotion she’s feeling. “I got that sadness, / that summertime sadness” is not a sentiment of a sad person in the summer. It’s a lie someone tells her boyfriend, just to show off, in the fight they’re having in a shiny beach parking lot.
Even if that’s the point, it’s awkward to listen to.
The standard version of Born To Die ends with “This Is What Makes Us Girls,” a feminist (in literally no way) anti-love goodbye to males and hello to girl parties. It seems unfitting to close a love-crazed album so flippantly–I’m reminded of Beyonce, as usual. Hasn’t the height of Lana’s emotional authenticity arrived as loneliness, as a superhuman need for her man?
Three additional songs close the special edition version. “Without You” and “Lolita” are simply boring to listen to; the distant drum loops are the same ones as before. The love and lust feel again like white lies. On the final song, “Lucky Ones,” the spaced apart bells and echoing drums are an obvious effort to make a conclusive, echoing Last Song.
Well, we could listen to Born To Die in the car. Born to Die, Off To The Races, and Diet Mountain Dew are montage-worthy songs, with definite playability.
But really, though–what are we supposed do with this album? We can’t actually sing along unironically to lyrics like “Sorry ‘bout it.” Not in company. We cannot sing these songs to our lovers, not even the stand-outs. We cannot play it at a frat party, a sorority, or at a 4th of July barbecue, as Lana might have us think. No, after seeing an ex-boyfriend at a basement party: that’s when Lana Del Rey’s album should be used. Driving home, Saturday, 12:19 am. Her polished, distracting theatricality won’t matter. We can listen to this, because we will be alone, just like Lana. Let’s not pretend there are other parties tonight.
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 Brooklyn Man Now Living Entirely Off Own Beard Garden
- 2 “Cra Cra” Now Official Diagnosis in New DSM (DSM-5)
- 3 OfficeMax Marketing Director Struggling to Make Staplers ‘Sexy’ and ‘Conversational’
- 4 First Openly Straight Figure Skater Comes Forward
- 5 Area Man Tailors Life To Be More Relevant To His Hulu Advertisements
- 6 Fan Banging Furiously on Glass Could Be the Difference in Hockey Playoffs
- 7 Survey: 88% of Eagles Fans Too Drunk To Spell Nnamdi Asomugha Last Season
- 8 Attorney Actually Starting to Believe Own Bullshit
- 9 Homeless Guy Woos Silicon Valley VCs with Low-Tech Crowdfunding Strartup
- 10 Local Mom Won’t Stop Being First Person to Like Every Goddamn Thing Son Posts to Facebook