The melancholy is strong with this one.
And what a gloriously sad, and beautiful journey it is.
Released as part of the re-issue of her debut album as Lana Del Rey (his first album came out in 2010 under Lizzy Grant, a contraction of her real name), Born To Die, Paradise is all lingering heartache, and lush infatuation, and an artistically strong rebuttal to the army of critics who pilloried her mercilessly when she first emerged in her new musical incarnation.
Her crime at the time apparently was not so much that she released an ambitious but flawed album, which nonetheless contained a number of tracks that hinted at a woman of considerable vocal and songwriting talent flexing her artistic muscles, but that she had “fooled” everyone by re-packaging herself as Lana Del Rey.
Emerging seemingly out of the ether in late 2011 with the hauntingly evocative “Video Games”, a paean to love mired in the banal realities of the everyday, Lana Del Rey’s husky vocals and ability to capture the subtlest tones of regret and despair seemed to assure her a bright future as the torch bearer for the lost, unloved and the cast aside.
But critics thought otherwise accusing her of being pre-packaged and overly commodified, as if this was the first time in the history of music that an artist had created a persona and a sound to go with their considerable talent.
A series of poor performances, most notably on Saturday Night Live, and resentment that Interscope Records appeared to have deliberately crafted an indie persona to fool the hipster masses didn’t help to lessen the controversy, and it seemed to become almost illegal to like Lana Del Rey, who was actually making quite good music if you stopped to listen for long enough.
(This article, Is it OK to like Lana Del Rey?, has an interesting take on the whole issue.)
But Lana Del Rey persisted, bravely pushing the outrage aside, which when all is said and done was out of all proportion to the alleged “crime” committed, and Paradise is the first fruits of her ongoing growth as an artist.
And what an impressive next move it is.
First song “Ride”, which along with the final track “Bel Air”, is an album highlight for me, captures the same sense of dissatisfaction with the ennui of life that she distilled so perfectly in “Video Games”.
The smoky world-weary vocals, which start out as haunting layers of choir-like humming, waft through the song reflecting the listlessness of a woman on the road who has grown tired of feeling “f**king crazy”.
It is right up there with songs like the ABBA classic, “Super Trouper”, in conveying the toll life can take on you when you’re far from home.
If she feels far away, and more than a little blue because of it, from everything she holds dear on “Ride”, the distance is instantly vanquished in “American”.
Draped across a lush, sweeping ballad, the lyrics celebrate both her new love and the city of Los Angeles, which unlike its east cousin New York, is not usually paid homage to in song.
It is a poignant love song to both a man and city, with an almost cinematic orchestral feel to it and vocals that speak of joy and contentment in equal measure.
But Paradise is not all sadness at the slow wearing down of life’s joy or its renewal at the hands of fresh love.
Songs like “Cola” in which she compares vagina to Pepsi-Cola – I doubt they will rush to embrace this as an advertising soundtrack but you have to admit it’s an imaginative allusion – and “Body Electric” where she declares “Elvis is my daddy, Marilyn is my mother, Jesus is my bestest friend” – that should make for a very interesting family tree school project for any future Del Rey progeny – push the lyrical boundaries to good effect and prove that even that Ms Del Rey can have some fun even when the subject matter is serious.
She also proves herself unafraid to tackle a cover of “Blue Velvet”, first recorded by The Clovers in 1950, bringing it firmly into the 21st century while remaining faithful to the dreamy qualities that have kept it a firm favourite for decades.
Her evocative voice, which suits songs like this to a tee, more than ably conveys a weeping sadness for love long lost and proves once again how beautifully tuned it is to articulating a breathtaking range of darker emotions.
It is at the end of the EP though that I found what I consider the true treasure of this impressive album.
“Bel Air” opens with dulcet drops of piano-driven melody that take you to another almost mystical place and time instantly.
It is spine-tinglingly, achingly beautiful, and finds Del Rey calling with passionate longing for her lover to “come to me baby … Darling I am waiting to greet you.”
You feel as if you are standing along side Lana on the shores of fog-shrouded lake in some far off land waiting with great anticipation for the one she loves to return to her arms.
It confirms that Lana Del Rey has a real gift for painting a picture of loves lost and found that make you feel as if you are intensely living through the events rather than simply listening to them be recounted, and laying them over music so emotionally rich that you can’t help but be drawn into her finely textured worlds.
Paradise is a triumphant statement by an artist who, far from being a creation of some Svengali at a record company, is demonstrating she has both the necessary breadth and depth of talent, and artistic vision, to sustain a long and fruitful career.
Also check out the amazing mini-movie for “Ride” which is every bit as evocative as the song itself.