Review Summary: Lana Del Rey's lesser known work adds depth to the sultry artist's sound while preserving what makes her so appealing.
The superiority complex that accompanies being familiar with an artist’s unreleased work is almost as – if not more – exciting than the actual songs. After all, anybody can cite Bad Romance as their favorite Lady Gaga track, but who do you know of that can express their enjoyment of Blueberry Kisses" What’s that, you ask" You've already failed the test. Fans who get off on the saying “You’re not a real fan if…” find particular joy in flaunting their knowledge of tracks that require a little work to find. Snobbish" Absolutely. Unfair" Probably. Am I guilty of doing just that" You bet. And considering the buzz that’s surrounded Lana Del Rey since her infamous SNL outing, she’s particularly easy prey for listeners who love to play musical king-of-the-hill.
For those who are genuinely interested in the music, though, there’s plenty to embrace with this album. Lana Del Rey (or Ray at the time, as shown on the album cover) is talented as ever, and her songwriting skills are as mature as you’d expect. It’s easy to see the beginnings of the themes that would go on to permeate Born To Die
: there’s plenty of sultry talk of courting men, loving men, leaving men, playing with men, wanting men, and Coney Island. None of this sounds like filler: each track has its own personality, and like a Fiona Apple work, the songs bloom and reveal more of themselves with each additional listen.
However, those looking for an album’s worth of Born To Die
bonus tracks are going to leave bewildered and disappointed. The songs here may follow the general motifs of Lana Del Rey’s studio work, but the sound and mood of Lana Del Ray a.k.a. Lizzy Grant
is more chilled out and laid back than the sweeping opulence we've been exposed to. This is more of a soundtrack for trailer parks and lonely nighttime walks, and less of an exercise in excess for Baz Luhrmann. Grand orchestration is almost completely absent, giving way instead to acoustic guitars, pianos, and the occasional synths. It’s disarming, to say the least, given the stylistic consistency of her more official work.
But if you can appreciate Lana Del Ray a.k.a. Lizzy Grant
on its own terms, it’s hard not to enjoy the discordant exuberance of tracks like “Mermaid Motel,” or the relaxed sensuality of “Oh Say Can You See,” or the dreamlike glow of “Yayo” (the version here being far superior to its breathy Paradise
counterpart). What we have here is a stripped down, creative record that presents to us a Lana Del Rey who, while less embellished, is no less magnificent.
Side note: There’s been quite a bit of speculation over how and why this album wasn’t released properly. If you want the full backstory behind the album, MTV has a fantastic interview with David Nichtern, the man who originally signed Lana, at http://www.mtvhive.com/2012/01/30/lana-del-rey-first-album-5-points-records-interview/