Rating Lana Del Rey
Glenn Gibson rejoices over Lana Del Rey’s new album and upcoming tour by looking through her back catalogue and putting things into perspective.
How do you define an icon?
No, we ain’t talking about some Byzantine ceremonial prop. We’re talking Madonna, Mercury and Jackson. People that have left a lasting impression on our times with their input and who all revere for who and what they are.
In modern times, the term icon can be brandished around more times than a contestant on Love Island, with the latest darling of the scene being heralded as the next messiah.
One person who could possibly buck this trend is Lana Del Rey.
The New York native has seen her sultry retro soaked blend of pop take her form a lo-fi internet sensation to full blown Hollywood Royalty. Combining that with her distinct taste in fashion and eclectic output on life, you can see why millions are held captive by her every move.
With a career now spanning over a decade, boasting several chart topping albums, working with the likes of Bobby Womack, Jay-Z, Dan Auerbach along the way, her new album Lust for Life will see the songstress return to our shores to play two dates, in Liverpool’s Echo Arena and Glasgow’s SSE Hydro respectively.
What better time then, to reflect upon her career to date and rate her catalogue to date?
10. Tropico EP (2013)
Deriving its name from the short film she stars in, Tropico is the final EP release from Lana Del Rey and by some distance her most weak work to date.
For a start, it features three songs that were already released on an EP released not a year before hand and is probably more memorable for the accompanying film then the music itself.
The one new release on the EP, Gods & Monsters, is trashy at worst and mesmerizing in equal measure, with a numbing quality amongst its filthy core.
9. Sirens [Released as Mary Jailer] (2006)
Ok, we know. Technically this isn’t a Lana Del Rey release by name, or indeed actually released, but the demo album Sirens by May Jailer aka Lana Del Rey, was were the journey began.
With the long player devoid of any of the songstress’s trademark lush sounds, Sirens finds a fragile folk singer trying to find her way in the world with some success with the delicate Aviation demonstrating her subtle vocals at its best.
That said, this debut offering shows just how far Del Rey has developed her sound, with the likes of Try Tonight and Out With a Bang a world away from the artist we all know today.
8. Lana Del Ray (2010)
Her first album proper, Lana Del Ray (that subtle vowel change makes all the difference!) begins to evoke the image and sound of the Del Rey we see now.
There may well still be tinges of the laid back grooves that she began with, but on her debut for 5 Points, we see the themes of romance start to creep into her work that will become an ever present throughout her later offerings.
Although lacking in the opulent tones we are familiar with, songs like the sensual Oh Say Can You See offer the dreamy wash of Del Rey’s magnificent vocals and provide a basis to grow upon.
7. Paradise EP (2012)
The first of two EP’s to be sandwiched between Born to Die and Ultraviolence, Paradise is an interesting beast, with plenty of peaks and falls throughout its eight tracks.
Perhaps giving Del Rey more freedom then her all-consuming major label debut, opener Ride finds the singer’s classic Hollywood demeanour bloom among her clear influence of Springsteen and Petty, with its swooping verses and melodies a delight to behold.
With this in mind, where Cola and Bel Air blossom, the cliché soaked Body Electric and numb Yayo come across as filler at best with a clear lack of imagination compared to some of her best tracks to date that feature on the EP.
6. Kill Kill EP [as Lizzy Grant] (2008)
Lana Del Rey’s first release on 5 Points features three tracks that would all go onto appear on the singers debut with her old label.
The early version of Yayo is by far the incarnation of the track from the singer, with the whole EP offering parts of Jazz, electronica and rock that provide a glimpse of the early talent that Del Rey possesses.
Lyrically too, it shows a distinct change in direction for the singer from the folky musings found on her debut with a sense of dark poeticism wrapping itself round you.
5. Lana Del Rey EP (2012)
We may as well get the final EP out the way. With her debut major label release, the eponymous four track started the catalyst for the iconic figure that would become the Del Rey we now know today.
Creating her femme fatal image from the sweeping opening bars of the stunning Video Games, we begin to see her feel at ease in what she delivers for the first time in her career, with each track providing an early taste of her Hollywood sadcore that will become her stable style for years to come.
4. Ultraviolence (2014)
An altogether moodier Del Rey awaits listeners on Ultraviolence, with melancholy awash throughout the long player. It’s almost film noir tones, paint a contrasting picture of doomed filled love with a distinctive emotion soaked blues rock feel to many of the tracks.
This could have something to do with that fact that Black Keys man Dan Auberach can be found on production duties, while the psych rock of Brooklyn Baby clearly finding influences from The Velvet Underground, as are a number of the albums other offerings.
The fact that Lou Reed was meant to record with Del Rey on Ultraviolence, before sadly passing away, tells you something about the way she saw the record going.
This isn’t the American picture postcard girl you thought she was. This is the girl who your mum warned you about.
3. Honeymoon (2015)
A return to the familiar for many of her fans, Honeymoon finds Lana Del Rey return to the trap, hip hop entwined dream pop that projected her into the limelight.
This is perhaps the most adventurous of Del Rey’s albums to date, I mean where else do you find extracts of T/S Elliot, Nina Simone covers and deconstructed Bowie put together under clouds of cinematic loops and beats?
The swooning strings of 24, even found the New Yorker being heralded as a potential “Bond girl” at one point. Though it is perhaps The Blackest Day that demonstrates that on Honeymoon, Del Rey proves she has clearly developed into a truly accomplished songwriter.
2. Lust For Life (2017)
If Honeymoon was the end of Lana Del Rey part one, then Lust For Life holds great promise for what’s in store to come from here on in.
Having had her longest break to date between recordings, Lust For Life find Del Rey return with vengeance on what some might deem to be her greatest body of work to date. Yes, it does focus on what she knows best, but rather than repeat the same old tricks, Lust For Life is a vast, expansive movement that flows from start to finish with real majesty.
On Beautiful People Beautiful Problems, a duet with Stevie Nicks, there is a real sense of purpose to her work. While her past brings images of someone trying to find that purpose in themselves, here we find a singer who has confidence in abundance and knows how to use it to tremendous effect.
Give this sometime and who knows? This could find its way to the top of our picks in years to come.
1. Born To Die (2012)
It may not be the most surprising of choices, but the fact that even today Born To Die sounds as fresh as it did when we first encountered it, proves that it rightly deserves its place at the top of our picks. For now.
Few albums in our times have been so distinctive, with many loving or hating it in equal measure. This writer is clearly in the camp of the later. In a time when banal pop was spewed out in the bucket loads, Born To Die offered something refreshing, something new and intriguing, that commanded your attention from the off.
There is a sense to the grandeur and splendour that we all now associate with Del Rey, especially in the exquisite Blue Jeans, yet there is tragedy and sorrow at times too, allowing the listener to gain a real perspective on what lies beneath. At times, it can be quite simply timeless, with each swirling melody pulling at your senses.
Few records can withstand the test of time, but as her back catalogue continues to show, Lana Del Rey is well on her way to doing just that.
Lana Del Rey plays Liverpool’s Echo Arena on August 22nd and Glasgow’s SSE Hydro on August 23rd. A limited numbers of tickets are on sale now here.
- Picture: Artist’s Facebook page