STARTING WITH VOCALS. Del Rey has done to vocal production what George Harrison did to guitar tone. No, not her producer, her. Take a listen to ‘Blue Jeans’ and ask yourself have you EVER in your LIFE heard that much nuance in a delivery, EVER. And the vocals drop 10 seconds in — no long boring intro — it’s so direct, it hits you before you’re even ready. I think the number one reason people hated the first couple live TV sets is because that sort of compression is impossible to reproduce on a stage without a haze of screeching feedback, so the vocals sounded weak. Pity, that.
And what about all of the chatter over the chatter over her supposed fakeness. There was a time when being an entertainer meant being larger than life and everyone understood that the best ones were intelligent and therefore probably not a cartoon IRL. Ever since Madonna, there’s been a trend towards blurring, in mainstream music, the line between celebrity performance personas and the actual person. It hasn’t worked out well for Amy Winehouse, Madge herself and many others. LDR is a hot reminder that really talented people know that the stage persona should never be the actual person and vice versa. She gets it, Die Antwoord get it, and like them, this is why she has a good chance of surviving, if only (like them) she can get those terrible lyrics straightened out.
Del Rey was three years old in 1989 when Chris Isaak dropped ‘Wicked Game’ on us and the sophisticated south got a badly-needed shot in the arm in mainstream music (take a look at the list of top songs from 1988 to get an idea of what he was up against; both Rick Astley hits, etc.). What’s amazing is that the edgiest underground music right now is art students ripping off/deconstructing the worst of this era, to make distant absurdist muzak (it’s better than the reincarnation of the Kingston Trio). LDR is doing the greatest deed an artist can do by ripping off a real solid one-of-a-kind piece of work like ‘Wicked Game ‘and making it better with all the uber-hip samples and youtube/wes anderson flashbacks in the video you wish your band had thought of.
“Born to Die” is also a truly badass record title and it’s hard not to say to anyone who knocks this lady that they’re just a bit jealous she can hit them out of the park like that while teams of dozens of producers and designers manufacture hit songs that don’t make sense.