Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Review: Lana Del Rey, 'Born To Die'

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  • Robyn Gallagher,

    All the hooha around Lana Del Rey has resulted in a lot of really good writing on the subject. I'm particularly impressed by Jessica Hooper at Spin (Deconstructing Lana Del Rey) and Sasha Frere-Jones at the New Yorker (Screen Shot: Lana Del Rey's fixed image)

    By the way, the Spin article seems to indicate that the name change came from Lana herself, and not her management. Like Lady Gaga, she's the author of her own pop persona.

    I didn't get Lana Del Rey until I realised she's just a pop singer. LDR's bounce around the cool indie world left me indifferent. It's just been in the last couple of weeks that the fuller picture has become clear. Oh, she's just a pop singer with some good songs. There's plenty of room in my life for that.

    I have no objection to her working with Rick Nowles (a good match, with his music style) or anyone else. Good pop always involves teamwork, and it sounds like LDR has a strong vision of what she wants her music to be.

    Also, LDR is 25 - the same age Madonna was when her first album was released. This is kind of old in the world of pop, but in both cases, that age has brought experience and stories to be told.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1861 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Robyn Gallagher,

    I didn’t get Lana Del Rey until I realised she’s just a pop singer. LDR’s bounce around the cool indie world left me indifferent. It’s just been in the last couple of weeks that the fuller picture has become clear. Oh, she’s just a pop singer with some good songs. There’s plenty of room in my life for that.

    Exactly.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18962 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    Perhaps the CD will be more expansive.

    Unlikely, but the vinyl might be.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Ben McNicoll,

    My only experience of Lana Del Ray so far was being directed to her fairly average performances on SNL:

    Bad night?

    Grey Lynn • Since May 2007 • 110 posts Report Reply

  • andrew r,

    She'll win Idol dude. Bet ya.

    auckland • Since May 2007 • 78 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Is she related to Marina del Rey?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4463 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler,

    My main qualm about this record is one I’m surprised not to hear more widely: like much modern pop music, it’s compressed to buggery.

    This has been going on for years - the worst of it arguably started during the Britpop years, when Oasis et. al. made a feature of their thin, fizzy, overcompressed sound, then discovered the welcome side-effect that it made them stand out on radio. It ruined all the most golden-age Radiohead too. Go compare some 90s US loud-quiet-loud stuff, Pixies etc., with the lou-quiet-loud bits of, say, "Paranoid Android" (I know you don't like Radiohead, but just think of it as an educational experiment). When the distorted guitars come in "Paranoid Android", it should be massive, but instead it sounds quieter, because the compression pushes everything in the mix right back to compensate for the guitars.

    I think it's getting worse in the era of pervasive iPods and mp3s, because compression gets around some of the failings in lossy (size) compression codecs (ever tried to listen to a capella choral music on even a 320k mp3? Not pretty, partly because the dynamic range is too great), and because you can hear it over the sound of the traffic/bus/parents etc.

    Sorry to rant, but you hit on a pet peeve there.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 801 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Ben McNicoll,

    Bad night?

    Terrible. Apparently it’s a notoriously difficult stage for singing on. She looked like she couldn't breathe for nerves.

    She was much better on Later with Jools Holland:

    And in a slightly bizarre setting on this german show:

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18962 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to James Butler,

    I think it's getting worse in the era of pervasive iPods and mp3s, because compression gets around some of the failings in lossy (size) compression codecs

    I actually noticed it when I played it it from my iPad, which I've set up with an external DAC which markedly improves the resonance and definition of most MP3s, especially with older recordings. It seemed to make the LDR album sound worse.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18962 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    I wonder if anyone's considered whether this "inauthenticity scandal" is in fact one of the most fiendishly clever marketing strategies of all time.

    And the song. Oh, the song.

    Yep, as a song it's a pop classic, but the singing is a bit of a worry. Frankly, I think she's struggling with her new lips.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    When I see this happen as it periodically does, the cred debate, I remind myself how terrifying and hard it is to even sing, let alone play to other people. It's like surfing, and this is the creme de la creme here, http://volcompipepro.com/live/ true matador stuff, then I remember the punk ethic...get out there and do it, whatever it is, see what happens, you just may change your life.

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Ben McNicoll, in reply to Russell Brown,

    While it is a better performance, I may have to concede that she just doesn't do it for me.

    But this is the norm, rather than the exception, for me with pop acts, so I'm happy to own it without too much judgement attached.

    What comes to mind is that she's all the bad bits that combine make Leonard Cohen so good, or something.

    Grey Lynn • Since May 2007 • 110 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Aston,

    Sorry but I just don't get her ! If I just listen to the music it feels insipid
    Am I missing something?
    Flicked over to some snow patrol instead

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 503 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Thomas, in reply to James Butler,

    Oh god yeah. Audio compression has ruined so many albums in the last twenty years.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 315 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Robyn Gallagher,

    All the hooha around Lana Del Rey has resulted in a lot of really good writing on the subject. I’m particularly impressed by Jessica Hooper at Spin (Deconstructing Lana Del Rey) and Sasha Frere-Jones at the New Yorker (Screen Shot: Lana Del Rey’s fixed image)

    Those are both much better-informed than my review, but we essentially come to the same conclusions.

    I'm way less exercised about the supposed lack of lyrical virtuosity than Frere-Jones, but I'd love to have written what he did here:

    Much of the rest of the Internet is equally interested in Del Rey, although few commenters have been as amusing as Carles. Del Rey has managed, like a slow car in the left lane, to make everyone around her angry and over-invested, despite doing relatively little.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18962 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    Attachment

    Oh god yeah. Audio compression has ruined so many albums in the last twenty years.

    Hasn't it just? For those who don't yet get the concept, here's the first beat of Amy Winehouse's Rehab (2011 edition).

    What should be a nice big wave has been just wrecked by having the peaks sheared right off. And this is just a typical example; far from the worst.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Will de Cleene,

    Meatloaf for Chicks. Yummo for some, but don't look at it too closely.

    Raumati • Since Jul 2011 • 105 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Dubber,

    What you all appear to have missed - but was revealed at Midem last week - is that Lana del Rey is 100% CGI.

    Birmingham, UK • Since Nov 2006 • 18 posts Report Reply

  • Heather Gaye,

    I’ve heard fragments of her Blue Jeans song before & I liked it, but I was surprised it wasn’t a cover. Kind of reminds me of hearing a Kate Bush song, or a Minnie Riperton song for the first time.

    Not sold on her style at all, and in those live performances she looks like she’s working really really hard on being an ingenue.

    ETA... also, the lyrical virtuosity of Madonna.

    Under the western motorwa… • Since Nov 2006 • 523 posts Report Reply

  • andrew r, in reply to Andrew Dubber,

    What you all appear to have missed - but was revealed at Midem last week - is that Lana del Rey is 100% CGI.

    ha ha ha . Oh no ?

    auckland • Since May 2007 • 78 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Some of it sounds better on my crappy car stereo than it does through the big speakers at home

    Well, there's the unfortunate fact that a great deal of this music is bought by people to play through tiny white earbuds. Most of my music listening comes through rather inexpensive headphones which I know do a very poor job of expressing a full sound.

    I think it's getting worse in the era of pervasive iPods and mp3s

    It is getting worse. A year or two ago I heard an interview with a professor from VUW's music school. As an experiment in the first class he'd play his first-year students music in a range of formats, with a range of engineering treatments. It was the tinny mp3 which they liked the best, because their ears were most accustomed to it. I'm confident that FLAC and HD video will eventually take things back on the file compression side, but it's a matter of bandwidth at this stage, and NZ will have to ride it out. Everything else? We'll have to see what the engineers deliver.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2136 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Andrew Dubber,

    What you all appear to have missed - but was revealed at Midem last week - is that Lana del Rey is 100% CGI.

    You should drink whisky and post more often.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18962 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Andrew Dubber,

    What you all appear to have missed - but was revealed at Midem last week - is that Lana del Rey is 100% CGI.

    Her polygons need tweaking.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2153 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Robyn Gallagher,

    Oh, she’s just a pop singer with some good songs. There’s plenty of room in my life for that.

    And don’t knock a good three minutes pop opera until you’ve done it yourself a time or two (dozen). There were plenty of people sniffing at the 'Motown Sound’ as black music neutered and bleached out for white ‘pop’ audiences. And there's a point there, but when all's said and done if you can’t (or won't) shake your arse to 'Dancing in the Street’ you have no soul.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12034 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to Andrew Dubber,

    What you all appear to have missed - but was revealed at Midem last week - is that Lana del Rey is 100% CGI.

    You have to hand it to the Japanese...

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4351 posts Report Reply

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