Sitting here at my keyboard launching into writing this review, it struck me – why does it even matter – so many people have already, with a sense of, what strikes me to be disturbing glee, decided to shit on this particular parade – mostly without even hearing the record. Because let’s face it, the dark side of our human psyche’s just love to have something to hate. And it’s even better when our object of disdain is something attractive and wealthy. It’s because we’re all jealous assholes.
Let us not forget, though, that the very reason why I am sitting here writing about this record is because, sometime last year, one of the most heart-breaking and fragile moments in song was warmly coo-d to us and we all wanted to believe some unlikely back-story that this beautiful girl with an equally beautiful voice was using her real name and we had just happened, by good fortune, to come across her ourselves. Suckers.
But – listening to Video Games for something like the 100th time; Del Rey sounds just as poignant, her voice as enchanting; beguiling and wonderfully disconnected, her lyrics just as pointed and frank as that time I got chills the first time I heard it. I don’t care what anyone says – you can’t undo that. Second single Blue Jeans, with those ever-so-sexily breathed vocals is, too, still a fantastic song. Both numbers smartly sonically reference pop songs that exist in our collective memories and in so doing can’t help but be hits. We’re being tricked. Yep. But, y’know what – we have a long, long, long tradition of enjoying illusions. Elizabeth Grant is, essentially an actor playing this role. Get over it. You know movies aren’t actually real, aye?
Title and opening track does precisely what it should. It opens and sets the scene – an establishing shot, if you will. Off To The Races contains some wonderfully weird vocal flourishes and crazy-pop hooks that have the track standing up against the singles with something unafraid to not be the same. The hip-hop rhythmic Diet Mountain Dew is a touch too far on the fake-sweet side for my liking; while National Anthem opens with a string arrangement which obviously nods it’s head at Andrew Loog Oldham adaptation of “The Last Time” (Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony) – but Lana Del Ray probably shouldn’t rap. But then, Dark Paradise and Radio offer some redemption with golden era Hollywood-like melodies, that are wryly contrasted with lyrics like “Now my life is like sweet like cinnamon / Like a fuckin’ dream I’m livin’ in” which is, in my opinion, up there with Game putting Erykah Badu and wonton soup together.
Obviously, one is to review within context; so one cannot disregard the hype / anti-hype all together; and I am sure one could, if so inclined, make a solid argument that the hype is as much a part of this record’s artistic expression as the crafted melodies and the bevy of assorted songwriters brought in to work with Del Rey. Yes, it’s as fake as it’s real, but sometimes, call me a sucker, but isn’t it just fun to make believe? - review by Andrew Tidball