herald

Thursday 14 December 2017

Haunting and hyped, the perfect pop star

Lana Del Rey Born To Die (Interscope)

The hype would have us believe that the Lana Del Rey phenomenon, which kicked off when Video Games hit YouTube, is expanding so fast that by tonight it could well have brought peace to Iraq, sorted the Euro debt crisis and found a cure for women's lips that swell to the size of a bratwurst.

Some people diss Del Rey, claiming she's a marketing concoction. But pop music, the selling of dreams, has always been about sleight-of-hand and subterfuge. By presenting herself as a flesh'n'blood Jessica Rabbit, Liz/Lana is following a tradition observed by artists from Cliff Richard (Harry Webb) to Bono (Paul Hewson), Dusty Springfield to Lady Gaga.

As witnessed on talent TV shows, people can delude themselves into believing they're stars even when they're tuneless. "I've always known it's my destiny," they trill before presenting themselves in front of Bressie from Mullingar.

Del Rey captures this persona perfectly and then gives her character a unique twist. Lana is a self-styled beauty queen who'll do anything for her man but still can't get his undying attention.

Writing with various collaborators, Del Rey maintains the pose admirably. Hers is a world where David Lynch meets glamourous Hollywood idol Lana Turner in the wardrobe department of Mad Men, but things are doomed.

This outrageous conceit is teamed with beats, guitar twangs and sweeping strings that resemble a kindergarden Portishead.



Languid

Yet her deadpan performances, which run through a range of styles from coy to faux anguish, are perfect pop fodder.

The sense of haunting melancholy and mystery that pervades Video Games is difficult to sustain over 12 songs but Lana gamely gives it a go. Off To The Races is even darker. "He loves me with every beat of his cocaine heart . . . I'm your little harlot."

With its languid hip-hop beat and 1940's vocal drone, Radio is as summery as she gets: "Baby love me 'cos I'm playing on the radio."

While polished, this album is unlikely to change people's opinions. Fans will erect Lana shrines in their bedrooms and haters might happily stick pins in her effigy. HHHII

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