LANA DEL REY - YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL
One out of two’s still good, Leo.
Patrick St. Michel: One complaint aimed at The Great Gatsby — the book, I have no idea about the movie — is that everything is a symbol, to the point of excess. A fair enough critique but I think it’s still better than the opposite - SparkNotes obviousness. “Young And Beautiful” features no subtlety, everything Lana Del Rey sings about being direct (“will you still love me/when I’m no longer beautiful?”). It’s a touch too straightforward, betraying the unsavory emotions that lurked beneath her best songs (“Video Games,” mostly). Still, like all her music, it earns some points for just sounding so grand, even if what’s sung over it isn’t at all.
Anthony Easton: The Gatsby soundtrack is brilliant, better than the movie at updating the tragic amorality of Gatsby’s relationship to both money and people. Lana Del Rey, with her languor, and her cleverness at persona-building, plus the updating of the jazz chanteuse persona would seem to be a perfect fit. But it might have been too perfect considering Luhrman’s skills mostly rest on the integration of contemporary modes into melodramatic histories and recasting that integration into an overly processed spectacle — a filmic reproduction of a music hall re-working of an operatic practice of a textual source — a matryoshka doll effect. Rey’s inability to go past the first second or level of that practice is a disappointment. However, there are things to recommend this: her tone is silvery, her ache of loss is earnest enough, I enjoyed how she delivered lines that should just collapse into absurdity (electric soul), and even the pleading to God is both exquisite and terribly placed.
Alfred Soto: As those strings saw away, Del Rey is in her own Deanna Durbin vehicle, her cool nasality giving confessions (rhyming his “body” with “makes me wanna party”) genuine camp value.
Jer Fairall: Overstated, garish and tasteless, Lana Del Rey and Baz Luhrmann movies are practically made for each other. I can actually somewhat get on board with the particular melodramatic sweep of this one, at least as long as she’s wistfully evoking “hot summer days / rock and roll / the way you’d play for me at your show;” even if only the 1/3 of that equation makes sense in context, it’s a lovely little moment nonetheless. But any Lana Del Rey song is always going to leave her often cataclysmically awful lyrics to contend with (“will you still love me when I got nothing but my aching soul” isn’t even the biggest howler here) and the sad fact that, as a vocalist, I’m finding less and less to distinguish her from Christina Perri anymore.
Mallory O’Donnell: Myopic, self-obsessed plodding dirge masquerading as a paean to a killer guy, pretending (worse yet) to be modern (“makes me wanna party?”) despite the pre-Prohibition vocal drag. There’s nothing wrong with singing per se, why you wanna wear it out so bad?
Katherine St Asaph: Lana Del Rey is perfect for Gatsby. She’s exactly the singer Gatsby would hire. And though the pace is stodgy and the bridge worse, she’s better on material that demands gravitas (earned or not) than when she’s just trolling everyone. Or maybe I’m just overrating the parts where her voice sounds like Helen Marnie.
Brad Shoup: The percussive strokes sound like shovels hitting dirt, or maybe buckets bailing water. The combination of orchestral support and mundane concerns have borne fruit for her; replacing the details with this tense little ball of text/subtext is kind of a downgrade. Most pop music has been made knowing (and ignoring) the answer to Del Rey’s question. I guess every once in a while, someone’s gotta say it.
Will Adams: It’s her way with melody, I think, that lets me forget that a song titled “Young and Beautiful” for an expensive Gatsby adaptation is the year’s biggest moment of self-parody. Well, that and the body/party rhyme. The lovely pre-chorus – when Lana crescendos as the strings swell – reminded me of her songwriting craft, the somber affect that so clearly separates empathy from sympathy. Yes, diminishing returns apply here, but for the moment I can still enjoy her.
Alex Ostroff: “All that grace, all that body, all that face makes me wanna party,” Lana intones, before declaring her faith that her man will love her past the horizon of youth and beauty, but “Body Party” — textually corporeal, visceral and lustful — effortlessly signifies devotion, spirituality and romance that all the orchestral grandeur in the world can’t muster here. Lana signifies ennui and dissatisfaction, which works best undercutting her lyrics implicitly, à la “Video Games,” rather than underpinning explicit insecurities. If I remain unmoved, I also remain oddly transfixed.
Sabina Tang: These days, the furore around Lana Del Rey’s initial videos seems beside the point, first and foremost because her execution improved thereafter by leaps and bounds. Like Stefani Germanotta, Lizzie Grant spent her first two successful albums refining her songwriting and doubling down on her aesthetics. Like Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey is less a coherent alter ego than a concept-nexus, a brand. One is a Lana Del Rey Girl in the same sense that one might be a Valley Girl, an Uptown Girl, a Vargas Girl… The commonality of the Lana Del Rey Girl — “Video Games“‘s girlfriend, “Ride“‘s biker moll, “National Anthem“‘s First Lady, “Cola“‘s home-wrecker, the girl in “American” whose brown-skinned lover is only like an American — is that she is much seen (being beautiful) and little heard (being dim, or at any rate not a feminist). She imagines life as a movie, is assigned no lines, and ends her life in a meat freezer. She is a vessel for the hopes and dreams of men; no one wants to hear her talk, other women least of all. Lana Del Rey gives her a voice — always first person, never the observer’s third — but the crux of the project is that she doesn’t sugarcoat. The Lana Del Rey Girl opens her mouth to reveal that she is dim, venal, romanticizes destructive love and has an unhealthy need for male approval. She’s erotically drawn to older men and sweetly calls their wives “bitch” under her breath. She probably can’t spell feminist. In other words, she’s Daisy Buchanan’s original “beautiful little fool.” So who better than Lana to put words in Daisy’s mouth and do her narcissism justice? What other female singer-songwriter voice can ask and answer, “Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful — I know you will, I know you will”? Who else can sigh in all seriousness, “You make me shine — like diamonds”? This may be a bog-standard Paradise-era cut, but the Luhrmann Gatsby is Lana Del Rey’s Gatsby, through and through.
Jonathan Bogart: Daisy Buchanan’s theme, I take it. But Lana Del Rey’s voice still only sounds like a parody of money.
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