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Lana Del Rey - Paradise LP
Even after selling nearly three million copies of her debut album worldwide, Lana Del Rey still faced a challenge during 2012: namely, proving to critics and fans that Born to Die wasn't a fluke. In that spirit, she released Paradise, a mini-album close to Christmas, one that finds her copying nearly wholesale the look and feel of her vampish Born to Die personality. The sound is also very familiar. Strings move at a glacial pace, drums crash like waves in slow motion, and most of the additional textures in these songs (usually electric guitar or piano) are cinematic in their sound and references. Del Rey is in perfect control of her voice, much more assured than she was even one year ago, and frequently capable of astonishing her listeners with a very convincing act, even while playing nearly the same character in each song. There's really only one difference between Born to Die and Paradise, but it's a big one. Instead of acting the softcore, submissive, '60s-era plaything, here she's a hardcore, wasted, post-millennial plaything. She even goes so far as to tell her audience that she likes it rough (in words that earned the album a parental advisory sticker), to ask whether she can put on a show, and at her most explicit, proffering a simile that compares the taste of an intimate part of her anatomy to Pepsi. Granted, at the age of 26, she still has a few things to learn about lyricism, also resorting to cliché and baby talk in a manner that may fit the persona in a song, but doesn't result in great songwriting. (For examples, check "Body Electric," with the lines "Elvis is my daddy, Marilyn's my mother, Jesus is my bestest friend" and "We get crazy every Friday night, drop it like it's hot in the pale moonlight.") For all the progress and growth Del Rey shows in the vocal realm, her songwriting appears to be in stasis and the productions behind her have actually regressed from Born to Die. (The inclusion of a cover, "Blue Velvet," is not only a perfect match for her style, but also a hint that she performs up to better material.) Still, all of this is merely the fodder for her continuing controversy and popularity. Del Rey puts it better here than anyone else, with another simile: "Like a groupie incognito posing as a real singer, life imitates art."