I started off writing a very negative review of this new Lana Del Rey single from The Great Gatsby soundtrack. I wrote about the lyrics being sub par and Lana practically slurring half of them with her peculiar pronunciation. But then a funny thing happened. After listening to the song nearly 10 times, I found myself liking it. I tried to focus on the review I was writing, but with each word I wrote I felt like I was becoming a bigger and bigger liar. So, I deleted that review and I’m serving you this instead.
Written by Lana and hit-maker Rick Nowels, it starts off with ominous bells and eerie strings, giving off a bit of a James Bond theme song vibe. In fact, it continues to give off that vibe when Lana begins singing. “I’ve seen the world, done it all, had my cake now, diamonds, brilliant, and Bel-Air now,” she croons, actually having the gall to rhyme “now” with “now.” But what initially put me off was that I felt like she was bragging about these things. Even if she’s singing from the perspective of a character in the movie, which is based on one of my least favorite books of all-time, it just struck me as someone bragging about their extravagant lifestyle. But, eventually, I was able to quote unquote hear the lyrics in the way they’re obviously intended; this is the story of someone looking back on her life, wondering if she’ll have anything left when she’s “no longer young and beautiful.” “Will you still love me when I got nothing but my aching soul,” she sings, essentially pleading, while massive beats that call to mind Craig Armstrong strike like thunder. Then she answers her own question: “I know you will, I know you will.” I think that put me off at first, too. It just seemed conceited. Don’t sing this song about fearing you’ll no longer be loved when you get old if you already know that you will be. Answering her own question seemed to render the rest of the lyrics pointless. But, again, it grew on me. I think it just finally occurred to me that she might not be so sure that that’s her answer, that she might just be telling herself that because it’s what she wants to believe. Looking at the song from that perspective, seeing it as someone lying to herself, gave it added depth, something the song sorely needed. Not musically — the production is gorgeous if not immaculate — I’m talking specifically about Lana’s lyrics and her fairly deadpan delivery. It’s hard not to cringe when she sings lines like, “Oh that grace, oh that body, oh that face makes me wanna party.” I mean, c’mon, go to any bar on any night of the week and you’ll hear guys using smarter pick up lines than that. Most of these lyrics sound like they could have been written by a 12 year old. But that question, “will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful,” lingered in my head more and more after each listen. Combined with the dark, creepy music, it’s ultimately haunting. And it’s the haunting factor that makes up for the rest of the lyrics and how uninspired she sounds singing them. Not to mention the fact that she doesn’t even attempt any high notes here; we all know she isn’t Streisand, but a little effort goes a long way and one gets the impression that she phoned this in. But, yes, I like it. I do. Logically, I know I shouldn’t. It’s a mess, really. But it’s consumed me to the point that I now enjoy hearing it loop inside of my head. Maybe you’ll be able to resist it, and you probably should, but if you give it a few listens then I suspect it’ll overcome you.
It’s okay to like a Lana song; really it is.
Lana practices a sort of melancholy irony; following up the big question with “I know you will” communicates uncertainty rather than certainty. A beautiful song of hers called “Never Let Me Go” is another good example.
It’s worth comparing this song to “Gods and Monsters,” on the Paradise EP. They’re obverse. Musically and thematically, they’re bound together, and the irony of each is a major reason.
I actually love Lana and have Born To Die and Paradise on vinyl. I guess I just didn’t think this new tune was as clever as her usual material.
Vinyl. I love vinyl.
Now, if I could just find a turntable for less than a fortune.
Lyrically speaking, I hate this song. It could’ve been so much better. The final verse kills me. Particularly:
“Oh that grace, oh that body
Oh that face makes me wanna party
He’s my sun, he makes me shine like diamonds”
It’s stupid, plain and simple. Talking about this fear of no longer being loved for the lack of youth and beauty when in the same song prizing those same qualities in the person about whom she is singing and asking the questions about. It just did not jive with me.
Compare it to it’s earlier verse:
” Hot summer days, rock ‘n’ roll
The way you play for me at your show
And all the ways I got to know
Your pretty face and electric soul”
That just carries so much more in terms of wistful looking back and sentimentality – the heart of it in the midst of an extravagant and almost disillusioned first verse and tone — than the disjointed third verse. I really like the tune and the strings and agree that its haunting quality gives it staying power; but that last verse jumps off the rails in a train wreck for any literary sensibility I possess.
This is one of the first and only songs I’ve heard by Lana Del Ray — making me a a newer listener and all the bias that carries. Perhaps even an unfair view of this song. It’s evident she has talent, but if these are her song-writing abilities, they need a good deal of polishing.
You make some very good points. Thanks for commenting.
I think the third verse is the point. She wants him to love her always even when her beauty fades, but she loves him for things that will fade
Thanks for commenting. 🙂
The “I know you will” lyrics I also interpreted to mean she was reassuring herself in some way.
In terms of not singing high notes, I agree, it is a bit limiting (the climactic point of the song “like diamonds” has the most beautiful chord shift to it but then she goes back to the chorus singing it exactly the same, no change in dynamics). However as you may have noticed with most of Lana’s work, she is very much an alto. She can take her voice into a higher register but often comes off a bit light and falsetto (a la her song Blue Jeans).
Thanks for your review, was an interesting read.
Thanks for reading and commenting.
Your review of this song really bothers me. This song was written for the great gatsby, it tells their story and it does it very well. The whole book is about Gatsby trying so hard to hold on to daisy no matter what. The presence of carroway and the length of time apart from her makes him doubt they will be together but, like the book repeatedly states, gatsby is the most hopeful man you’re ever likely to meet and he clings to that hope, knowing, they’ll be together.
Only Lana is capable of producing such mesmerizing and at the same time, silly, songs. Amazing vocal lines and robust instrumental behind it, unfortunately lyrics are absolutely shameful.