Sunday, May 19, 2013

Lana Del Ray A.K.A. Lizzy Grant | Lana Del Rey


Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Soon after Lana Del Rey debuted "Video Games" in 2011, there was plenty of speculation about the past career endeavors and life experiences of the young singer and songwriter. Inhabitants of the Internet easily pried their way into her past, finding that she once started out as a young Elizabeth Grant, trying to release material as Lana Del Ray, a small misnomer that is now frowned upon by Lana Del Rey fans around the globe.

Under the name, she released one album with 5 Points Records before getting a joint contract with Polydor and Interscope Records and changing the spelling of her name. After being signed to the new labels, Lana Del Ray A.K.A. Lizzy Grant was pulled from music download sites when Del Rey bought the rights back and ordered for the album's retraction from availability. However, being a big fan of Del Rey, I tracked down the discontinued album months ago on YouTube and I'm finally ready to give it a proper review.

Upon listening to Lana Del Ray A.K.A. Lizzy Grant, (which has also been code-named Nevada by some Del Rey fans), I was surprised to find that it sounded nothing like the dreary sadcore style of Born To Die and Paradise that I originally fell in love with. Instead, this album seems much more carefree and is nearly genre-less; it has a lot of different influences and draws from alternative rock, pop, and indie. The only two songs that are even remotely close to her current sound are the opening and closing tracks of the album.

The album commences with the only single lifted from the album, "Kill Kill." This track is probably my favorite from the album. I like to think of the song as a precursor to "Dark Paradise," as the chorus repeats the same line over and over again: "I'm in love with a dying man."  "Kill Kill" has slow and calming (but not dull) sound that really isn't seen on the album again until the album's ending song. The song's conclusion includes the repeated echoes of "One, two, make it fun / Don't trust anyone," which parallel the tattoo of the words 'trust no one' on the side of her right hand.

The final song of Lana Del Ray A.K.A. Lizzy Grant should ring a bell for her current fans, whether they know about this album or not; the original version of "Yayo" sits at the end of A.K.A., while a new version was recorded for Paradise. The version of "Yayo" found on this album has its perks and downfalls, just as the new version does, but I do prefer the A.K.A. version. The two things that make this version of "Yayo" special that are missing from the Paradise edition of the song are actually quite minor (and almost unnoticeable), but they do make a difference. I adore the haunting echo of "dark night" at the end of the bridge and the instrumentation that plays from the end of the bridge to the end of the song. 

Any fan of Lana Del Rey knows that Elizabeth Grant led a rather interesting life before she became what she is today, and some of the songs of A.K.A. help explain some of her blurry past. "For K Part 2" easily points out one of Del Rey's shadiest associates: 'K'. It is assumed that 'K' was one of her past boyfriends, but rumors surrounding him are what really interest me. He's been said to be either dead or on death row for some sort of massive crime. The song is extremely boring, but at least it gives us a glimpse of 'K.'

"Brite Lites" was Del Rey's attempt at some sort of dance song, but... well... it failed. There aren't any dynamics in the vocals, the instrumental doesn't sound professional, and she just doesn't sound right on the track in general. Her voice just isn't suited from dance music; I don't know how to put it any other way. Her sultry sound belongs on tracks like "Born To Die" and "Ride," not layered over some sort of cheap dance-style instrumental that sounds like it came off a karaoke disc bought at the local Dollar General.

This album also holds plenty of songs with interesting titles, to say the least. The second track, "Queen of the Gas Station," is catchier song about, well, how much Del Rey loves the gas station. I think it might be used as a metaphor to say that she's happy with cheap things rather than more expensive things, but I'm really not sure, to be honest. I'm just taking a shot in the dark. Oh, and I can't forget "Gramma (Blue Ribbon Sparkler Trailer Heaven)." The rambling part in the parentheses is supposed to be there; I promise. Is it relevant to the song? Not at all, but don't ask questions.

Of course, these titles really should be too surprising; Del Rey once had a personal MySpace account before the release of Lana Del Ray A.K.A. Lizzy Grant on which she entitled herself the 'Sparkle Jump Rope Queen,' a line which actually comes up in the song "Little Girls (Put Me In A Movie)" on this album. They're all strange titles and names, but I think she was going through a time that some young adults do when they have absolutely no clue what they're doing with their lives; They tend to try and outrageously reinvent themselves to become content with their self-image, which usually never works. Luckily, she outgrew her sparkly jump roping days soon enough to become what she is today.

Lana Del Ray A.K.A. Lizzy Grant may have unlocked a few obscure facts of Del Rey's past, but other than that, the album doesn't serve much of a purpose. I do listen to "Kill Kill," "Queen of the Gas Station," "Mermaid Motel," and "Yayo" on a regular basis, but the rest of the songs sound like aborted demo tracks from a mediocre high school garage band. Born To Die and Paradise blow this album away in every category: the lyrics, instrumentation, and overall quality of those two albums are nearly perfect, and seem completely flawless when compared to Lana Del Ray A.K.A. Lizzy Grant. I'm not saying this album is preventing me from being a fan or anything: I'm going to continue to fan-girl over this woman for years to come, but I'm just going to try to ignore the fact that the majority of this album exists.

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