Lana Del Rey released the absolutely sensational album Born to Die in January of 2012. It was a riveting 45 minutes of soothing balladry, controversial lyrical drops, and odes to love lost and destroyed. Lana sounded like a battle-hardened warrior of love, and the songs came across in this odd balancing act of comically studio polished and immediately sincere. You were just begging for some good to honest rawness, and all you got was absolutely meticulously polished studio work. It made for an excellent album, if not a steadily frustrating one.
Lana Del Rey returns with Paradise an 8 track EP acting as an extension of her debut (some of the songs are totally fresh, a few have been pulled from her earlier recording sessions for her debut). As a whole entity, Paradise treads eerily similar territory. We still have Lana recalling flawed love from her past, and she still seems to be battling demons with her studio polished Rick Rubin instrumentation- who produced lead single Ride.
Where she upped the energy here and there in the debut, these tracks all have a soft crooning swagger, establishing the gangster Nancy Sinatra persona further than Born to Die ever did. Lead single Ride floats along softly, with a 50’s demean our that is simultaneously gorgeous while also just a little bit pretentious.
There is a concern here, because the songs are not only more of the same, but they just seem less fresh and less interesting overall than tracks like Video Games and Off to the Races. All comparisons aside, many half-fans may just be over her aesthetic pulling, bored of her similar-styled nature.
Lana has always had issues with sincerity, since her breakthrough, many calling her a phony and a fake. The complains had some merit, but if they complained before, they almost certainly aren’t changing their tune upon hearing American and especially Cola, which seems to push buttons for the sake of pushing buttons (lyrically, it’s a bit peculiar).
The album also starts to meander in the second half. Blue Velvet has little reason to exist, being a boring soulless mess, and Yayo is just entirely too slow, treading along at a snail’s pace with almost entirely subdued instrumentation. It shows off Lana’s voice with resonance, but it is not enough to save the song.
Lana Del Rey has to add a new ingredient to her sound. It is hard to use that against her in Paradise, as the album is just an additional slew of songs to act as a little brother to the parent album. But one would be hard-pressed to find all that much value in a future album that follows the same ideas into the ground. Her debut was an absolute gorgeous collection of exquisite melodies and cascading musical paintings and Paradise is a nice little bonus to fans of her style. But Paradise is not a necessary listen, and it does little to add a contemplative rounding out of her signature style, recalling thoughts that if Lana Del Rey follows this route again, she will be teetering on self parody and total tedium.