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Lana Del Rey: West Coast (single review)

Jonathan O’Shea gives his verdict on sultry trip-hop singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey’s newest single, West Coast, set for UK release on May 18th.

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Worthless, tuneless scenester junk? That’s the predetermined tag many cynical pop pundits have readied for Lana Del Rey’s return to the fold. In truth, expectations are divided – some imagine the release of forthcoming album ‘Ultraviolence’ will herald a genuine and concerted push at establishing Ms Del Rey as a credible pop queen for the foreseeable future. Others confidently predict the unravelling of sumptuous style over sonic substance.

It doesn’t help to refute the naysayers when a generic-sounding song title such as ‘West Coast’ pops its head above the parapet. And, naturally, the track was written by previous collaborator Rick Nowels (whose past clients include: Stevie Nicks, Dido, Lykke Li, Belinda Carlisle, and, erm, Ronan Keating) rather than by Lana herself. So far, so what?

Yet the stir created by ‘Born To Die’s release and subsequent mega-success left open the latent possibility that the idyllic package of style and substance could be within her command. And as the first single from the imminent second album (recorded in Nashville; produced by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach), radio-waves have long been primed for the opening tumbling drum intro of Lana’s latest ‘joint’.

Upcoming album: Lana Del Rey's 'Ultraviolence' is set for UK release this summer
Upcoming album: Lana Del Rey’s ‘Ultraviolence’ is set for UK release this summer

There are faint echoes of both Tori Amos and Feist in the delivery of Nowels’ languid lyrics. She’s even brazenly nicked a bit of The Beatles’ masterful ‘And I Love Her’ riff. And the intermittent ‘You got the music in you’ refrain unfortunately brings to mind the New Radicals late-90s slagging of Courtney Love, Beck and Hanson.

Fortunately for the pouting princess of murk-pop, it all hangs together quite wonderfully. Typically atmospheric, with Del Rey’s trademark breathy vocals, ‘West Coast’ is capable of woozily insinuating itself with even the most jaded listener. ‘Ooh baby’s are ten-a-penny across the vast and all-encompassing tides of music history, but can still sweetly enrapture when delivered with such lushness. Mentions for west coast movies and rock ‘n’ roll groupies inevitably ensue, before curious cadence changes and swooning guitar solos bring the track to a crescendo, with Del Rey crooning devotion to her ‘boy blue’.

Derivative? Naturally. A mind-blowing musical metamorphosis? No. Still, the essence of what intrigues and entices listeners into Lana Del Rey’s harmonious honey-trap remains intact. An air of mysterious otherworldliness underpins a perfect pop sensibility, honed by years of vain endeavour as plain old Lizzie Grant. The release of ‘West Coast’ only intensifies the intrigue.

Written by Jonathan O'Shea

A keen student of sport, music and life. Can generally be found educating small people, bitterly damning Aston Villa's latest attempts at football, or writing nonsense about ephemera.