West Coast by Lana Del Rey was a song I heard while I was mindlessly listening to her Born to Die album on Spotify. The song was released in the summer of 2014, so to promote her new album, it played. When I first heard it, I didn’t pay much attention to it. I just knew it sounded a lot like one of her songs off of her second album titled Paradise Edition which was the “evil twin” of Born to Die. An album whose songs I was not very satisfied with. There is always something about her music that is very odd, or fantastical. It’s either dreamy, creepy, or a beautiful mixture of both. I, not being a fan of her two-thirds creepy songs, did not like West Coast at first. I felt that it used more technology to produce the music rather than actual instruments, it bothered me the fact that I know she’s from New York, and finally, the overall essence of the song creeped me out. However there are a few tidbits of the song I noticed as it came on more frequently at random that made me finally sit down and listen to it, and appreciate those things.
The song itself begins with a drum fill, and a delayed and simple guitar sound. The delay made my head feel dizzy since it sort of pulses in and out of the mid with a wah pedal. I guess there is no other way to describe the sound than what’s going on with the instruments. As far as the vocals went, the third section of the part which could be identified as the chorus features a lot of harmonies that stack over each other in weird intervals that do not sound nice and pleasing to the ears, but rather creepy wondering what is actually lurking in the recording booth with her. That, however, is a trade mark of Lana Del Rey as well as crazy low octaves since she has that low range which is definitely not normal to today’s pop culture female singers who are more concerned on hitting whistle tones. That is imaginably sort of creepy in which she pulls off because it’s her sound. I didn’t enjoy this creepiness at first. I suppose I was just listening to music rather than looking into context.
Another thing about the song that bothered me was that Lana was singing about the west coast, and I at first assumed that she was now claiming to be from the west coast when anyone who listened to Born to Die knew she was from New York with all the references to it such as Carmen (“Cony Island queen”), Off to the Races (Riker’s Island) and Diet Mountain Dew (New York City). I felt that she was sort of denying who she was and where she came from. As a lot of pop singers moves to Los Angeles, or are from there, that is what they claim. I felt that she was not being true to who she was or where she came from, but as I listened to the song, and took it into context, it made sense to me as to what she was finally singing about which caused me to start to like it.
When I finally listened to the words, I realized that,like most of her songs, she was telling a story more of herself. She portrayed herself as someone who considered leaving her lover to pursue her dreams on the west coast, but found herself very in love with him. In the end, I believe she resulted in taking her with him. The song itself was a story rather than a message which I’m a sucker for as I find my roots in Paul McCartney who I consider one of the greatest story tellers through his music. As I listened more, she references Hollywood that they have their “golden girls” and “rock and roll groupies” which seems to be something that her and I both find fascinating (since she wrote two other songs about groupies which were sentimental, emotional and are my two favorite pairs on that album). Another thing I found that I loved about the song was that she was living up to her pseudonym (Lana Del Rey being a Hispanic name) saying her lover “is crazy y Cubano como yo” which is just saying “Cuban like me.”
As far as instrumentation went, with myself being a guitar player, I appreciated the delay, wah and pulsing sound of the guitar. I eventually just thought it sounded cool because not a lot of pop musicians today make use of these effects, and if they do, they’re not real as opposed to Lana who tours with a five part band which includes herself. Another thing I noticed about the instruments was the contrast between the dreamy delay wah and just a regular crunch sound. Finally, both of us being Beatle fans, right before the “chorus” is a direct tribute to The Beatles song “And I Love Her” featuring the same notes and being played on a nylon stringed guitar as opposed to the electric being used the whole time.
Finally, I watched the video for the song, and just found it overall classy as it transitioned between both sides of the song. It was black and white with her at a beach walking around with younger men who seemed to be friends, all in leather jackets or tee shirts, then to her very dolled up in the sense with a white dress, long nails smoking a cigarette as she sat next to her older lover which I found classy. In the end, I still love the song as I think about the video a lot as I listen to it hearing the contrasting parts, and seeing the contrasting scenes in my head. I actually listened to it as I wrote nearly every word. I got a little tired of it though, but I think I’ll still love it later.
The lyric video
here’s a link to the music video for anyone who wants to see the visual to what I was writing about
Lana Del Rey- West Coast
And the Beatle song earlier referenced
The Beatles- And I Love Her