I had such a glorious walk listening to this album last night. It's so good and sets up Lana's journey as an artist so well. The production is a lot more over-the-top than the rest of her work and she leans into a bit of a caricature at times, but it's all very deliberate and clever.
It's funny (sad) that this wasn't well received by a lot of critics despite being such a knockout debut. I don't even think it's that this album was ahead of its time. I think regardless of when this was released the music industry wouldn't have been ready for Lana. It was her "debut album" but as we know from all her leaked materials she already had an insane amount of fully realized tracks where she explored the darkest and strangest parts of her mind. She blends pop music, dark themes, and evocative imagery so well here and no one knew what to do with her. Critics saying that she must have been a product of the industry because she came out fully formed already is so dumb, as if an artist can't take the time to create something special before releasing it to the world?
I've always liked This Is What Makes Us Girls but I've never given it enough credit as the narrative ending to the record, I guess because I always listen to the album with the bonus tracks so it doesn't feel like the conclusion, but now I see that it really is. It's like she's saying goodbye to that more immature persona she inhabits throughout the album and knows it's time to move on to new growth. Even though the song jumps back to a younger Lana, I feel like that experience of leaving those friends behind is a reflection of where she's at by the end of the album and is ready to go through a similar process with herself and the life she's been living.
Then comes Paradise, which almost seems like a death and rebirth of the Lana we got to know in Born To Die, leading us seamlessly into Ultraviolence where she's reached a new level of her confidence and maturity and there's no turning back from there. I know there are people that want Lana to return to Born To Die's level of production but I personally am not one of them and I can't really imagine her doing so at this point. I feel like Born To Die was meant to be an isolated sound and experience in some ways, which makes sense given the title and concept of the whole album. Her character here is always walking a fine line between fun and danger, always on the edge and fantasizing about death, even desperately asking for it, but that's not a sustainable mindset. By the end of Born to Die, and especially Paradise, she's put that person behind her and she's grown into a new phase of her life and her artistry. Of course she's continued to explore dark themes her entire career, but she's left behind the teenaged mentality that she explores in Born To Die, and leaving this style in the past only further strengthens both this album and her entire storytelling journey to me.