As the music plays, the lyrics set her mind adrift. “I know what it means to meet someone who's fucking fresh to death,” she says, as if daydreaming about him now. But Born to Die isn’t just a long trip through the swampy parts of the heart. There’s joy in there, too—like on “Off to the Races” when she coos “You are my one true love.” Swathed in strings, her voice runs sweet as wildflower honey.
“When I found somebody who I fell in love with, it made me feel different than I felt the rest of the day,” she reveals. “It was electrifying. That’s what inspired the ‘Off to the Races’ melodies. That’s one of the times when you’re feeling electrified by someone else and they make you happy to be alive.”
“Lolita” is another cut that finds Lana under love’s spell, despite her friends’ worries about the relationship. “I don’t care what they say about me,” she sings defiantly. “You make me happy.” If all goes as planned, a snatch of dialogue from the 1976 film Taxi Driver will start the track off (the Martin Scorsese classic was playing on the studio’s massive flat-screen while they recorded it). Specifically, Lana wants to include the part where Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle urges Iris, the 12-year-old prostitute played by Jodie Foster, to stop selling herself on the street.
Being human is difficult. Some people make it more difficult than others. I was one of those people.
Lana may have pulled from some murky places in her psyche, but she’s not about to let anyone play psychologist. She does, however, suggest that she needed some counseling as a teen.
“I went through different experiences when I was younger,” she says. “I know how to go from being a non-functioning member of society to a functioning one.” These days she seems totally normal, but eight years ago—not so much. “I was crazy,” she says. “I won’t go into it. It’s not helpful to know.” Lana’s laughing now, but they’re nervous chuckles. “I was just reckless,” she adds. “But that was a long time ago. Being human is difficult. Some people make it more difficult than others. I was one of those people.”
Now Lana’s in a better place, one that Ben Mawson helped guide her to. Her English-born lawyer and manager first met Lana two years ago while visiting New York for CMJ week, and watched her perform as a favor to Princess Superstar, another artist he handles. Mawson encouraged Lana to fly to London and helped get her UK record deal with Polydor. He goes hard for Lana because he truly believes in her potential.
“She’s the middle ground between Adele and Lady Gaga,” Mawson proclaims, but both those artists sell loads of records and pack out venues across the globe, which doesn’t exactly fall in line with Lana’s plans. “That’s his ambition,” says Lana, who would be OK with a gold album—but swears she could care less about platinum status. As for extensive touring, don’t count on it.
“My touring agents already know,” she says with a laugh. “I’m tired like that.”
So what does Lana want? Her goal is pretty simple: “I have a personal ambition to live my life honestly and honor the true love that I’ve had and also the people I’ve had around me. I want to stay hopeful, even though I get scared about why we’re even alive at all.”
But she’s got plenty of reasons to stick around. Her music’s taken her from singing in bars in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to getting love from everybody from Anna Wintour to The Weeknd. And like it or not, her schedule is about to get nutty. In the morning she’s hopping on a flight to China to perform at an event for Christian Dior. She doesn’t plan on packing much. Lana will be dressed by the luxury brand and then turn right around and head back to the States when it’s over.
This is Lana Del Rey’s life right now. The world is at her feet, whether they’re in Chucks or stilettos. She is stunning, may or may not have a few screws loose, loves dropping F-bombs, and, above all, is talented as fuck.
As the evening wraps up and the last tracks are played, it’s tough to tell what note Born to Die will close on. The album is a sexy, bass-thumping ride with glamorous retro nods to curvy, cat-eyed ’60s stars like Nancy Sinatra. Like the artist herself, this record is a trip.
“It’s a happy ending,” Lana assures. “It was a happy ending a long time ago. It was a happy ending when I found peace with myself. This is the good life. What a gift.”
Haters will just have to deal with it.
ADDITIONAL CREDITS: ((STYLING) Allison Miller and Johnny Blueeyes. (PROP STYLING) George Fernandez/J&M Special Effects. (HAIR) Anna Cofone. (MAKEUP) Pamela Cochrane. FIRST & SECOND IMAGE: Vintage robe and jewelry Lana's own. THIRD & SEVENTH IMAGE: Dress by Betsey Johnson / Jewelry Lana's own. FOURTH, SIXTH & EIGHTH IMAGE: Dress by ERES / Jewelry Lana's own. FIFTH & COVER IMAGE: Trench by Betsey Johnson / Vintage corset stylist's own / Jewelry Lana's own.