Welcome back to #ThrowbackThursday!
Each week BreatheHeavy takes you into the darkest depths of our iTunes to honor some of the most unappreciated deep-cuts from your favorite pop acts. This week’s selection is a promotional single from Lana Del Rey’s ‘Born to Die’ and one of the undeniable highlights of Del Rey’s debut effort.
‘Born to Die’ was a record drowning in controversy before it was even released. Criticism of Lana’s supposedly manufactured persona were widespread, her cosmetically enhanced appearance was frequently mocked and, thanks to one particularly unfortunate SNL performance, her talent was largely dismissed.
A travesty really, especially when you consider how good ‘Born to Die’ was as a debut record; it was a singular, cohesive album with an ambitious vision, a vision that no song makes clearer than “Off to the Races”.
“Off to the Races” is an immediate standout from ‘Born to Die’. Featuring unhinged lyrics that tell of a destructively co-dependant relationship and a shift from the typically vintage sound of the record to something a little more urban, the song is simultaneously at home on the album as a whole but immediately different to anything else Del Rey had produced at the time.
The track was originally envisioned as the third single to be taken from the record, following break-out debut “Video Games” and the title track “Born to Die”, but was canned for undisclosed reasons, which stands as a still incomprehensible decision.
Interestingly, Lana’s best performance of “Off to the Races” is probably still it’s first outing in Toronto several months before ‘Born to Die’ dropped. As a live act, the New York native can often feel detached or cold, but here we see an engaged, impassioned version of Del Rey who comes out to play all too infrequently.
Perhaps what makes “Off to the Races” such a strong track is also what holds it back in a live setting and that’s its insane sense of pace. The song hurtles along at such a speed that the listener feels trapped in the fictional world Del Rey creates, but it’s a style that can be hard to capture onstage, especially for an artist like Lana who typically relies on her languid, drawling vocals.
“Off to the Races” is so visceral and immediate and boasts so much narrative and plot that it’s a real shame no visual was ever commissioned for the track, aside from a video of archived television clips set to the song, which appears to have been since removed from YouTube.
Lana Del Rey has promised a return to the sound of her first record for this year’s third LP ‘Honeymoon’, but hopefully as well as the sad-core soul of “Video Games” and “National Anthem” we’ll also be treated to some of the R&B trip-hop flavors Lana explored on “Off to the Races”.