Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chelsea Daggers in the Back.


Chelsea’s 3-1 loss in Naples on Tuesday was damaging. It was damaging to the team’s aspirations of ever winning the Champions League, as they now have a figurative mountain to climb in overcoming that deficit in the return fixture in London with a misfiring attack and a toothless defence. It was also damaging to the 34-year-old’s reputation. He had taken several gambles in his team selection, and from the result and the performance, it was an unqualified failure. Chelsea, languishing in fifth, looking at another Champions League exit and really struggling to gain any kind of form, are in dire straits. The worrying thing is, these are just the on-field problems. Off it, AVB faces player mutiny from the most political dressing room in the premier league, increasing pressure to play the ineffective Fernando Torres and continual speculation at his future, decided by the fickle oil baron Roman Abramovich. Damage, damage, everywhere.

Eyebrows were raised when the teamsheet was released for the Napoli game. John Terry, the Chelsea captain, was ruled out through injury, thus inducing AVB to play the less-than-ideal centreback pairing of Gary Cahill and David Luiz, both of whom proceeded to give a performance over the 90 minutes that would have made Laurel and Hardy proud. Far more baffling, however, was that Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Michael Essien were all benched. The three that took their places in the starting XI- Bosingwa, Ramires and Meireles, all had shockers. Bosingwa came off after 10 minutes with an injury, thus inducing Villas-Boas to use up a precious substitution early. The Sky pundit Jamie Redknapp raged that it was “managerial suicide”, and judging from the shambolic performance that ensued, in which Chelsea were arguably fortunate to escape from just 3-1 down, he wasn’t wrong.

As Graeme Sounness said, Ashley Cole at 90% fitness was better than Bosingwa 100%. The England left-back, as with his defensive colleagues, has not had the best season at Chelsea (the way he lost Theo Walcott in the 3-5 humiliation against Arsenal must will give him nightmares) but he still remains one of the finest in the world in his position, and when brilliant, has given performances for Chelsea that epitomize full-back play at its finest (Spurs away, for example). AVB’s decision not to start him and play Bosingwa - a right-back who can barely play in his natural role – out of position because the manager and Cole had an argument, just smacks of cutting one’s nose off to spite their face. Furthermore, not playing Michael Essien, a man who knows the role of defensive midfield inside out, in favour of Raul Meireles, whose error led to Chelsea conceding the equaliser, was another of AVB’s risky gambles that backfired spectacularly. And finally, the benching of Frank Lampard. To fans, Frank is Chelsea royalty and were we presented with an ultimatum between the 33-year-old midfielder and the 34-year-old gaffer, the Englishman would come out top every time. The power struggle between the manager and the man only 8 months his junior has been well documented by fans and the Media alike this season and whilst fans accept that Lampard no longer has the God-given right to demand starts at every single Chelsea game, he is still far better than any of the alternatives and should definitely have started for such a crucial match on Tuesday.

All that being said, some sympathy has to be given to Andre Villas-Boas. Managing Chelsea, for all its glitterati and glamour, is an unenviable task. John Terry, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Didier Drogba have egos to match their salaries, and even the usually soft-spoken, diplomatic goalkeeper Petr Cech has a high enough sense of self-worth that he would not be averse to speaking out against the manager. It also is these five players, however, who have been dominant players in Chelsea’s success of the last few years. In the 2009-2010 season when they won the double for the first time in the club’s history, it was Lampard’s goals, Cole’s marauding fullback play, Terry’s defensive blocks, Drogba’s invention and Cech’s crucial saves that won it. Love themselves these men definitely do, but not for no reason.

The revelation that several Chelsea players were still in contact with Jose Mourinho, the manager who’s shadow every man following him has been living in, couldn’t have helped things. AVB must have been hurt to think of Frank Lampard or Ashley Cole sending their former boss a snide text every time AVB got it wrong (and there have been plenty of those this season). Furthermore, Frank whining to cousin Jamie, only to have Redknapp relay everything the Englishman says on TV, has got to be the most counter-productive way to try and get starts. As the age-old phrase goes, it takes two to tango, and the Chelsea camp is most definitely divided into a group of those who are Team Andre Villas-Boas, and Team, well, Andre is a Village Idiot.

But the fact of the matter is, those who are on Team AVB are also those getting starts, and whether or not said starts are deserved are bloody debatable. David Luiz, a man who has big hair, a big heart and a big sense of humour, also possesses big clown feet and cannot defend to save his life. Chelsea fans enjoy his warmth and happy smile, but when we see his name on a teamsheet, we fret. He is AVB’s biggest loyalist and AVB has paid Luiz’s loyalty in kind with starts throughout the season. In return, David Luiz has given performances riddled with defensive errors; on Tuesday it was a miskick that led Napoli to score their third – and most damaging – goal. Similarly, Raul Meireles has been given a string of second-rate performances in a Chelsea shirt this season, and Bosingwa at right back has gifted the opposition goals like it's going out of fashion. AVB has persevered with the Lusophone-speaking contingent of Chelsea this season, when their performances have not merited such perseverance, and that riles.

It is difficult to say where one can go from here. AVB has a vision for Chelsea’s future – the word “project” has rolled off his tongue continually this season – but I have a few words to describe how Chelsea is right now, none of them project, all of them four-lettered. The club is descending into a downhill spiral of internal politics and backhanded comments, with more drama than a month’s worth of Eastenders. I am not saying that Roman should sack AVB, because, frankly Chelsea have gone through more than enough managerial transitions to last a lifetime. Plus, Chelsea’s players need to take accountability for their atrocious recent performances and start playing for the team. But a big share of the blame does lie with Andre Villas-Boas, and he needs to get a clue, and fast, because the clock is ticking, and as Carlo Ancelotti, Luiz Felipe Scolari and Avram Grant can attest to, patience is not something the Russian has in abundance. For the majority of Chelsea fans, however, we have long given up on AVB. He would have to perform miracles to turn this sorry mess around now.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Review of the Songs on the “Heart” (S3E13) episode of Glee

In order they were performed in the show...

01. L-O-V-E performed by Mike and Tina It’s always a novelty to hear Harry Shum, Jr sing, and he sings surprisingly well. Jenna Ushkowitz, who is often sidelined by other louder members of the Glee cast, has a terrific quality to her voice and their two voices complement each other perfectly, buoyed by some snappy Fred-and-Gingeresque dance moves as well as hilarious cut-aways to Rory and Artie competing for Sugar’s affections by trying to best each other at giving her tacky Valentines’ presents. 

I particularly liked it when Tina whipped up a paper heart magically and incorporated it into the dance. A-

02. Let Me Love You performed by Artie
Rory tells Artie, “this is a four leaf clover. You’re going to need all the luck you can get”, and this was Artie’s pretty underwhelming respite. I was never a big fan of the Mario original, and Artie’s attempt to “boy band” it up to serenade Sugar just felt a bit flat. 

Harry Shum Jr was comfortably the best of all the back-up dancers, and truth be told, I was more interested in his moves and sharp turquoise cardigan than I was in Artie’s singing. D

03. Stereo Hearts performed by the God Squad
The God Squad this week were joined by a new face, a Joe Hart (not the footballer, lamentably, but lol at the coincidence), who Quinn describes as “a modern day Jesus”. He has a nice voice, and it is complemented well with Mercedes singing falsetto. I liked the incorporation of 'Trouty' in the rapping!

Halfway through the performance the song is lifted with a gospel vibe, which many felt a bit much for Gym Class Heroes, but I thought it was adorable, and an appropriately ~magnificent~ performance as it was a singing telegram for Rachel Berry, who herself is no stranger to the spectacle.  The background warbling during the refrain complemented the sweet lyrics well, too. A

04. Home performed by Rory
Damian McGinty sang and acted well in his performance, and his soulful rendition of Buble’s moving song certainly didn’t lack the swoon factor, but he was rooted to the spot and that bored me somewhat. I practically have ADD, OK, I need a bit more in the way of visual pyrotechnics! C+

05. I Will Always Love You performed by Mercedes

The showcase number of the show, as well an oddly prophetic song choice (R.I.P. Whitney Houston). Amber Riley’s acting during the performance is amazing – making us genuinely feel her dilemma, rather than before, when it’d seemed like somewhat of a first world problem that she had two potential suitors. 

The lilting guitar in the background works perfectly to accompany Riley’s powerful vocals (when she hits the IIIIIIII, I got shivers) without detracting from her performance, which would have been quite some achievement even without the sad news of Whitney’s passing. 

With it, though, it marks one of the most genuinely emotional performances amidst the peppy, superficial ones that we’re so used to in Glee. A/A+

06. Cherish performed by the God Squad
My girl Dianna Agron gets to take centre stage, and she has a voice to match her face; laced with honey. Her dulcet tones suit this cute number perfectly, and the many shots of Santana (looking beautiful) with her girl Brittany capture the schmaltzy, sweet side of Valentines Day. A-.

07. Love Shack performed by Blaine, Mercedes, Rachel, Brittany, Santana and Kurt

Blaine bungs up, “back from the dead”, as Sugar sensitively phrases it, to end this week’s Glee on a high, and a good chunk of Glee club also feature in his fun rendition of Love Shack. It’s very camp and karaoke, but Blaine’s vocals are always welcomed, and Kurt’s facial expressions when he does his lines are hilarious. B+

Friday, February 10, 2012

Favourite lines from Lana del Rey's 'Born to Die'.

01. “He got a soul as sweet as blood red jam and he shows me, he knows me, every inch of my tar black soul” – Off to the Races
02. “I heard you like the bad girls honey, is that true?” – Video Games
03. “We all look for heaven and we put our love first / Somethin' that we'd die for, it's our curse” – This is What Makes Us Girls
04. “Baby put on heart-shaped sunglasses, cos we gonna go for a ride” – Diet Mtn Dew
05. “All my friends tell me I should move on, I’m lying in the ocean, singing your song” – Dark Paradise
06. “You said I was the most exotic flower / Holding me close in our final hour” – Million Dollar Man
07. “Come take a walk on the wild side, let me kiss you hard in the pouring rain, you like your girls insane” – Born to Die
08. “Because I’m crazy baby, I need you to come here and save me” – Off to Races
09. “I want my cake and I want to eat it too” – Lolita
10. “Now my life is sweet like cinnamon / Like a fucking dream I'm living in” - Radio

Three brief London restaurant reports.

Koba (W1T 1NA)

A wonderful restaurant, easily one of the best I’ve been to in my life! Koba is a Korean place just off Tottenham Court Road, and the fact that it is a popular go-to stop for natives shows it plays true to the palate of Korean food. As there were four of us when we went, we ordered quite a wide range of dishes, which the waiters cook right in front of you (there is a special sort of grill at the centre of the table). It tasted food that I never thought I would, including a baby octopus (not quite to my liking), although there was a multitude of food that was to my liking, including the delicious Korean omelette, and their meat tray and Korean spirits alcohol, which was perfectly cooked as well as seasoned. I would definitely come back.
Grade: A

Garfunkel’s (SE10 0DX)
A fairly standard eatery in the o2 arena in Greenwich, Garfunkel’s is more a convenient food stop than any fine dining. For starters, I had chicken wings, which I thought tasted undercooked (and which they’d clearly tried to hide this by lathering on multitudes of barbeque sauce). The burger I had was quite nice, without ever reaching gourmet levels, although the chips accompanying it were stale bordering on inedible. Passable rather than sensational, one gets the distinct impression that this restaurant is one that rides on its prime location, during which most of its visitors will have had a pint or two before they come for the concert and thus will be too drunk to notice that the food that they are being served is below par.
Grade: C+

Knights of St Johns (SW11 1TD)
Located just a short walk away from Clapham Junction Station, Knights of St Johns, or Knights, as it is better known, is a truly wonderful dining experience. The beers are very reasonable priced and the cocktails are sensational, including a truly one-of-a-kind lychee martini. The guy serving us was a delight, very personable and easy to talk to, as well as imparting honest opinions on the food. I had the steak, which was perfectly cooked, not over and not underdone. The chips which accompanied the steak were homemade and grilled in a special kind of garlic sauce, rendering them sort of an in between chips and potato wedges, but delicious nonetheless. My friend ordered lamb cutlets, which she also said was cooked to perfection. My only quibble with this restaurant was that the menu could probably stand to be a little more diverse - in total I counted less than ten dishes it offered. We were fortunate as we went to the restaurant on a fairly quiet day, but I imagine Knights can get quite busy due to its high quality food and drink and prime location, so, get on it!
Grade: A-

Thursday, February 09, 2012

A Face for the Defence.

Yesterday, Harry Redknapp, Tottenham Hotspur manager – and widely believed to be the one who will succeed Capello for the England job – was absolved by a jury of 12 on two counts of tax evasion. The 64-year-old kept his relief well-masked, hiding his face as he hugged Milan Mandaric, his co-accused.

But in the public gallery, his 38-year-old son, Sky Sports pundit and former Spurs and Liverpool captain, Jamie Redknapp, gave a more visible display of euphoria. Making like his nickname, his eyes got redder and redder as he breathed a big sigh and got out his BlackBerry to text his wife and mother the good news. But Jamie could have probably afforded to feel more than just relief, as his continual presence at Southwark Crown Court probably helped his father in more ways than just moral support.

A tall, handsome man, Jamie Redknapp has been inundated with professions of eternal love from swooning teenage girls to middle-aged women alike [of which I fit somewhere in between *giggles*]. It’s the lethal combination of the Dianna Agronesque wide hazel eyes, cheekbones, irresistible smile, and excellent personal grooming; throughout the tax evasion trial, Redknapp Jr maintained his stubble to a standard where it was fashionable without looking hobo-like, sported a fine range of sharp Marks and Spencer and Armani suits, and kept his brown hair coiffured to a tidy side-parting.

PhotobucketJamie’s tastiness is counterbalanced by his considerable shortcomings as a football pundit, particularly his fondness for the hyperbole. On Sunday’s thriller 3-3 between Chelsea and Manchester United, at half time, he compared Daniel Sturridge to Messi.

His chronic misuse of 'literally' is frequently a source of mirth; some of his nuggets of wisdom including “David Silva literally floated with the ball”, “Barcelona literally passed Arsenal to death” and “Gareth Bale literally has three lungs.”

Redknapp is also no stranger to the namedrop, he frequently likes to remind us that “my dad’s done this, my dad’s done that”, “I’m Frank Lampard’s cousin”, as well as his various celebrity and footballing friends at Spurs, Liverpool, Chelsea and on the England Team; when questioned in the Summer whether he thought Luka Modric would stay at Tottenham or go to West London, he began his answer with “I know Modric well.”

Indeed, like his father, Jamie has his favourites, which makes him a popular figure of mockery for fans of teams/players who he does not show bias toward (his laddish celebration at Aaron Lennon's equaliser in the 4-4 against Arsenal must surely make him persona non grata at the Emirates, and when Liverpool hosted City two weeks ago in the Carling Cup, the City fans took particular glee in singing "Your dad's going down" to the tune of "We won it 5 times" at the then-downtrodden-Jamie).

But it is this earnestness, I have realised, that is a big part of Jamie Redknapp’s appeal. Girls like a guy who means what he says, even if he says it 10,000 times per football match and casually misuses literally whilst doing so. His appearance at the tax evasion trial was primarily to support his dad, but what he probably didn’t realise, is that, sitting in the gallery, his twinkling pretty face was the model of an honest, reliable guy.

His loyalty to his father has been infallible (the only day he left early was to travel up to Anfield for the aforementioned Liverpool-City match, for which he was a pundit on), and whether he meant to or not, the jury must’ve, over the 13-day period, questioned whether someone who raised a son as decent and affable as Jamie could really be capable of being shady with his taxes.

In the past Jamie Redknapp has played for his dad at Bournemouth and Southhampton, and has also played against him, as a Liverpool player against a ’Arry managed West Ham. But as Redknapp Sr and Jr walked away from Southwark Crown Court yesterday, arms around each other, it marked the biggest father-son victory the two have known.

A top, top effort, Jamie Redknapp played an absolute blinder. And he didn’t even know he was playing.

Martha Marcy May Marlene (Sean Durkin, 2011)

Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) has just escaped from a dangerous, abusive cult, run by evil but charismatic Patrick (John Hawkes). She is rescued by her sister, who is now happily married, and she is all too happy to facilitate her younger sister into her life, feeling guilty for times when she has not fulfilled her siblingly duties in the past. However, it is not as simple as just shaking off the past, and Martha is repeatedly plagued by visions of her past two years spent in the cult, under the name Marcy May.

Director Sean Durkin wanted an unknown actress for the eponymous lead, and held open auditions, before Elizabeth Olsen won the part. And indeed, I have never watched a film with her in, thus marking her introduction into the film world. But naturally, her surname precedes her; she is of course the baby sister of the Olsen twins, who went from twin sensation-come-television producers to notorious for their off-stage antics. Although I grew up with shows such as Two of a Kind and So Little Time and enjoyed the Olsen twins’ charm, I was never that bowled over by their acting style, finding them somewhat gimmicky. Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene, however, is no such thing. She is chillingly natural and lifts a difficult role into a sensational performance. Her Martha is an inscrutable character, and drifts from ordeal to ordeal without complaint. You watch as she is drawn into the cult leader Patrick’s beliefs and becomes brainwashed by the cult, hypnotized. Elizabeth Olsen commands every scene she is in, but the mastery is that she does not over or underact, judge or offer empathy towards what is clearly a very damaged character, she just lets the script and Martha’s persona do the talking.

The supporting cast are also very good, Sarah Paulson (who, ironically, made a TV appearance herself as Lynette’s hippy sister in Desperate Housewives) conveying her sisterly warmth, as well as the times when Martha’s infuriating behaviour drive her to want to be the polar opposite, and Hugh Dancy, though not given much to do as Martha’s long-suffering brother-in-law, is perfectly fine. John Hawkes, playing essentially the “villain” of the piece, gives another fantastic turn. Funnily enough, I felt the same vibe from Martha Marcy May Marlene as I did from Winter’s Bone, a film he was in in the previous year. Both are cold viewing appearances, without grand budgets or sets and glued together by the lead female (in Winter’s Bone’s case, Jennifer Lawrence was the star). John Hawkes’ character is threatening and a thoroughly unpleasant guy, but watching the clever way he changes his tune around the girls when he wants something from them, making them feel special, it is easy to see how an impressionable young girl could fall for his ugly charm.

Martha Marcy May Marlene has been billed as a “psychological thriller”, but truth be told, there was nothing terribly psychological or terribly thrilling about it. Director Sean Durkin spends far too long on meandering, pseudo-avant garde scenes of rippling water and characters staring wistfully into space that feel like they’ve been directly lifted out of a “how to make an arthouse film” book. That being said, he deserves credit for certain scenes in the film, which are undoubtedly disturbing, without ever being graphic; the power of the content is in the actors’ facial expressions rather than the violence being inflicted on them. Overall, it isn’t an easy film to like, and that I didn’t, but as a star-making picture for Elizabeth Olsen, it has succeeded resoundingly. Olsen really is a fantastic actress, with a rare quality of holding your attention without even trying. If she stays off the beaten track that her sisters went down, she is surely destined for great things, and an Oscar, before she turns 30.
Grade: C+/B-

Monday, February 06, 2012

Favourite Haagen-Dazs scoop flavours.



01. Lemon sorbet
02. Belgian chocolate
03. Rasberry sorbet
04. Cookies and cream
05. Caramel biscuits and cream


Friday, February 03, 2012

O Captain My Captain.

With John Terry stripped of the England captaincy today following allegations that he racially abused Anton Ferdinand (a decision that I support, despite being a Chelsea fan), plenty of names have been put forward as his successor for holding the poisoned chalice of marked pseudo-purity. Rio Ferdinand, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney are the three most high profile names being put forward, and knowing Capello and his penchant for doing what the masses want rather than what is best for the team, in all likelihood, one of them will get it. However, there are plenty of other options within the England squad, and Capello would do well to note that just because some stars do not shine as brightly (in a more literal case, loudly) as others, does not make them any less bright stars.

03. Ashley Cole (Chelsea)
In the unlikely event that Cole is chosen as England captain, he would represent an even more divisive figure amongst English football fans than even his predecessor was. A highly acrimonious move from North to West London in which he accrued the nickname “Cashley” (he maintains his reasons for the move were ambition-driven, everyone else believes it was money-driven, Cole is now stinking rich and has won multiple trophies with Chelsea, so we’ll call that a win in both columns) as well as his multiple philandering on “singer” Cheryl Cole (something that she milked harder than the proverbial farmer milks a cow), cause him to being a popular figure of hatred, amongst football and non-football fans alike. Cole doesn’t exactly help himself either, from his shooting a work experience student with an air rifle to his shameless goading of Roberto Mancini after Chelsea beat Man City in the league by hollering “Thursday nights, channel” (a display of sass that I adore, but I can see why others despise him for it). But for all his personality flaws, something remains undeniable: Cole is highly respected amongst his peers. Fellow players speak highly of his work ethic, attributes as a team player and high capacity of natural skill. With 93 caps, he is comfortably the most capped player on the squad, and despite a somewhat indifferent season by his own Everest standards, he has been Chelsea’s most consistent-performing defender still. With bags of experience, he is one of the few England players who could walk into the starting XI of any of the national teams of our European counterparts.

02. Joe Hart (Manchester City)
Man City have had a diamond season. Sergio Aguero is scoring divine goals, David Silva’s twinkle-toed ways is causing defenders twice his size problems and Vincent Kompany is the very definition of “rock”. But much of their success is also down to their goalkeeper, Joseph Hart. Tall, imposing, composed, he possesses all the qualities you desire in a goalkeeper, and his youth works greatly in his favour as it would sort the problem out for the long-term for England. Many of Hart’s saves have rescued points and/or won matches for City this season and when Kompany was out serving suspension, only he and fellow Englishman Micah Richards really looked like they knew what they were doing in City’s defence. Furthermore, Joe Hart keeps himself out of trouble and with that, is a cool, cheerful guy. With John Terry the bigamist as England skipper, a fair few girls who only had a flittering interest in football for the men turned against England purely on principle. Joe Hart’s smiling, gum-chewing, pretty face could well swing a few voters England’s way come Euros.

01. Scott Parker (Tottenham)
Parker was West Ham’s outstanding performer last season and it was his captain’s speech at halftime that inspired West Ham to overturn a three goal deficit to grab a point at West Brom. Despite his best efforts, West Ham still went down, but Parker was too talented a player for the Championship, and never one to miss a bargain, wheeler dealer Redknapp swooped in for him, and Tottenham are now in third place, with a genuine shout for the title. Spurs’ midfield is arguably the most exciting in the league, with the considerable talents of Luka Modric and Gareth Bale, but what it had always lacked was a bit of defensive nous. Scott Parker bought some much needed discipline with him and immediately played his way into a place in Spurs’ starting XI. A shy and humble man, the footballing road has not always been smooth for Parker (a humdrum spell at post-Abramovich Chelsea that was not helped by a prolonged injury), but at 31, he is making like a great Merlot and hitting finest form in his later age. Such is his nobility that two weekends ago, when Mario Balotelli stamped on his head, instead of making a meal of the challenge, Parker simply tried to regain sight and get on with the game. It is this kind of rare chivalry, almost never seen in England’s bunch of talentless thugs, that would make Scott Parker an ideal captain for England, and with it, his Midas touch could just make our national team that thing it has not been for quite some while – likeable.

NB. Frank Lampard is my all-time favourite footballer but I haven’t mentioned him just because he probably won’t be an automatic starter like Cole, Hart and Parker.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Without a care in the world.

Would give anything to go back to these days, to be honest.

Born to Die (Lana del Rey)

Celebrity. It’s a fickle business. When Lana del Rey’s “Video Games” first made its way onto the airwaves last year, people instantly fell in love with her. The song was beautiful, as was she. She was dubbed the “gangster Nancy Sinatra” and could do no wrong. An unsuccessful appearance on SNL that was torn apart by the twittersphere and the bombshell that she already had a past as failed singer and wealthy New York girl Lizzy Grant, however, contributed to all the haters crawling out of the woodwork and slating her, insulting every aspect of her music as well as speculating over whether or not she had had plastic surgery. Going into the release of her album, Lana del Rey was shrouded in negative publicity.

No publicity is really bad press though, and in the end, the joke was on her detractors but Lizzy/Lana shot to number 1 in eleven countries with “Born to Die”, a 15-track album with some true gems. The title track is a beautiful elegy with haunting vocals and of course, “Video Games” is unforgettable. Looking past these two obvious choices, however, there are some other contenders of gems of the year, “Summertime Sadness” captures the poetic side to the end of a summer fling that Grease can only dream of, and “Blue Jeans” is fantastic satire on the American dream. “National Anthem” is her ode to sex, drugs and rock and roll, and “Carmen” is fantastically sensual (Lana has a rare talent of making even the sleaziest lyric -
"While I'm standing over your body / Hold you like a python / And you can't keep your hands off me / Or your pants on" sound fabulous).

There are two songs on “Born to Die” that absolutely blow all of these out of the water, however. The first is “This is what Makes us Girls”, in which she sings of her past as a bit of a good girl gone bad. Lolita imagery is rife in her tale of sexual awakening and growing up as well as some cliches which she makes gorgeous, "Oh she starts to cry, mascara running down her little Bambi eyes." The icing on the musical cake is when she whispers sultrily “Pabst blue ribbon on ice” – it sounds like a joke (especially as Pabst blue Ribbon is always a beverage I associate with Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet), but somehow, she pulls it off. Her lines about the hopeful delusion of young love, "We all look for heaven and we put love first" are spot-on.

Even better than that, however, is “Off to the Races”, which yet again features Lolita imagery (interestingly enough, “Lolita” is also a song on her album, but it is probably the weakest one of the fifteen). Indeed, opening lines to Lolita, “light of my life, fire of my loins” are repeated as a bridge throughout the song, which is a bizarre story of a destructive love affair with a man who’s clearly wrong for her and vice versa, but she loves anyway. Musically, it is aurgasmic (the welling strings and RnB beat hit perfect notes), her voice is sensational (especially when it goes falsetto at the “I’m your little Scarlett, Harlot”). The lyrics are much, much cleverer than they initially seem, with allusions to Leaving las Vegas, and various pulp noir in jokes throughout. All that being said, there's just an effortless swagger in her voice and delivery, so much so that even listening to her recite names of wine sounds like poetry to me. I rarely get this excited about a song; one of my top 10 of all time now.

Thus, verily I say, Lana del Rey’s album is an unqualified success. I genuinely couldn’t give two hoots who she was in the past or whether she’s had collagen. To me, she is a sublimely talented singer-songwriter. There are some images that she seems to love and thus re-uses (eg, that of a red dress), but to be honest, I'm hardly one to talk about reptition, now am I? Take a bow, goddess.
Grade: A