Love Letter To A Record: Stevie Jean On Lana Del Rey’s ‘Born To Die’

Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.

In this series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.

Stevie Jean – ‘Born To Die – The Paradise Edition’ by Lana Del Rey (2012)

Dearest Born To Die,

I cannot begin to describe the way you made me feel when I first heard ‘Video Games’. 12 years old and too curious for my own damn good. It felt like a drug. Everything made sense because this album is an acceptance of strangeness and darkness.

Your characters sank into my psyche. ‘Carmen’ warned me about the dark side of fame, ‘Cola’ woke me up for school every morning at 5:45 am. I sang ‘Yayo’ with my whole chest, though it would be many years before I fully understood the reference. ‘Gods and Monsters’ blurred every line I thought existed.

I had my earphones in every spare second of the day. The long car rides, jogging before soccer, climbing trees, doing chores and hiding in my room. It drove my mother insane, but it really was a love affair.

People often complained about Lana’s lyrics. They told me she set a bad example for young women like myself, but here’s the thing: if I grow up to be anything like Lana then I’ll be a very rich, hard-working and accomplished musician, writer and influencer of pop culture. Lana was real with me about the world in a way that no one else in my life could be.

The production was so fresh. Mixed with all the warmth of the ’50s, Born To Die had this balance of elements that theoretically should never have worked together. She bought hip hop to the old west, she bought heroin chic to the ’60s. Lyrically, each song is somehow a masterpiece, rich in pop culture references and imagery. I believe the mark of a great album is the ability to learn as you listen. Every track has been my favourite at some point and I continue to be schooled by this record.

Dearest Born To Die. You should know that I completed some profoundly stupid actions at your bidding. You taught me how to be selfish as a woman, a skill that men still fear to this very day. You taught me how to enjoy being a femme fatale in my own company, a glass of red wine in the bathtub. Above all, you taught me just how vulnerable you can be as a musician without losing your power as a woman. You changed my life, pure and simple.

I love you, Born To Die and if do break this cruel and wonderful industry you can bet that I’ll be playing ‘Radio’.

Stevie Jean’s debut EP ‘Blame Game’ is out now. Listen here. She will tour nationally supporting Montaigne this November. Head here for dates.

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