Case Study One – Lana Del Rey

Chelsea Hotel No. 2 by Lana Del Rey

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(Fanmade: Chelsea Hotel No. 2 by Lana Del Rey, 2016)

Brought into the world as Elizabeth Grant, Lana Del Rey later adopted her stage name, which propelled her into the spotlight with massive hits such as Video Games, Young and Beautiful and Summertime Sadness. With her new name she recreated her entire image, becoming melancholy and seductive, which is discernibly represented in the recording and mixing of all of her music. Though her cover of Leonard Cohen’s Chelsea Hotel No. 2 is still so conspicuously hers, it was a part of her time of branching into ’60s and ’70s folk rock, which also included Nany Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood’s Summer Wine. 

Cohen’s original Chelsea Hotel No. 2 was written about a brief love affair between himself and the late Janis Joplin, occurring in New York’s iconic Chelsea Hotel. Del Rey has admitted she has a great love for Cohen,”because he’s all about women. Women and God (Wagner, 2015, 32-37).” It therefore must have been an amazing achievement for her on March 27, 2013 to release her own enchanting version of Leonard Cohen’s Chelsea Hotel No. 2, accompanied by a music video. It, however, was not included in any of her albums, but rather used for promotional purposes. Her cover brings to mind the days of vinyl records, sitting in the sun, lazily inhaling a cigar and reminiscing on a long-gone lover.

Duration: 3 minutes 39 seconds

Time signature: 3/4

Tempo: 116BPM

Key Signature: F

Instruments: Vocals, Acoustic Guitar

Song Structure: ABCBCD

A = Intro
B = Verse
C = Chorus
D = Outro

chelsea-hotel
Song Structure Visual (Program used: Variations Audio Timeliner)

Lyrics: 

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel
You were talking so brave and so sweet
Giving me head on the unmade bed
While the limousines wait in the street
But those were the reasons and that was New York
We were running for the money and the flash
And that was called love for the workers in song
Probably still is for those of them left

Ah, but you got away, didn’t you baby
You just turned your back on the crowd
You got away, I never once heard you say
I need you, I don’t need you
I need you, I don’t need you
And all of that jiving around

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel
You were famous, your heart was a legend
You told me again you preferred handsome men
But for me you would make an exception
And clenching your fist for the ones like us
Who are oppressed by the figures of beauty
You fixed yourself, you said, “Well never mind,
We are ugly but we have the music.”

Ah, but, you got away, yeah, didn’t you baby
You just turned your back on the crowd
And you got away, I never once heard you say
I need you, I don’t need you
I need you, I don’t need you
And all of that jiving around

I don’t mean to suggest that I loved you the best
I can’t keep track of each fallen robin
I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel
That’s all, I don’t even think of you that often

 

Dynamics:

The acoustic guitar is quite crisp and lilting, to suit the song and Del Rey’s vocals.  To begin with the guitar seems quite strong, but when the vocals come in you immediately know which one is the star of the plate. It seems like there may be a side-chained compressor on the guitar, which compresses when the vocals are there.

Del Rey’s vocals are rich, smooth and full, which brings me to the conclusion that the they may have around 4 or 5 layers. Although her volume changes to portray the emotion of the song, the perceived loudness maintains consistency. This is probably due to a lot of compression on the vocals. You will also notice that the vocals have almost no transients at all, which points to the heavy use of a de-esser.

Other things to note, are that, as can be seen in the picture below, the dBs of the song stay at a fairly consistent level. Although the seems quite dramatic, the highest level of loudness is actually quite soft. Also, in the background of the song a faint ‘noise’ can be heard, which almost sounds like white noise at a very low level.

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Wave form of Chelsea Hotel No. 2 in Pro Tools

Spectral Analysis

The frequency range of a guitar is very broad, normally from around 80Hz-5kHz. This sound is quite light, with mid- to high-range frequency. Though it sounds very clean, it’s also quite thick, which points to a boost around 160-250Hz, and maybe a high-pass which cuts around 60-100Hz.

A normal frequency range for a female vocal is around 240Hz-4kHz. The vocals are low- to mid-range, staying mainly around 500-900Hz. Although the vocals are saturated in reverb, they still sound very clean, which indicates a high-pass filter. The reverb also sounds like it is low- to mid-range and compliments the main vocals very well. An article by SoundOnSound revealed that in Lana Del Rey’s Video Games, a Telefunken U47 AE (“Robopop: Producing Lana Del Rey’s ‘Videogames’ | Sound On Sound”, 2012). Perhaps the same microphone was used when recording Chelsea Hotel No. 2 to produce the same effect. 

Spatial Attributes and Sound Stages

The song sounds as though Del Rey is sitting in a tall hall alone, playing the guitar herself. As I have already mentioned, the vocals are soaked in reverb, which is a signature move for Del Rey. There is also a small amount of reverb on the guitar. The vocals are definitely the forefront of the mix, while the guitar sits behind, creating a structure for the main star.
spatial

The stereo image is consistent throughout the entire song and there is a lot of space, due to extremely heavy reverb.

Overall Analysis of Sound

The hook of the song is without a doubt Del Rey’s haunting voice. With the reverb piled on it really makes for a deeply sad, reminiscent track. She has definitely done the song justice, portraying the original message of nostalgia and lost memories perhaps even better than Cohen himself.

References: 

Fanmade: Chelsea Hotel No. 2 by Lana Del Rey. (2016). Retrieved from https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/02/ae/49/02ae4975e29994af52648432ef501797.jpg

Robopop: Producing Lana Del Rey’s ‘Videogames’ | Sound On Sound. (2012). Soundonsound.com

Wagner, B. (2015, Oct 31). AN INCONVENIENT WOMAN. Billboard – the International Newsweekly of Music, Video and Home Entertainment, 127, 32-37.

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