Review: J. Cole and Lana Del Rey create music visuals of life’s pain and happiness

By Brandon Hardaway
Oxford Stories

I am an avid fan of music, and I tend to archive certain pieces of music that catch my attention. “4 Your Eyez Only,” J. Cole’s fourth studio album, is his best. It plunges deep into Cole’s already descriptive life, from the second the 00:00 flicks 00:01. When you put on your headphones or plug in your auxiliary cord to play this album, your mind that sends you into deep thought.

Cole is a storyteller. He demonstrates this in “For Your Eyez Only.” He slowly unfolds a story about his friend and himself and how they parallel, but they are faced with the high and lows of life, like social ills, love and death. Cole’s storytelling versatility can have you smiling in one song, and in deep thought in another, not only about his life, but about your own.

37291e01ab860f66509cc60d0f0c75bf.1000x1000x1Most artists tell a story in their songs, but Cole has a knack of giving you an in-depth visual of these life stories. The last song of the tape “For Your Eyez Only” gives us a clear understanding about why he named the album this and pieces together each song. Cole played a pre-recorded tape from his best friend, who died, and he wants his friend’s daughter to hear these words when she comes of age.

His friend stepped to him man-to-man before his death thanking Cole for always being there through the ups and downs, but said he’s been having premonitions. He asks him to write his words down and to play a song for his daughter if he doesn’t make it, but only when she’s ready, hence the name of the album.

This spins the album around, and the listener finally understand it was about the life and times of his best friend, who was incarcerated and missed out on life and things he needed most, like education and family. And although he did some things he wasn’t proud of, he wanted his daughter to know he loves her antemortem.

By Shanleigh Roberts
Oxford Stories

On a ride to Tampa, Florida, spring break 2013, Lana Del Rey came across my Pandora station. I was intrigued by her moody, dark sound and found myself quickly falling in love with her music. I have been an avid listener and fanatic since that day. I own every album and have been to two concerts – one in Nashville and the other in Atlanta.

I think when it comes down to it, we are all searching for the little things that give our lives meaning. When you think about the bigger picture, our lives are pretty pointless. Everything we do, from going to school, to working jobs, to making money, doesn’t matter when we die.

I’ve explored this concept a lot lately, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason humans crave happiness is simply because it is the only thing that actually makes our time on earth worthwhile. Everything we do is in the pursuit of happiness.

I find happiness in my family, my relationship, and traveling, but I never knew how big of an influence music could be in the purpose of my life until I discovered Lana Del Rey. I have plenty of friends, but sometimes I feel like her music understands me the best of them all. Her songs all seem to carry tragedies about love, life, death, failure, freedom – the things you don’t hear about in songs on the radio, and I think that is why I appreciate them so much.

For every emotion I feel, she has a song that accompanies it perfectly. Her songs provide comfort to people when they feel no one understands what they are feeling. I believe that is why humans find themselves attracted to certain songs or types of music – because they connect with it. To find someone who seems to understand you perfectly gives a substantial amount of purpose to life, to me at least. It’s hard to explain it to people who haven’t experienced what it’s like to be a “fan girl.”

06d1aa0f3f55029815eeb515d5639fc9.1000x1000x1On Saturday, Feb. 18, Lana Del Rey released “Love,” the first single of her new album, Young and in Love, which she describes as having the aesthetic of “retro sensibility with a futuristic flair.”

In an interview, Del Rey said that while her first four albums were written for herself, the upcoming album is for her fans. This is evident in “Love,” as she sings: “Look at you kids with your vintage music. You’re part of the past, but now you’re the future. Signals crossing can get confusing.”

She also sings: “Look at you kids, you know you’re the coolest. The world is yours, and you can’t refuse it. Seen so much, you could get the blues. But that don’t mean that you should abuse it.”

Del Rey addresses her audience as “kids” because most of her fans are millennials. She is connecting with her fans by singing about the turmoil prevalent both today and growing up, and its ability to take a toll on our mental health. We’ve seen so much we could “get the blues,” but we should avoid that by not wallowing in the ever-present negativity of the world.

This song is important to me. It truly is hard to be happy in the United States if you are observant of the many political and social issues prevalent in today’s society.

For one small example, I’m sure the thought of a school-shooter never crossed the minds of baby boomers and Generation X. However, it is a common concern for millennials. Although that is just one small example, it further reinforces the idea that today is a hard time to be growing up.

Del Rey has once again written a song that I feel understands me, as well as the many other millennials that listen to her, and that is why her music is so important to me.

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