"Carmen" (originally titled "Little Carmen") is a song written by Lana Del Rey and Justin Parker with production by Emile Haynie. Taken from Del Rey's first major-label album Born to Die, the song served as the album's second promotional single, following "Off to the Races".
Background and composition
"Carmen" was written with Justin Parker and produced by Emile Haynie with additional production by Jeff Bhasker and Parker. In an interview for The Sun, Del Rey revealed that the song was about "a doomed woman who sells her body on the streets" of Coney Island, which Del Rey viewed as an "important [place] to [her]" throughout her career in New York City. Del Rey told Complex that the melody and the lyrics of "Carmen" "come together".
A demo version of the song, solely produced by Parker, was posted to Del Rey's SoundCloud page on May 23, 2010. An a cappella concept demo of the song leaked in early 2012.
"Carmen" was acclaimed by most critics for its ability to tell a story and haunt with its intense lyrics of the downside to fame. Noted as a cautionary hint of any downside to such a debauched lifestyle that Del Rey portrays on her album, Andy Gill of The Independent describes the song as a metaphor used by Del Rey for her "synthetic life experience." Alex Denney of NME described the song as "a winner" with Del Rey’s richly suggestive tones conjuring the ghosts of Lauren Bacall’s classic femme-fatales. While reviewing the album and describing the song as the point where "things start to pick up," John Capone of Prefix Magazine described the song as a "three-Xanax-and-gin-martini-cocktail broken-hearted baroque ballad." Angela Okhumoya of Addictmusic showed appreciation for Del Rey's writing abilities on "Carmen" stating that it is "better than most of her contemporaries." Dom Gourlay of Contactmusic gave the song a positive review, stating "You want hip-hop beats? Check. Radio friendly choruses? Check. Singalong verses for the hen party and karaoke masses? Check." Rob Harvilla of Spin noted the song for its ability to "gently ascends/descends to Drake/Weeknd empty-hedonism poignancy." Billboard called the song a "poor man's version of far-superior (and hookier) anthems like "Roxanne".
Del Rey first performed the song live on April 10, 2012, at the Jazz Cafe in London, United Kingdom. The song was also included in the setlist of the 2012 leg of the Born to Die Tour, the Paradise Tour (2013-2014), and the Festival Tour (2016). After a hiatus of 2 years, the song was performed again on April 19, 2018, in Barcelona, Spain, during the LA to the Moon Tour.
|Released||April 21, 2012|
|Director||Lana Del Rey|
|Vevo views||42+ Million views|
Background and description
On February 27, 2012, Del Rey revealed through her Facebook page that she had finished editing the music video for "Carmen". Del Rey premiered the music video on April 21, 2012. The video opens with Instagram-style snapshots of New York City, spliced together with scenes of old Hollywood paparazzi, a rose, and shots of Del Rey herself. Once the song begins, we see a dressed woman working a pole, then Del Rey on a city porch. The song goes on to feature black and white photo stills, animated food scenes, Del Rey riding the back of a motorcycle operated by the model Josh Rachlin and multiple references to drugs and troubled youth. In one scene, Del Rey is behind the camera interviewing Rachlin, asking him about his dream girl and giggling. The video ends with Erik Satie's piano composition "Gymnopédie No.1" and a woman dancing in a field until the word "Fin" ("the end" in French) graces the screen.
Photoshoot by Martin Zähringer (June 11, 2011)
- The phrase "mind like a diamond" is also found in "JFK". This lyric is a quote from Twin Peaks; David Lynch's work has possibly influenced Del Rey's other work, such as Blue Velvet, and elements of Twin Peaks - including domestic abuse towards women and brothels - are also in Del Rey's songs. It is possible that Del Rey's inspiration for the alias "Lana" came from the character of the same name in Twin Peaks who entrances the local men, and attracts older men too.
- References to Coney Island are also present in "Mermaid Motel", "Off to the Races", "TV in Black & White", and "Methamphetamines".
- Del Rey also sings in French on "Moi Je Joue".
- References to butterflies are also present in "Butterflies", "Butterflies, Pt. 2" and "Heavy Hitter".
- A red dress is mentioned in "Summertime Sadness", "Cruel World", "Off to the Races", "Yes to Heaven" and "Criminals Run the World".
- The phrase "cocaine heart" from the demo also appears in "Off to the Races".
- Cherries are also mentioned in "Cherry" and "This Is What Makes Us Girls".
- "Soft ice cream" is mentioned in "Salvatore".
- The phrase "darling, darling" is also repeated in "Cherry".
- Del Rey mentions the phrase "kindness of strangers" in "Kinda Outta Luck" and in the "Ride" music video monologue. This phrase is a direct quote from the 1951 movie "A Streetcar Named Desire".
- Getting high is a common subject in songs such as "High by the Beach", "Florida Kilos" and "Hollywood".
- The feeling of being "alive again" is also described in "Paradise" and "Hollywood".
- The lyric "'Cause her liquor's top shelf" is similar to "Your favorite liquor off the top-shelf" in "California".
- The lyric "Like lightning" is also mentioned in "White Mustang".
- The spoken bridge in French that features vocals by Lenha Labelle translated into English means: "My love, I know that you love me too. You need me, you need me in your life. You can't live without me and I'd die without you. I'd kill for you".
- Lyrics in Spanish also appear in "Ultraviolence" and "West Coast".
- Album version — 4:08
- Instrumental version — 4:07
- Music video version with piano outro — 5:15
- Demo version (produced by Justin Parker) — 4:17
- "Little Carmen" concept demo (produced by Lana Del Rey) — 3:06
- Paradise Tour version — 4:16
- Lana Del Rey — vocals, songwriting
- Justin Parker — songwriting, vocal production
- Emile Haynie — production, drums, guitar, keyboards
- Jeff Bhasker — additional production, additional keyboards, additional strings
- Lenha Labelle — French vocals
- Larry Gold — strings arrangement and conduction
- Steve Tirpak — strings assistance
- Manny Marroquin — mixing
- Erik Madrid & Chris Galland — assistance
- John Davis — mastering
- Published by EMI / Sony ATV
- Mastered at Metropolis Mastering, London, United Kingdom
|Austria||January 26, 2012||Digital download||Universal Music Group|