"Off to the Races" is a song written by Lana Del Rey and Tim Larcombe and produced by Patrik Berger and Emile Haynie. Taken from Del Rey's first major-label album Born to Die, the song served as the album's first promotional single worldwide.
- 1 Background
- 2 Writing and inspiration
- 3 Composition
- 4 Critical reception
- 5 Live performances
- 6 Music video
- 7 Cross-references
- 8 Official versions
- 9 Lyrics
- 10 Promotional releases
- 11 Credits
- 12 Charts
- 13 References
A demo version of the song, produced by Shawn Lee and Tim Larcombe was posted to Del Rey's SoundCloud page on May 22, 2010. It has currently yet to resurface online after being taken down. An early mix of the song, labeled "Mix 9" which had previously only been available on out-of-circulation promotional EPs sent to press, leaked on July 25, 2016. This version contained slightly different instrumentation, it was recorded on September 26, 2011. Another early mix leaked from a French sampler of Born to Die leaked on August 14, 2016. This version is similar to the "Mix 9" one, but with slight differences in the background instrumentation.
Writing and inspiration
In a 2012 interview, Del Rey described "Off to the Races" as a song where you could tell by the energy that she was right in the middle of a relationship where times were happy but also chaotic. She continued about the relationship by saying: "We were traveling between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, he was gambling, I was just swimming, and yeah I mean, I used to indulge in a lot drugs and dark poetry, and pop culture, and amazing music, but I've quieted down a lot but I just reminisce about it. I live a really simple life today".
Del Rey employs an alternative rapping technique, hip-hop beat and heavy basslines, similar to that of "National Anthem" and "Diet Mountain Dew" in the song. The song samples "Planet Rock" by Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force while the beat subtly samples "Dernier Domicile Connu" by François De Roubaix. Indie music website Pitchfork said the rapping technique was almost "chatting." The song references the novel Lolita, with lyrics such as, "Light of my life, fire of my loins".
One of the track's demos was produced by Shawn Lee and features military style snares during the chorus and has a completely different vocal track. A fan asked Lee if he could share the demo but he was not allowed to do that by the label. However, the demo was available on Del Rey's SoundCloud account for a period of time but it was downloaded only by one user.
"Off to the Races" has been lyrically described as "a freak show of inappropriate co-dependency". Giving the song a negative review, Pitchfork said it "...aim[s] for chatty, sparkling opulence," adding that she "doesn't have the personality to bring it off." The Guardian wrote that "Off to the Races' turns Del Rey from vintage siren to R&B hoochie most convincingly. There's jazz in Del Rey's dextrous vocal, and new territory in the swoop and pow of Haynie's undertow."  Comparing the song to "Video Games" and "Blue Jeans", The Huffington Post blogged that the song was "...pretty good...and it sounds just as catchy..." Of the song's music video, reviewer Robbie Daw commented: "...it seems the video’s producer was off to find the cheesiest footage of old shoot-'em-up '80s B-movies for this clip."
On November 4, 2011, at the Ruby Lounge in Manchester, United Kingdom, Del Rey performed the song live for the first time, before it was officially released. It was the final song of the set. Since then, the song has been apart of the setlist of every one of Del Rey's concert tours. It has also served as the closing song of every tour except the Paradise Tour and Norman Fucking Rockwell Tour.
|Released||December 22, 2011|
|Director||Lana Del Rey|
Background and description
On December 22, 2011, Lana Del Rey uploaded a homemade music video for "Off to the Races" on her YouTube channel. It is composed of film clips, and does not feature Del Rey herself. The video features Latin American gangsters, femme fatale figures with guns, and a race track. It has since been privatized for unknown reasons, although unofficial uploads still exist around the web.
- References to Coney Island are also present in "Mermaid Motel", "Carmen", "TV in Black & White", as well as others.
- Drug references are found throughout Del Rey's songs; this includes "Yayo", "Disco", "Hollywood" and many others.
- Las Vegas is mentioned in "Go Go Dancer", "Hollywood's Dead", "Noir", "Guns and Roses" and others.
- LA is mentioned in many of Del Rey's songs; these include "1949", "Because of You", "Birds of a Feather", "Never Let Me Go", and others.
- A "cocaine heart" is also mentioned in the demo version of "Carmen".
- Swimming pools are mentioned quite frequently; notably in "Push Me Down", "Heavy Hitter", "Gangsta Boy", "This Is What Makes Us Girls" and many others.
- Alcohol is a recurring theme in many of Del Rey's songs.
- The Chateau Marmont, a historic hotel in Los Angeles, California is mentioned in many of Del Rey's songs, including "Heavy Hitter", "Elvis", "She's Not Me", and others.
- A gold chain is mentioned in "Dangerous Girl"; gold is a recurring theme in Del Rey's songs.
- Del Rey refers to her nail polish in "1949", "The Blackest Day" and alludes to it in "Your Girl".
- A red dress is also mentioned in "Summertime Sadness", "Cruel World", "Yes to Heaven", "Carmen" and "Criminals Run the World".
- Del Rey pleas with someone to come and save her in "Daddy Issues" and "God Bless America - and All the Beautiful Women in It".
- "My old man" is a lyric also mentioned in "Heroin".
- Direct reference to the song "Without You".
- The phrase "true love" is also used in "I Talk to Jesus", "Ultraviolence" and "True Love on the Side".
- The phrase "glimmering darling" is similar to "I'm your vulgar darling in the swimming pool, glimmering" from "Moi Je Joue".
- Casinos are also mentioned in "Queen of the Gas Station"
- "Light of my life, fire of my loins" is a phrase from the book "Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov. In the book (and subsequent movie) Lolita has to do what her old man says to get money from him, like the lyrics "be a good baby, do what I want... gimme them gold coins, gimme them coins". Lolita also wore a "white" bikini and had on "red nail polish" in the movie. Del Rey also sings about Lolita in the song of the same name.
- The phrase "I need you, I breathe you" is similar to "Need you, baby, like I breathe you" which appears in "Fucked My Way Up to the Top".
- Being crazy is also referenced in "Ride", "Cruel World" and the poem "My Bedroom is a Sacred Place Now - There Are Children at the Foot of my Bed".
- Perfume is also mentioned in "The Other Woman" and "Video Games".
- A garden is also mentioned in "Cherry", "Big Eyes", "I Can Fly", "Bartender", "Burnt Norton" and many other songs.
- Being or acting dangerous is also referenced in "Playing Dangerous" and "Dangerous Girl".
- The phrase "I love you" also appears in "Pretty Baby", "Ultraviolence" and "Fuck It I Love You", among some other songs.
- "Rikers Island" is the name of a well-known prison located in New York City.
- "Cipriani's Basement" alludes to "Cipriani's" an elite restaurant in the Manhattan borough of New York City.
- The line "the way I roll like a rolling stone" might be a reference to the 1965 song "Like A Rolling Stone" by Bob Dylan, which also appears in "Dance Till We Die".
- Praying is also referenced in "Tulsa Jesus Freak".
- Leather is also mentioned in "Baby Blue Love", "Black Beauty", "I Don't Wanna Go" and "Freak".
- Album version — 4:59
- Instrumental version — 4:58
- Single version — 5:01
- Radio edit — 3:54
- Demo version — 5:02 (produced by Shawn Lee and Tim Larcombe)
- "Mix 9" version — 5:05
- "Early Mix" version — 5:10
Off to the Races CD by Stranger Records in UK
- Lana Del Rey — vocals, songwriting
- Tim Larcombe — songwriting
- Patrik Berger — production, guitar, bass guitar, percussion, synthesizer, sampler, drum programming
- Emile Haynie — production, drums, additional keyboards
- Carl Bagge — strings arrangement
- Frederik Syberg — violin
- Erik Holm — viola
- Pelle Hansen — cello
- Dan Grech Marguerat — mixing
- Duncan Fuller — mixing assistance
- John Davis — mastering
- Published by Copyright Control / EMI
- Mastered at Metropolis Matering, London, United Kingdom
|US Alternative Digital Songs (Billboard)||22|
|US Hot Rock Songs (Billboard)||40|