The title might seem like a nod to 60s crooner Andy Williams and his breezy, easy-listening hit ‘Music To Watch Girls By’, but the similarities between his peppy lounge tune and Del Rey’s smouldering new cut end there. Whilst Williams’ sang of guys and gals checking each other out in a mutual meeting of eyes, in Lana’s world she’s firmly in the director’s seat, almost watching from behind the scenes. In her words, “[the song] lends itself to a visual of shadows of men passing by, this girl’s eyes, her face.”
Building on her rep for darkly cinematic soundscapes - from the ghostly layering of vocals drenched in reverb to the thudding yet purposeful beat - ‘Music To Watch Boys To’ tells a sombre tale from a voyeur’s-eye view, with Lana’s vocals weaving between high and sweet or low and laconic. ‘I like you a lot (putting on my music while I’m watching the boys) / So I do what you want (singing soft grunge just to soak up the noise)’, she breathes on the chorus, atop a subtle inclusion of strings. It’s a dreamy exposition of passive desire, though not one Del Rey’s fully invested in, as she admits, ‘…it’s all a game to me anyway’. It’s the wry, fatigued masochism that’s come to be expected from the tragedy queen of Hollywood sadcore, but it’s rarely been as beautifully worked as this.
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