Lana Del Rey – Born To Die (2012)

We’re only 6 weeks into this new year and already we’ve had a controversial release; the much anticipated and hyped Born To Die by Lana Del Rey.

Talking about this release is tough, it really is. The real problem is that there is an overwhelming sensation of expectation throughout, a hope that Del Rey is going to pull something amazing out of the hat when the next track rolls over…and the next…and the next. Infuriatingly, it never happens. What we really get feels more like an experiment. It’s pretty obvious when you put, say, “Video Games” and “Off To The Races” back-to-back; one is a super melancholy, downbeat, almost purely vocal piece, the other is a curious rap/trip-hop/orchestral creation. Oddly, even though it looks weird on paper, it sounds…pretty good.

That truly is the story of the album, this weird hybridisation of styles creates an unusual and original but surprisingly soulless listening experience. Most disappointing of all is the dullness of Del Rey’s voice. Wait, back up a little bit. I’d like to point out that the thing that captured my attention initially was her voice; the way she manages to pull off deep and sultry one moment and sweet and innocent the next is intoxicating but it feels so lacklustre, even insincere; the only tracks I can really take seriously are “Video Games”, “Dark Paradise” and “Million Dollar Man”, they’re the only ones that feel genuinely¬†heartfelt to me. Others in the same vein (“Summertime Sadness”) are just plain flat, which is a shame because they do show promise but Del Rey fails to capitalise on it by injecting some feeling into them. She really downplays that voice of hers, there’s way too much of this half-talking/rapping business when her voice could easily be pushed further (Zola Jesus comes to mind).

Despite a strong start it does get tiresome; the 2nd half is certainly much less compelling than the 1st, and I feel it starting to pull on my patience strings towards the end. I can’t quite put my finger on the problem though, I think I just begin to lose interest in her. While it’s something I feel compelled to come back and relisten to, once the hit has been achieved I lose all desire to continue listening. There’s no staying power. The lyrics don’t help; although they’re not awful they do feel a little trite (“-money is the reason we exist, everybody knows it, it’s fact *kiss kiss*”) but this is a pop album at its core, so it’s hardly unexpected.

Regardless of its little faults and problems there is absolutely nothing wrong with this album. Sure it has some teething problems, what debut doesn’t, but I really feel everything has been blown out of proportion by hype. People have been quick to criticise Del Rey, often on personal levels and not on the music itself, and were too quick to dismiss this. A solid start, certainly more original than many of her pop counterparts (Ke$ha, Katy Perry,ugh). I’m interested to see where she goes next.


2 thoughts on “Lana Del Rey – Born To Die (2012)

  1. First off, a review very well done Chris. It’s never easy to gather thoughts, opinions, feelings and ignore the critics and friends chirping in the ear.
    If it weren’t for the less than stellar SNL performance, the reviews would be different on multiple levels. Granted, there would be 50% less reviews and 25% less records sold had she not performed. Despite what “they” say about the LP, i’m a fan and I appreciate your ability to oversee and digest well.
    I agree with the 2nd half being “less compelling,” but it eventually grew on me. Tracks 1-6, possibly due to 2/3 of them being released prior to the album, were accessible upon listens 1 through 3.
    The middle: “National Anthem” is grasping, until the chorus kicks in, leaving me disappointed but still willing to listen via selective hearing. “Radio,” as poppy sounding as it is, i’m hooked.
    The slow, soulful piano ballad that took form as “Carmen” adds that montage movie scene to project.
    “This Is What Makes Us Girls,” is both the most lacklustre and relatable lyrics on the record. Equivalent to a rapper spitting about stealing from the candy store and playing NBA 2K3 on PS2. After all, it is a “pop album at its core” as you put so eloquently.
    “Summertime Sadness” definitely felt flat, as if she recorded it the day coffee just couldn’t cut it. It did however, have the unpleasant honour of following the Burlesque-infused “Million Dollar Man,” one of the more quality back-half songs.
    “Lolita” I could do without and just give the Joy Orbison Remix of “Video Games” a starting position.
    I agree with you on most levels when it comes to Born To Die. If this is the direction Pop would take, my digital garbage sorting work-load would be cut in half.



  2. I’ve been reading different blog posts on LDR this morning, and I am happy to see that most bloggers have been [more] lenient with her than music critics.

    You’ve said it well… There’s nothing wrong with her music. There’s nothing ground-breaking either. But it’s solid pop. It’s enjoyable. It’s great to listen to while driving.

    And frankly, do we really need to focus on her “fake or not” lips?

    I just finished my last blog piece on the media phenomena surrounding LDR. I’M moving forward, and here’s hoping the media will do too.

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