Lana Del Rey
Born to Die
Feb 10, 2012 Web Exclusive
It's hard not to be put off by the hype. Before Lana Del Rey (née Lizzy Grant) had even released her debut album, she had accumulated nearly half a million Facebook "likes," was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live (in two vocally challenged performances devoid of much stage presence), and announced the re-release of what was essentially Born to Die's prequel, an album she made under her own name that failed to garner much attention upon its initial release in 2010. It's no wonder that people are predisposed not to like this femme fatale with husky voice and rap-ish boasts singing about blue jeans and video games.
But aside from the attention and the questions of legitimacy that surround her, Born to Die must be taken on its merits. On the one hand, Del Rey (Grant?)'s aesthetic of purring sex kitten, luring you in with deliberate devilish angel vocals, hip-hop beats, and the occasional lush orchestration, is alluringly original; it's best captured in the singles "Blue Jeans" and "Video Games." On the other hand, however, Del Rey's faux rap posturing and often ridiculous lyrics border on the offensive. "Off to the Races" is not a bad song, with a good beat, swirling atmospherics, and haunting Middle Eastern-flavored vocals, but such lines as "He likes to watch me in the glass room, bathroom, Chateau Marmont" kill the track dead. The most egregious offender is "National Anthem," a song with a nice "Bitter Sweet Symphony"-esque orchestral opening and a catchy chorus, but which fails miserably when Del Rey starts speak-singing about money being the reason for existence and intoning nonsense like "Booya baby bow down making me say wow now."
So the question becomes, is Born to Die more good than bad, or vice versa? Let's err with the former, hype be damned. "Dark Paradise" cultivates an all-encompassing aura, a perfect combination of enchanting vocals, driving beats, and orchestral backdrop. And "Radio" presents her as equal combination brash, self-serving, and delicately deadly, as she sings—nay, taunts—in the perfect sum of Lana Del Rey thus far: "Baby love me 'cause I'm playing on the radio/How do you like me now?" (www.lanadelrey.com)
Author rating: 6/10
Average reader rating: 6/10