Lana Del Rey – Born To Die: Album Review

January 31, 2012 § 207 Comments

Photo Courtesy of: Interscope Records

Don’t let her failed “Saturday Night Live” performances fool you; Lana Del Rey is one to watch in 2012. The singer has been the center of controversy with people questioning her plump lips to her “manufactured” image and history. The hype over Lana Del Rey was overwhelming.

Media outlets like Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Stereogum and many more pimped her for months only to frantically type hypocritical reviews that tore the album apart. But Lana Del Rey’s sophomore effort, Born To Die (released on Jan. 30) holds its own without their approval.

Unlike other aforementioned outlets that are so transfixed on the persona, this review focuses on the MUSIC and nothing else.

Here we go.

The self-proclaimed “gangsta Nancy Sinatra” has a sultry 50s vamp vibe mixed with an enigmatic aura that is reflected in her songs. This album serves as a film noir score written by the bone-chilling femme fatale. It opens up with the title track and strongest song: “Born To Die”. It sets the tone for the rest of the album – a ruthless story about dangerous love narrated by a misty-eyed coquette backed by an intense cinematic production.

Following is “Off to the Races” that is voiced by a girl with daddy issues. Her voice teases the listener with high-pitched Betty Boop squeals, begging you to  “kiss me on my open mouth.” The lyrics get even more campy:

“And he grabs me, he has me by my heart.
He doesn’t mind I have a Las Vegas past.
He doesn’t mind I have a L.A crass way about me.
He loves with every beat of his cocaine heart.”

“Blue Jeans”, the first song I heard from the artist, carries on the theme of love but with a twist. Lana Del Rey fully embodies her “gangsta” side as she subtly raps over a drum-heavy beat, a perfect backing for a bloody Tarantino scene.

The song that started it all, “Video Games”, has an epic piano melody that beautifully carries the singer’s painful inflections as she reflects on a love who did not love her. The album version of fan-favorite “Diet Mountain Dew” speeds up the demo and turns into a bouncy trip-hop influenced track that refreshes the ear after the album’s heavy start.

But even with its bountiful melodies, Born To Die does takes the studio treatment too far with its overbearing production. “National Anthem”  directly rips “Bittersweet Symphony” and drowns the singer’s presence.

“Radio” thankfully returns to the album’s working formula. It is a dope combination of Lana Del Rey’s sassy vocals and an immense ballad-like production. “Carmen” is one for the critics – an autobiography that hints at the transformation from the unknown Lizzy Grant to the controversial Lana Del Rey.

Most of the album has a 90s hip-hop/pop influence, but “Million Dollar Man” brings it back to the 50s. It paints a picture of a hopeless singer pouring her heart out in the back of a smoky NYC lounge. It has a nostalgic jazzy vibe that highlights the singer’s soulful voice and pairs well with a chilled glass of vintage bourbon.

Packaged or not, Lana Del Rey emulates the truth. Her voice and lyrical themes suggest her painfully honest outlook on love and life. While considered Pop, the tracks on Born To Die updates the dull formula of humorless lyrics following a booming chorus a la Adele and Beyonce. Born To Die is a haunting soundtrack dedicated to classic Americana – filled with rebellious teenage delinquents, campy prom queens, broken hearts, trailer-park escapades and youthful blues.

Overall Rating: 4/5

Songs on Repeat

Born To Die

Off to the Races

This Is What Makes Us Girls

Lolita (Deluxe Edition)

Songs to Skip

National Anthem

Dark Paradise

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