Lana Del Rey — Born to Die, Born to Love

Album cover for Born to Die

Lana Del Rey’s debut album has finally arrived. I say ‘finally’ as the marketing engine behind Del Rey has been working overtime for several months that culminated with an appearance on Saturday Night Live.

Now that the album, titled Born to Die, is here does it live up to the grandiose expectations built by the same machine that landed her on SNL?

Pretty much, yes.

By now, most people know of Lana Del Rey’s recent public image troubles. The internet dropped a load of fetid schadenfreude on Twitter and the blog-o-sphere due to her poor live SNL performances (click through to watch one of them). Inexplicably, celebrities piled on. For example, Brian Williams, the face and voice of NBC news, felt compelled to make fun of her performance in an email to the website Gawker.

All this hub-bub over a nervous woman’s shaky performance piqued my interest in her music. I trawled YouTube to find more. What I found instantly mesmerized me. Her look and sound appeal to my wistful nature. For many of the same reasons I dig the look of the film LA Confidential, I like Lana Del Rey’s persona. Critics bemoan the artificiality of it all. I bemoan the hypocrisy of such criticism. She’s constructed a personality to fit the music. This is the same tactic used by popular acts such as Madonna and Lady Gaga.

I also enjoy the smoky lounge singer voice she affects through most of the album’s songs. If you like the singing of such a voice, then you will like Born to Die.

Having bought into the Lana Del Rey scene, I’d been quite disappointed if the album ended up sucking. I’m not a music expert, but I’ll go out on a limb here and say that this album is quite good.

Despite the nostalgic feel many of the songs evoke, there is a strong sense of youthfulness and light mocking peppered throughout. The song “National Anthem” focuses on America’s obsession with wealth. It’s catchy and silly. “Radio” plays like an Avril Lavigne song that doesn’t take itself too seriously. “Lolita” appears to be poking fun at our obsession of youth and pop princesses (though she’s obviously using this same obsession to build her own success).

“Video Games”, the one song you might have heard already (it’s been receiving heavy rotation on the radio), with it’s tickling dreamy harp-sound, is a song of love lost. It is a song of remembering better times. The drum march played in the last half of the song could be thought of as a metaphor that time marches on for all of us.

“Blue Jeans”, one of my favorites, seems to be a straight up appreciation of the 1950s. The lyrics calls out James Dean. White T-shirts. Etc. The twanging guitar intertwined with a slightly bizarre and rhythmic sample gives the old-timey  wistfulness a modern sound.

Way above and beyond anything else, my favorite song is “Off to the Races.” The song is the strongest lyrically, and Del Rey’s range is tested as she moves from husky lounge singer to playful, squeaky ingenue in quick succession.

“I’m your little Scarlet,
starlet,
singing in the garden,
kiss me on my open mouth,
ready for your…”

Okay, maybe I’m colored by coy, flirty nature she sings this lyric, but the song is jaunty and hella fun. Sadly, there isn’t an official video for “Off to the Races”, which leads me to think it’ll never be a radio single. A shame, really, this song beats the hell out of most pop princess efforts we’re fed through the airwaves.

You can listen to the song below.

If you’ve stuck with me to this point in the review, I ask that you watch her sing “Video Games” on Letterman. She owns it. And good for her. Dave asks her if she can come back tomorrow… and the next day.

2 comments

  1. I’ll have to check her videos out, because I’ve only seen brief clips on the news and ads. And those have done little to impress me. There is a gloss and “pretty girl sings soulful” vibe in just the imagery from the hype that rakes on my cynical nerve.

    Then again, some of that happened with Lykke Li, who is now one of my favorite singers.

  2. Yeah, I realize the “girl sings soulful” thing isn’t for everybody. I’m a sucker for it. Adele. Fiona Apple back in the day. Hell, even Duffy (the shame, the shame).

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