I don’t quite get what the big negative hoopla is about Lana Del Rey. She’s manufactured? Yes, but few major label artists aren’t. You felt hoodwinked into believing she was a raw talent sculpted on the lonely indie road when she actually had Interscope and a millionaire Dad in her corner? That’s your bad for not doing your homework. Don’t like her years-delayed hipster references or that box-o-melancholy strings she lugs from song to song? I guess you’re entitled, but is it that serious?Listening to Born to Die won’t harm the cockles in your ears or turn you into a pillar of salt. Given, there are some issues with this album, mainly the formulaic construction that withers on the vine as the album progresses. There’s is also a chasm between the emotion produced by the song construction and the lyrics sitting on top of that track that stirs you, but since when has reading pop lyrics rivaled a Bronte novel? There’s lots of booze and sad-hot-floozey-resigned-to-bad-relationships-with-junkies bemoaning here, but at least her man doesn’t smoke crack, because crack is wack, but I digress.
Del Rays’ melancholia is most easily espoused through her fragile, bottomed-out purr. There are trips to the other side of the note spectrum as well as some rappity-rap going on here, but Lana seems more comfortable wallowing in her low end theory. It gives a bit of smoky weight to her sound, at least at the beginning.
The first five songs on this album are beautifully worked; overflowing with elements sure to make this a dark room special. But you know that already. You have already heard the slow, gloomy march of “Video Game” and the dusty, thumped out spaghetti western feel of “Blue Jeans.” “Off to the Races,” easily Born To Die’s best song, manages a wonderful meeting of Del Ray’s optimistic strings and melancholy guitar. Regardless of how much you detest this girl’s image, you can’t deny the last minute or so of this song. It’s sonic breadth is absolutely gorgeous.
The previously heard songs lead the LP and create great expectation for the unheard half and unfortunately, Born to Die doesn’t deliver on that promise. That doesn’t make Del Ray a fraud though; it just makes her the owner of a mediocre album.
“Carmen” is a stomach-churning story about a young woman who walks the mean streets of New York handing out free blow jobs for no real reason except, I guess, she wants to. She’s an alcoholic, but that’s no excuse for being a bucket. The same dramatic elements are present, but this song suffers from lack of focus and serious construction issues. By the time you get to the lazy drag of “Summertime Sadness,” you realize the producers spent the second half of the album borrowing from the first half with way worse results. Making copies of copies never produces anything remotely as clear as the original. You also wish this girl would perk the hell up.
“Without You” turns the tide a bit with an enjoyable, skeletal, fuzzed-out synthesized clap punctuated by those ever present strings. Rey sings about money, fame and the right man by her side, but somehow still manages to make this sound depressing. “Lolita” starts Hitchcokian (or maybe Kubrickian) in its string fueled drama, but overlays the albums most puerile lyrics over top.
Kiss me in the d.a.r.k dark tonight
D.a.r.k do it my way
Kiss me in the p.a.r.k. park tonight
P.a.r.k. do it my way
Hey Lolita hey
The closer, “Lucky Ones,” features crashing waves of percussion mixed with low register strings. It would be a great close if this isnt the sound we had been listening to for the entirety of the album. Instead, it’s a snooze of a song appended at the end of more succesful attempts.
Born to Die is not horrible, it’s just weighted heavily at the front. Lana Del Ray has an interesting, throaty delivery that works well with her disgraced debutante brand of relationship gloom and doom. Maybe if she stopped dating drug addicts and guys that just want to bang her, she might see some light at the end of that tunnel of hers.
The production is ambitious and when it works it really works. When it doesn’t though, it really doesn’t. So get this girl a Zoloft and and drop that one trick production pony. Even considering the lackluster second half, Born To Die proves with a bit of tweeking and creativity, Lana Del Rey can stand firmly in the flood of pop queens that currently inhabit music. Even if she is contrived. Most of popular music these days is no different.
2.75 out of 5
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