Album Review: Lana Del Rey – Born to Die

By on Tuesday, 31st January 2012 at 12:00 pm

Opening with a boozy mix of glamour and sultry vocals Lana Del Rey kicks off her debut album (sort of, her real debut was released under her real name Elizabeth “Lizzy” Grant and is due to be re-released later this year) with ‘Off to the Races’. She should, by now need no introduction. Having stormed the world wide web with ‘Video Games’, a canny marketing plan and regal video for title track ‘Born to Die’, the New York girl’s certainly had a strong introduction to the world.

‘Off to the Races’ is an opening statement of sort. It shouts, “Hey look at me, I’m going to be a new kind of pop star”. Drawing you in with a sparse vocal backing, inspired by the Nancy Sinatras of a time long gone, she begs you in with a slow-growing ballad. This would be fine, if there was something interesting about Del Rey’s persona, image or music. Take the second part of the chorus for example: “because I’m crazy, baby, I need you to come here and save me. I’m your little scarlet, starlet, singing in the garden. Kiss me on my open mouth, ready for you”. Doesn’t it just induce the vomit to your gullet?

It doesn’t stop there. The title track comes next (previous single review here). It’s the soundtrack to a James Bond film that will never be made, just like she’s a Bond girl in waiting in far too many ways. Not even a badass bond girl like Pussy Galore, one of the even more submissive ones. She may have a lovely voice, but when she’s using it to spout these bitterly irritating lyrics, it’s difficult to appreciate it.

I’ve now heard ‘Video Games’ so many times that it’s found its way into my head. I can imagine it being sung on stage by drunk faux-romantics on a karaoke machine, slurring their voices and staring lustfully towards any girl in a sun-dress they see. I can hear countless twenty-something’s turning up to The X Factor with a heartbreaking story of love and loss getting three yeses for managing to hold themselves together as the crowds cheer them on. I can imagine David Cameron playing it to George Osbourne, trying to decide whether it will make them seem “down with the kids”. I can feel myself waiting for the next track, hoping for something good to come.

‘Diet Mtn Dew’ may be a fantastic title, but as much as Del Rey’s sound is borderline unique for the 21st century, her downfall appears to be in that all of her songs sound the same. One relief comes in the form of ‘National Anthem’. It’s catchy, it’s bold, it’s a pop song. Thank goodness for that. The lyrics are almost interesting and fairly cheesy and it’s enjoyable. Even ‘Dark Paradise’ isn’t bad, but it’s virtually an old Madonna song, which is beyond weird. The next time anything nearly as good as this comes along is the strangely huge sounding ‘Million Dollar Man’. It’s the kind of thing you’d make a short film for perfume about (see Audrey Tautou’s Chanel No. 5 advert here) and cast Lana as the lead instead.

Sadly, that’s all I can find of interest. I can’t help but feel that beyond this, it’s kind of filler. The record seems rushed and lacks direction. There’s a few bona fide pop hits, but mostly it’s off target attempts at power ballads full of submission to some douchey male protagonist. With some intelligent single releases, it won’t irritate me, but Del Rey’s already a star in her own right so I doubt it will even matter.


Lana Del Rey’s debut album (well, the debut album of the alter-ego, anyway) is available now from Interscope.

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