Lana Del Rey is no doubt one of the most hyped up artists in the blogosphere today. Blogs— both big and small — have spent at least some time in the last few months talking about her. Some are calling her a revelation, while others can’t get over her tragic SNL performances. Even I was caught in the hype and predicted that Del Rey will be 2012’s Adele.
Well, I’m here to tell you that the hype is well deserved. Born To Die is a fantastic album. It’s cohesive and inviting. It’s addicting. It’s fascinating.
Del Rey has a distinctive sound, but it’s the album’s tight production that really distinguishes Born To Die from many efforts. The craftsmanship here puts seasoned artists to shame.
This LP is dreamy, and the mood is set from the beginning. The title track’s first seconds are reminiscent of classic movies. And then at 23 seconds in, Del Rey finally coos, “Feet don’t fail me now, Take me to the finish line”. Her voice — cool, crisp and even a little icy — manages to rise above the complex production.
“Video Games”, the buzz single that placed Del Rey in many music bloggers’ radars, has a far simpler production, and her monotonous delivery contrasts nicely with the song’s romantic lyrics. The final product is interesting and sexy.
Guitars, harps and pianos make up much of the music here, but the hip-hop influences are noticeable. Irresistible beats back many of the songs’ choruses, and mainstream production drives much of the album’s structure.
But this is still a classic pop album in that love songs dominate it. “Blue Jeans” is about loving someone “till the end of time” (her words, not mine), while “Million Dollar Man” talks about a man who is “screwed up and brilliant”.
This isn’t a typical pop album though. Cinematic elements add an interesting touch to everything. Music’s “gangsta Nancy Sinatra” delivers spectacularly.
But here’s the shocker: Born To Die isn’t a perfect album. Far from it, in fact.
Del Rey’s delivery, while unique and interesting, sometimes distracts from the album’s flow. Case in point: “Off to the Races” doesn’t really pick up until the chorus. The disjointed verses simply do not work here the way it does in other tracks such as “Radio”. Sometimes less is more: “This is what makes us girls”, with its melodic verses and thumping chorus, is the perfect example.
The bigger issue with Born To Die though is the lyrics. Honestly, lines like “Every time I close my eyes, It’s like a dark paradise, No one compares to you” (from “Dark Paradise”) are something I’d expect from a Twilight book, not from an artist like Del Rey. For some of the songs, I wanted poetry, but what I got is a cheesy love letter.
That said, Del Rey is in her mid-20s and she’s probably allowed to be romantic. I know that I’m putting her at a pedestal, and that’s why I expected a little more.
By any standard, Born To Die is a solid record and worth every single praise it is getting in the blogosphere. Rich and masterful, Born To Die is like a beautiful, ethereal dream. Del Rey’s debut is nothing short of brilliant.
Photo: Tony Felgueiras