Review: Lana Del Rey – ‘Born to Die’

Originally published for IAreYeti.

If you haven’t heard of Lana Del Rey by now, you have clearly been living under a rock: from releasing, arguably, the best song of 2011 to criticism over her authenticity to a few dodgy live TV performances, Lana Del Rey has been everywhere the past few months. Love her or hate her, there is undeniably something incredibly captivating about her and, now, with the release of her debut album ‘Born to Die’, will she be able to live up to the hype and silence her critics? The answer is probably not.

When ‘Video Games’ became a viral success last year, the world stopped and took notice as Lana Del Rey burst on to the music scene, with one of the most compelling songs of the year. The production on the single was incredible; the lyrics were powerful and it was quickly labelled ‘the best song of 2011’ by many. Soon after this, came the backlash and claims that she was fake and manufactured, as it was discovered she had previously released music under the name Lizzy Grant. However, follow up single, ‘Born to Die’, proved that Lana Del Rey was not just a one-hit wonder and left many waiting in anticipation for the release of her debut album, of the same title.

‘Off to the Races’ introduces us to a different side of the singer, with a more modern, hip-hop style to the track as opposed to the old school nature of her singles thus far. It’s a track that’s quite difficult to listen to as her vocals just seem out of tune with the backing track and as it develops in to the squealing chorus of “I’m off to the races, cases / of Bacardi chasers” the words sound as though they’re being hiccupped out. The singer’s attempts to mix genres and break musical boundaries often makes for quite uncomfortable and, often, intolerable listening. ‘Million Dollar Man’ is probably the dullest track on the album, both melodically and lyrically, which just comes and goes without much notice.

In fact, the best tracks on the album are generally the ones that have already been released or have appeared online previously. ‘Blue Jeans’ is a perfect example of how good Lana Del Rey can be when she gets it right, as she blends her sultry, old school vocals with a more modern backing track singing “I will love you ‘til the end of time / I would wait a million years”. ‘National Anthem’ is another of the album’s better moments and perhaps the only somewhat experimental track that actually works. The track mixes her attempts at rapping in the verses with a typical pop-style chorus and has one of the best crafted backing tracks on the album, in which she makes reference to the American Dream: “Money is the anthem of success”.

With the key themes surrounding death, drugs and general self-deprecation, it is definitely not your typical pop album lyrically. It is, undoubtedly, a mixed bag: there are some brilliant songs, some not so brilliant songs and some downright odd songs. What saves the album, most of the time, is the singer’s bizarre yet intriguing vocal range, as she manipulates her voice from sounding like a sultry singer from the 50’s to a wannabe rapper. However, it often comes across a bit forced and she doesn’t quite carry off the “gangster Nancy Sinatra” persona she has been commended for. Overall, it just seems a bit mixed up and the lyrics begin to become quite repetitive, suggesting that Lana Del Rey’s creativity isn’t all she has made it out to be. It is definitely not the powerful, game-changing album it was built up to be and, instead, seems to have a lot more filler than killer.

Overall Rating: 2/5

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