Lana Del Rey – Born to Die

by Bianca Gracie (Communications/Journalism), published February 15th 2012

Moldy | Stale | Edible | Fresh | Tasty!

Don’t let her botched Saturday Night Live performance fool you; Lana Del Rey is one to watch in 2012. The self-proclaimed “Gangsta Nancy Sinatra” has been the center of controversy with people questioning everything about her – from her plump lips to her “manufactured” image and history.

Media outlets like Pitchfork, Rolling Stone and Stereogum pimped her for months only to frantically post hypocritical reviews that tore the album apart. But Lana Del Rey’s sophomore effort, Born To Die (released on January 30), holds its own without their approval.

Unlike other aforementioned outlets that are so transfixed on the persona, this review focuses on the music and nothing else.

Born To Die serves as a film noir score written by a bone-chilling femme fatale. It opens up with the title track and strongest song, “Born To Die.” It sets the tone for the rest of the album – a love story narrated by a misty-eyed coquette backed by intense cinematic production.

Following is “Off to the Races,” voiced by a girl with daddy issues. She teases the listener with high-pitched Betty Boop squeals, begging you to “kiss me on my open mouth.”

“Blue Jeans” carries on the theme of love but with a twist. Lana Del Rey fully embodies her “gangsta” side as she subtly raps over a drum-heavy beat, a perfect backing for a bloody Tarantino scene.

The song that started it all, “Video Games,” has an epic piano melody that beautifully carries the singer’s painful inflections as she reflects on a failed love. The album version of “Diet Mountain Dew” speeds up the original demo and turns into a refreshingly bouncy trip-hop song.

Despite its bountiful melodies, Born To Die sometimes takes the studio treatment too far with its overbearing production. “National Anthem” directly rips “Bittersweet Symphony” and drowns the singer’s presence.

“Radio” returns to the album’s working formula – a dope combination of sassy vocals and grand production. “Carmen” is one for the critics. It is slightly autobiographical, and hints at the artist’s own transformation from the unknown Lizzy Grant to the controversial Lana Del Rey.

Most of the album has a ‘90s trip-hop/pop influence, but “Million Dollar Man” brings it back to the ‘50s. It paints a picture of a hopeless singer pouring her heart out in the back of a smoky New York City lounge. It has a nostalgic jazzy vibe that highlights the singer’s soulful voice and pairs well with a chilled glass of vintage bourbon.

Packaged or not, Lana Del Rey emulates the truth. While considered pop, the tracks on Born To Die update the dull formula of humorless lyrics following a booming chorus, á la Adele or Beyonce. Born To Die is a haunting soundtrack dedicated to classic Americana, filled with rebellious teenage delinquents, campy prom queens, broken hearts, trailer-park escapades and youthful blues.

Recommended Tracks: Born to Die, Off to the Races, This Is What Makes Us Girls, Lolita (Deluxe Edition)

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