In the wake of one of the most viral growth spurts in the history of alternative music, Lana Del Rey released her debut “Born to Die” despite having spent the past 6 months polarizing her audience with scandalous origin stories and painfully awkward live performances. Her deeply laden “hollywood sadcore” persona has both enchanted and infuriated the majority of her critics; it seems the only topic left undisclosed is the music. After a careful series of listens, “Born to Die” plays out like a dreamy train derailment. There’s an inexplicably mature handful of tunes scattered throughout the LP, starkly contrasting with some of the most asinine lyrical spectacles in songs like “This is What Makes Us Girls” and “National Anthem.” We want so badly to buy what Lana is selling, but the her efforts seem pushy and she eventually falls short of the myth set in place by last summer’s smash single “Video Games.”
The message constructed with “Born to Die” is clear; Lana plays the beautiful, young, and sadly misunderstood starlet-wannabe whose only desire is to drive top-down with the girls and close the evening with hard make-out sessions in the rain. There are kissing references in nearly every song, and frustratingly vapid party phrases are used and reused: “take your body downtown, baby.” Those who subscribe to her character will revel in her unabashed commitment to communicating this subculture of melancholy L.A. girls, longing to be abused and thrown away like their draggy cabaret-singing mothers before them. The arrangements are effectively atmospheric, and do little to discourage a complete listen. Lana has given herself a near-perfect backdrop to the orchestral pop landscape laid amidst her unique vocal style and pouty delivery.
Sung by almost anyone else, “Born to Die” would seem a laughable teen-throb disaster, but Lana’s intimidating loyalty to her character boldly separates her from other imitators. There’s obvious room for improvement in the structure of the album. Contrived and awkwardly positioned, some tracks are just plain throwaways, but others are delicately assembled and show promising potential. Early critics of Lana Del Rey weren’t completely wrong to label her as “one to watch,” because “Born to Die” showcases a satisfyingly confident new stream of ideas, despite the negativity and cat calls. Lana Del Rey has arrived on her own accord, and will continue to cater to the mysterious whether you come along or not.
Review by Dylan Bliss