Music, Music, Reviews

Lana Del Rey ‘Born to Die’ – Review

Lana Del Rey - Born to Die (2012) Album cover art imageWhen an apex recording artist departs, there is a panic as to what can possibly fill the void, as if the whole music industry didn’t get along fine before they existed and now flaps around like a partially severed and useless limb. Since Amy Winehouse popped her precariously-heeled clogs, one artist it has been suggested could fill her skyscraper beehive is American singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey.

I promised myself I wouldn’t do reviews, save in exceptional circumstances. I feel justified in sharing my judgement on Lana Del Rey’s second album, Born to Die, as I am following up a previous post. In A Pair of Lips With a Woman Attached, I discussed her emergence and the subsequent suspicion aroused as to her bona fides. There were elements who were quick to label her a ‘manufactured artist,’ after questioning her credentials, based on a previous attempt to launch her career under her own name, Lizzie Grant. I’ll not repeat the argument, but I’ll go so far as to point out the whole music industry is a contrived construct, designed to make money. Think of the Pepsi Challenge. Coke is still Coke whether it’s served in a can or a plastic cup. The packaging is just a means of making it easier for you to spend your dollar. The only pure music is that which resides within you – the music of your soul. There are the occasional geniuses that seem to reach within and pluck your heartstrings, but mostly they’re just jobbing artists and all that should concern us is are they any good?

If I have a criticism of the album, it’s that it’s slightly formulaic. With the first single, the internet sensation Video Games, they struck viral gold, but I get the impression they then laid the template on a Xerox and pressed copy fourteen times. After a few tracks it’s clear it’s like a couple who, in middle age, discover something wonderful, like chicken tikka masala or the missionary position, and then proceed to have it every night for the rest of their lives. Variety, not extra curry powder, is the spice of life. The most telling track is Lolita, which is a reworking of a track from her withdrawn, self-titled debut album. In its original form, it’s a Duffy-esque up-tempo piece, with jangly guitars and organs that betray its 1960s influence, but here it’s adjusted into a style in keeping with the rest of the album and yet ill fits it, like a badly tailored suit.

Lana has one trick. It’s an old trick but a good one, based on the principle that sex sells. Her crooning alternates between high, sugary sweet and innocent, and low, sultry and enticing. It conjures both images of pigtails and lollipops, contrasted against those of a temptress. Musically, it’s a polished mash of orchestration over digital drums and bass, with the odd piano tinkle or sample thrown in, but that’s as far as the variety goes. With garage guitar bands like The Black Lips and The Vaccines enjoying a zenith, would it be too much to ask to expanded her 60s pop stylings to truly reflect the music of the era? Her first album covered more ground and, although not as professional, was as a result more interesting. Here, any anomalies have been jettisoned in favour of a sound more befitting her ‘gansta Nancy Sinatra’ persona.

There is a degree to which she is a contrivance of the industry. If there is a real Lana Del Rey, disguised behind the pout and perfectly coiffured barnet, it’s not to be found on this album, but, as consumers, we have no right to expect otherwise. What it is instead is a well crafted modern blend of hip hop and 60’s soul, moody and at times haunting, if a little lacking in diversity.

About stuartjamesbox

I'm a 30-something graphic designer, employed by a large newspaper and magazine publisher, but a writer at heart - only one who struggles to find the time or motivation to sit at the keyboard and bash keys in a pleasing order. I'm a progressive, liberal, atheist. I think everyone is entitled to their opinion, but some people are just plain wrong. I love books, films and music, and if you only like one kind of anything you don't like them at all and seriously need to broaden your horizons. I can cook, bake, and play guitar to various degrees. I have an unhealthy obsession with fonts; vintage clothing, especially tweed; cats of any variety, except pointy, skinny ones and ones with flat faces. Follow me on Twitter @ Stuartjamesbox


3 thoughts on “Lana Del Rey ‘Born to Die’ – Review

  1. Like most of us I haven´t met Lizzy so I can only speculate about what is “REALor FAKE”.
    One thing that stikes me is that there is so many people hating and blaming her; “she sold out her realness for the big time, her daddy is f****g rich, she´s got fake lips, she can´t sing, she is just a beautiful face, she´d be nothing without the internet..” etc…

    As you might believe ther is lots of “Stars” out there I find annoying but you won´t hear me saying a thing about them… Why?
    “Cause they don´t deserve my attention and time”
    So, people writing Lizzy down are probably miserable and envious. Whatever you like to call her you have to understand that, despite all reservations, she´s got a huge talent and a wonderful voice.
    I don´t think that Lana Del Ray is fake, it´s part of her identity. Of course it´s JUST ONE PART, but nothing that isn´t inside her; traces of that already can be found on her first record (2010). I think of her as a chameleon like Bowie is(And yes, people hated him when he sang about the laughing gnome. It was an awful record, but no one could deny his unique voice even back then, remember?)
    Success should provide complete artstic control for her. I wouldn´t be surprised if her next album will be different and I´m sure she´ll deliever HER “Hounds of love” in a future not too distant.
    When I listen to “Born to die” I get the most pleasure out of her fantastic voice and the way she changes colour and timbre within a sentence. I get the impression that Lizzy is sneaking through the curtains of her doomed “Hollywood sadcore” and says: Look, it´s me, I´m still Lizzy, but it scares me to go outside and be hated for that so I made up this girl that is tough and cool… She´s called Lana. The tragic thing about her is that she has no real self-esteem and acts the way she does not to be hurt and to impress these bad guys she fancies.
    She´s in trouble but it seems like she already got used to it, calling it her fate…”

    Why am I writing things like that?
    1. I´m amazed to see that someone with talent approaces fame and attention
    2. All the ones calling her unprofessonal and uneducated will be the first to mmoan “She´s lost her innocence, she´s just going through the motions now, she´s a fake, we want the real thing back…”
    So I have to say: Shut up and listen to your collection of cool and obscure alternative rawk or whatever you believe is real….

    Posted by Janglebells | February 2, 2012, 8:18 pm
  2. Why Lana Del Rey’s image is actually more powerful than her sound…

    Posted by jeffort23 | February 3, 2012, 6:48 am
  3. She nailed it on Letterman after the SNL performance. It was brave move to come back again after that. It’s trendy to hate Lana, but what’s most important is that the album is top notch all the way. I hope she stays here for a long time, shes something fresh for this whole music business! The tour will happen when the time is right, I’m sure she makes it big.

    Best source about Lana:

    Posted by John Will | February 8, 2012, 1:14 pm

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