Lana Del Rey – Born to Die
By: Keith Harman
Lana Del Rey, the latest soulfully voiced singer-songwriter de jure, has been the talk of the blogosphere these first couple of months of 2012. Despite the popularity, I was clueless as to what she stood for, or the music she wrote and performed. Not wanting to be a square, I seized the opportunity to check her proper debut album, Born to Die, out for review and finally put an end to the riddle of Lana Del Rey.
Del Rey’s talents lie in her vocal performances more so than her songwriting and production talents, and this is evident upon first listening to the album. The entire album is drenched in melancholia with somber strings and orchestral washes dominating every track, coupled with strong modern beats that reference hip-hop. The domination is too much for an entire LP, and the effect wears thin after a few spins. However, some songs are compositionally powerful enough to overcome the dense productions, whether it’s the soulful chords and melodies of “Million Dollar Man” or the sweeping chorus to “Off to the Races.”
The melodies which drive the songs are certainly haunting, but very few actually stick out in your head and do enough to commit the song to memory. Although lead single, “Video Games” leaves you wanting the song to reach out to more heights and ideas, you end up just agreeing that it works well enough as a hauntingly lazy ballad of harps, strings, and piano. In contrast, however, second single and title track “Born to Die” is a powerful opener and the perfect track to represent the album’s moods, ideas, and directions.
Lyrically, the album does well to keep a consistency between what’s happening with the music and to what’s happening with the words. Indeed, the lyrics are reflections of the darkness of the music, and are oftentimes slightly unsettling for the pictures they paint. Many of the lyrics concern a pair of lovers locked in a self—destructive relationship of excess and hard substances. Highlight “Off to the Races” showcases this dominant concept probably in the most poetic way, with Del Rey using a handful of nice verbal plays and rhymes that really help the song along. Unfortunately, the album suffers with a lack of lyrical diversity, much like the music.
In conclusion, the album’s tricks are stretched too thin amongst the course of the LP. The fact is that Lana Del Rey rushed her debut out before she had a proper collection of songs. It doesn’t help that the majority of the songs range in the four to five minute length, which severely undercuts their impact. However, that being said, this album does show some promise and strengths for the young artist, and I would not be surprised if her best work is yet to come.
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