Lana Del Rey, ‘Born to Die’ – Album Review
Judgment day is upon Lana Del Rey now that her debut ‘Born to Die’ is landing. Del Rey is the “It” girl of the moment, and she has been met with heaps of criticism and praise. At the end of the day, the question remains: Is Del Rey all hype or is she authentic?
Well, we’ve listened to every song on ‘Born to Die’ and here’s the verdict: the album is a sexy, sprawling ode to sex and death. There is not much in the way of variation when it comes to the pace of the songs: They are slow and they take their sweet time making their points. That said, all the bells, whistles, layers, nuances and soundscapes are what move the album along, allowing it to evolve, keeping it interesting, and preventing it from becoming a drone.
It’s also lush, layered and heavily produced, but despite all the studio treatment, Del Rey’s creepy cool voice is at the center of it all, anchoring the songs, beguiling us and luring us to her lair. No, she does not posses diva-like pipes, but she has a haunting, unusual and memorable tone and style. Whether she’s doing a talk-rap or getting breathy like Brit, Lana Del Rey is mysterious. She’s not your average pop starlet — in fact, we’re questioning whether she’s pop at all.
1. ‘Born to Die’: A slow, sultry lament where LDR sing about walking on the wild side and pleads “Don’t make me sad / Don’t make me cry.” She has a voice ripe for pain and it’s at the front of the mix on this song, which features subtle drum ‘n’ bass elements.
2. ‘Off to the Races’: She does a talk-rap and this is Lana as a b-girl with breathy Britness, calling herself “crazy,” cooing in a baby doll voice and begging a lover to “kiss me on my open mouth.” It’s a loungey, rich and textured romp for the digital generation.
3. ‘Blue Jeans’: With it’s plucky riff, this thick, moody number would be right at home during a bloody sequence in a Quentin Tarantino film. Can’t you just see LDR’s voice being the salve that soothes while a character gets a vicious beating? Picture it!
4. ‘Video Games’: You know this one. With full, rich production, it’s another vehicle for her old soul voice.
5. ‘Diet Mountain Dew:’ It has nothing to do with the soda. Lana does the breathy sexy girl well. When she asks “Do you think we’ll be in love forever?” over a backbeat, we wonder if she is asking that of her fans and critics. [Listen Here]
6. ‘National Anthem’: Another familiar song, at least among Lana fans and haters. There is so much studio treatment on this song, but we still hear Lana and her backing vocals. [Listen to a Clip]
7. ‘Dark Paradise’: With its solitary drum beat and gothic and romantic synths, this is Lana’s neo-nu wave, choir anthem and lament on death — since she worries about not reconnecting on the “other side.” This is one of the most standout tracks on the album, thanks to the somewhat harsh synths.
8. ‘Radio’: Most of the songs on ‘Born to Die’ are cinematic, and ‘Radio’ is no different. Did we mention she does that breathy-over-beats thing better than most? When she sings “Not even they can stop me now,” we’re left thinking she’s being prophetic.
9. ‘Carmen’: Opening with a sad, sad violin that’s accompanied by Del Rey’s sad, sad (but always sexy) voice, the song is consistent with much of what surrounds it: Del Rey’s voice is flowing in waves as soft as her hair. It’s soooooo dreamy.
10. ‘Million Dollar Man’: If you could picture Lana in a smoky jazz club, like a hole in the wall in New York City, this is the song she’d be crooning. At some points, in this song and others, Del Rey reminds us of Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star. She has such a maudlin, but not morbid tone, which lives among subtle (but not aggressive) drum ‘n’ bass accompaniment.
11. ‘This Is What Makes Us Girls’: This is an autobiographical moment for Del Rey, as she sings about teachers, fellow 16-year-olds, best friends and mascara running down her eyes. The song escalates and is one of the “louder” songs on ‘Born to Die.’ [Listen to a Clip]
12. ‘Summertime Sadness’: On an album marked by shoe gazing moments, this is Lana Del Rey at her most head down. But even though there is a palpable damaged girl in her voice, she commands attention with her lazy delivery.