Album Review: Lana Del Rey, “Born to Die”

Posted on: February 10th, 2012 at 10:28 am by

Lana Del Rey has remained a contentious topic of conversation since at least last August, stimulating both admiration and backlash from fans new and old.  She garnered pre-release accolades for her creative music videos, but shouldered the brunt of the negativity after a mediocre performance on SNL last month. And through it all, the Interscope-backed hype machine has pretty much remained in overdrive.

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Born to Die dropped last Tuesday, and is currently the number two album in the country. According to Billboard, the major-label debut shifted roughly 77,000 units, but failed to overtake Adele at number one.  We finally had a chance to sit down with the record over the last few days and acquaint ourselves with the new music.

Leaving all the bullshit at the proverbial door – negative press, collagen lips, authenticity issues, etc. – Born to Die is definitely worth a listen. The leadoff title track pretty much sets the tone for the whole record, taking on somewhat of a Jewel meets drum machine aesthetic. Indeed, pretty much every song on the collection is a sonic collage, each adhering to the formula of sampled elements, wall of strings, and a walking vocal delivery that soars above the rest of the mix. Much more hip hop than her debut.

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It’s a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.  Although the first half starts fairly strong with some memorable tracks and catchy lyrics (“Let’s take Jesus off the dashboard, got enough on his mind”), the record loses steam somewhere in the middle, but recovers for the win with “Million Dollar Man.”  Standout tracks are definitely “Diet Mountain Dew” and “This is What Makes Us Girls,” a song which revels in the glory days of small-town high school living.

Competing with astronomical hype is always a fateful impossibility, so it was inevitable that Lana Del Rey wouldn’t completely deliver.  Listening with an objective ear, though, shows that the music presented here isn’t quite the shitshow people may have been expecting. That said, she still has plenty to improve upon if there’s any hope to stay on the Interscope artist roster…

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