We’re only 6 weeks into this new year and already we’ve had a controversial release; the much anticipated and hyped Born To Die by Lana Del Rey.
Talking about this release is tough, it really is. The real problem is that there is an overwhelming sensation of expectation throughout, a hope that Del Rey is going to pull something amazing out of the hat when the next track rolls over…and the next…and the next. Infuriatingly, it never happens. What we really get feels more like an experiment. It’s pretty obvious when you put, say, “Video Games” and “Off To The Races” back-to-back; one is a super melancholy, downbeat, almost purely vocal piece, the other is a curious rap/trip-hop/orchestral creation. Oddly, even though it looks weird on paper, it sounds…pretty good.
That truly is the story of the album, this weird hybridisation of styles creates an unusual and original but surprisingly soulless listening experience. Most disappointing of all is the dullness of Del Rey’s voice. Wait, back up a little bit. I’d like to point out that the thing that captured my attention initially was her voice; the way she manages to pull off deep and sultry one moment and sweet and innocent the next is intoxicating but it feels so lacklustre, even insincere; the only tracks I can really take seriously are “Video Games”, “Dark Paradise” and “Million Dollar Man”, they’re the only ones that feel genuinely heartfelt to me. Others in the same vein (“Summertime Sadness”) are just plain flat, which is a shame because they do show promise but Del Rey fails to capitalise on it by injecting some feeling into them. She really downplays that voice of hers, there’s way too much of this half-talking/rapping business when her voice could easily be pushed further (Zola Jesus comes to mind).
Despite a strong start it does get tiresome; the 2nd half is certainly much less compelling than the 1st, and I feel it starting to pull on my patience strings towards the end. I can’t quite put my finger on the problem though, I think I just begin to lose interest in her. While it’s something I feel compelled to come back and relisten to, once the hit has been achieved I lose all desire to continue listening. There’s no staying power. The lyrics don’t help; although they’re not awful they do feel a little trite (“-money is the reason we exist, everybody knows it, it’s fact *kiss kiss*”) but this is a pop album at its core, so it’s hardly unexpected.
Regardless of its little faults and problems there is absolutely nothing wrong with this album. Sure it has some teething problems, what debut doesn’t, but I really feel everything has been blown out of proportion by hype. People have been quick to criticise Del Rey, often on personal levels and not on the music itself, and were too quick to dismiss this. A solid start, certainly more original than many of her pop counterparts (Ke$ha, Katy Perry,ugh). I’m interested to see where she goes next.