Review Summary: "goochy goochy goo barf"- lewis
Perhaps this isn’t the most professional thing to admit, but for me, the most notable thing about the release of Born To Die
is that the world might soon stop talking about Lana Del Rey. Imagine a world without the endless parade of think-pieces regarding her authenticity, questionable feminism, questionable patriotism, hype, counter-hype, embarrassingly terrible live performances and “I Like Turtles”-esque interview persona. We finally have her music, in all its quasi-controversial, really-not-all-that-special glory, which means she is no longer insulated from criticism by her supposed enigma. We can all, at long last, move on.
Oh, the record? It’s practically an afterthought. Odds are good that those already with opinions on Del Rey will find no reason in Born to Die
to change them. It’s pretty cool, I guess--a bit artificial, but if you’re already part of the “pro” camp in the Lana Del Rey war of attrition, that probably won’t matter. It doesn’t take more than a minute of watching her try to figure out what to do with her hands on her SNL performance to understand that intense behind-the-scenes machinations have gone into making this girl famous. Born to Die
is the fruit of the machinations’ labor, meaning it’s essentially her essence distilled and repeated over the course of twelve tracks. She’s still alarmingly submissive, still appropriating American celebrity iconography into thick, romantic kitsch; basically, she’s doing with more gusto that which makes the internet go fuc
So Born To Die
can be considered a success in the sense it keeps Lana Del Rey relevant via controversy. As troubling gender politics and catchy songs made fellow internet lightning rods Odd Future a big fuck
ing deal, so too have they Lana Del Rey. And like OF benchmark album Goblin
, Born To Die
’s shtick is processed to cartoonish levels, leaving little substance underneath what is essentially an intricate gimmick. This in itself isn’t all that surprising; Lana’s never given the impression that she’s more than a well-made construction. The issue is that whereas Odd Future can fly by on irony to smooth over their rougher edges, Lana is irony-free, and her guise of sincerity renders her cutesy trailer-park girl persona unintentionally creepy with every story of an abusive relationship she punctuates with a giggle. The majority of the record is focused on her ridiculously unhealthy sex life, which consists mostly of brutish dudes feeding her material goods and impersonal dickings, both of which she revels in with phony naivety and gratitude. The catchiest example, “Off to the Races,” features a cocaine-hearted protagonist taking advantage of doe-eyed Lana, who gleefully proclaims herself a harlot and sings: “light in my life, fire in my loins, gimme them gold coins… I’m not afraid to say I’d die without him.”
A lyric like that is a political landmine that sets feminism back sixty years, but the song itself isn’t bad
, per se. This happens a lot with Born to Die
; even more so than Goblin
, this record is a product to be reconciled with rather than straight-up enjoyed. It’s well-made and structured like a pop album too big to fail, every track bolstering Lana's sultry, bordering-on-languorous voice with the same fucking
string flourishes and inoffensive, white-girl-hop beat she uses in the title track, but it makes curious choices that indicate the producers’ disconnect between Lana’s perceived appeal and her actual one. Whereas “Video Games” and “Blue Jeans” suggest a person beneath the post-modern window dressing of American poverty via tangible, relatable narratives, the rest of Born to Die
is as transparent as the window itself, a collection of impersonal clichés loaded one after the other in the Lana Del Rey “image.” Distilling Lana’s personality to nothing but Americana and Sex leads her and her handlers to ridiculous ends, such as letting the totally misguided, totally silly empowerment song “The National Anthem” onto the record, turning “Diet Mtn. Dew” into shrill, dissonant shi
t, and frenetically dropping American buzzwords as if Lana needed to fill a patriotism quota lest anyone forget her angle. The result of making this angle so conspicuous is that Born to Die
comes off not like the record of an artist using ideas to mold an image, but that of a mass of images fused together to mold a celebrity.
But then again, Lana Del Rey has never aspired to be anything else. Maybe Lizzie Grant did, but that's irrelevant, at this point. Born To Die
is the culmination of a questionably-talented unknown’s rise to cultural consciousness, and is nothing more than that. What made Lana Del Rey important was that she was a nobody whose popularity grew via word of mouth and genuine anonymity. She could’ve been anyone. She is anyone, but here we are, talking about her as if she isn’t. But all that’s almost done, because Born to Die
is vapid, innocuous pop with politically touchy sexual politics, almost indistinguishable from and less interesting than scores of terrible-albeit-infectious female pop music. I wish I could say I’m relieved or proud that the hype machine churned out another just-another, but I’m not. Just disappointed as another new thing that looked like it was worth getting excited about turned out to be contrived, empty bullshit
. Here’s hoping, King Krule.