Lana Del Rey
Born to Die


2.5
average

Review

by Adam Downer STAFF
January 25th, 2012 | 137 replies | 19,003 views


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

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 fucking insane.

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 fucking 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 shit, 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.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Athom
Staff Reviewer
January 25th 2012



17117 Comments


you've got a fucked up piece of coding in your second to last sentence. excellent review.

Digging: Sad Lovers and Giants - Feeding the Flame

Drsmith4
January 25th 2012



1696 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Looks like this is going to be a divisive one, this record. Wonderful review, though. "What made Lana Del Rey important was that she was a nobody whose popularity grew via word of mouth and genuine anonymity." You hit the nail on the head here.

klap
Staff Reviewer
January 25th 2012



10000 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

i concur

Tyrael
January 25th 2012



20394 Comments


I concur [2]

Digging: Lantlos - Melting Sun

Eko
January 25th 2012



2119 Comments


the entire hype/anti-hype dynamic surrounding her is just the oddest thing

only heard the title track, thought it was solid.

TheSpirit
January 25th 2012



16662 Comments


Never heard of her before this review but I checked out "Video Games" and it was pleasant enough. I enjoyed her soulful her voice was. There is another album for the database for her, is that just an EP or something? Also is it worth checking out over this?

Digging: Sexdrome - Grown Younger

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
January 25th 2012



30297 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

meaning it’s essentially her essence distilled and repeated over the course twelve tracks.


*of twelve tracks

Digging: L'Orange - The Orchid Days

SowingSeason
Emeritus
January 25th 2012



14511 Comments


looked like it was worth worth getting excited about

Jash
January 25th 2012



4243 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Here's hoping, King Krule [2]

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
January 25th 2012



30297 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

I don't really think the SNL performance was all that bad. Yeah, it could've been a lot better but I just think she was terribly nervous

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
January 25th 2012



15693 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

its nowhere near as bad as her jools holland performance, and thats saying something

Digging: Nmesh - Dream Sequins [AMDISCS]

jefflebowski
January 25th 2012



6842 Comments


i still think the title track's a great song

Romulus
January 25th 2012



8373 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

there are a handful of great songs on here. works pretty poorly as an album though. i liked it better when i was just kind of absentmindedly youtubing her stuff

plane
Staff Reviewer
January 25th 2012



6073 Comments


yeah

conradtao
Emeritus
January 25th 2012



2088 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Great review, agreed on all points even though the album does sound nice at times. Her whole shtick is just unconvincing here, and she displays absolutely no intelligence about her disposition. And it doesn't help that "Million Dollar Man" sounds like subpar karaoke.

conradtao
Emeritus
January 25th 2012



2088 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

god "blue jeans" on snl was so bad. i felt bad for her; her low range sounds lovely on record but she can't seem to summon it under pressure.

there are clips of her performing live in nyc that indicate a far better live performer

fish.
Contributing Reviewer
January 25th 2012



20204 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Album's disappointing. review's spot on.

the title track still rules though

Her performance on jonathan ross was horrible. she messes with the melodies too much

Digging: YG - My Krazy Life

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
January 25th 2012



30297 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

If all this experiment gave us was another excellent Joy Orbison remix, then I'm happy with the results

letsgofishing
January 25th 2012



878 Comments


Video game was one of my top 5 songs last year....

but the album being near-shit doesn't really surprise me.

theacademy
January 25th 2012



27672 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

golf wang



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