Lana Del Rey
Born to Die


3.5
great

Review

by Conrad Tao EMERITUS
March 7th, 2012 | 38 replies | 4,118 views


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Bougie dreams, silent screams.

At this point, Born To Die has been received so poorly that to jump into the fray and defend it seems purely reactionary. But while there is plenty about Lana Del Rey that merits skepticism, a great deal of the conversation surrounding this album strikes me as, well, weird. The countless claims of inauthenticity ring painfully hollow, the accusations of antifeminism ironically set feminism back at least thirty years, and the criticism of its aesthetic singularity seems reductive. In fact, where Born To Die is most unequivocally successful is in its commitment to a very specific sound; while poor sequencing renders the album an exhausting listen, these songs, on their own, are admirably constructed and skillfully toe the line between the old and new. The title track is still the most successful fusion of those lush strings Del Rey is so fond of with the weightily loping beats of hip-hop; the combination gives "choose your last words, this is the last time" a palpable pathos that is conspicuously absent from the lyric sheet alone.

This is, unquestionably, Del Rey's weakest spot. Her melodic instincts are consistently good - if at times frustratingly predictable - but her words often read as empty masquerading. Lindsay Zoladz put it best when she wrote that they were the equivalent of "a faked orgasm". That being said, I'm convinced that there is something worth exploring here; the whole "American dream gone awry" current running throughout Born To Die presents countless opportunities for insightful provocation. When these are acted upon, the effect is devastating. The Lolita-quoting "Off To The Races" is deliciously sinister, not least because of the Betty Boop timbre Del Rey adopts in the song's chorus, which stops just short of caricature enough to make her nonsensical spouting of smoky mid-century imagery profoundly disturbing: "I can see your faces, shameless, Cipriani's basement, love you but I'm going down." Almost as excellent is "Dark Paradise", a gorgeous piece of cinematic sadcore that wears its suicidal heart proudly on its sleeve.

Of course, the presence of these successes makes the album's numerous missteps all the more infuriating; the Madonna-aping "National Anthem" and teary karaoke of "Million Dollar Man" are particularly egregious. But for every failed attempt to assert the sleaziness of Del Rey's companions of choice there's a stunning stab at earnestness like "Born To Die" or "Radio". So Lana Del Rey the character is given an actual heart - one that doesn't simply exist to be marred by cocaine and Bacardi chasers - and as a result, the cigarette stains that permeate the album's every crevice feel more tragic and consequential. The doe-eyed trophy wife persona being explored here feels straight-up icky, and the insinuation that Del Rey might be deriving pleasure from the abuse she's experiencing exacerbates that discomfort. Which forces listeners to actively engage with the album, since to do otherwise would be to unjustly dismiss a distinctly new perspective on femininity and sexuality. And so Lana Del Rey is impossible to ignore, which makes her apparent reluctance to be as committed to her character's rough edges as she is to her music's ostensibly luxurious production all the more disappointing. But the fact remains that nobody is making records that sound or feel like this, and that tepid as they may currently be, the sentiments Del Rey is willing to explore are still daring enough to suggest that Born To Die is only the tip of the stony, pouty-lipped, hurting iceberg.



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user ratings (638)
Chart.
3.2
good
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
conradtao
Emeritus
March 7th 2012



2088 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Yay for unnecessary reviews/opinions

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
March 7th 2012



15332 Comments


review is so unnecessary ugh

no but seriously this is superbly written and I more or less agree. I love the last sentence because it completely summarizes how I feel about her.

Digging: Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
March 7th 2012



20855 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

How come this is not showing up on the front page? Have we reached the quota of staff reviews for this or something?

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
March 7th 2012



30873 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

The doe-eyed trophy wife persona being explored here feels straight-up icky,


Strangely I find that trophy wife is the furthest thing from her mind

Digging: FaltyDL - In The Wild

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
March 7th 2012



15727 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

rolling in the rey

Digging: Joyce Manor - Never Hungover Again

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
March 7th 2012



30873 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Staff sausage fest in here, gonna go and find some contrib pussy

Dreamflight
March 7th 2012



1760 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Unnecessary but excellent review nevertheless.

Still loving this, and the worst part is I can't really explain why. Lana pretty much embodies everything I don't like about this sort of music.

conradtao
Emeritus
March 7th 2012



2088 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Strangely I find that trophy wife is the furthest thing from her mind


I can understand this, but it's what I hear. Her attraction to the "bad boy" mentality strikes me as either some creepy repressed fantasy or something she's submitted to

conradtao
Emeritus
March 7th 2012



2088 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Also, this is my preferred tracklisting for the album. It makes the record a much more successful listen:

1. Born To Die
2. Dark Paradise
3. Blue Jeans
4. Off To The Races
5. Radio
6. Diet Mtn Dew
7. Without You
8. Video Games
9. Carmen
10. Lolita
11. Summertime Sadness
12. This Is What Makes Us Girls
13. Lucky Ones

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
March 7th 2012



15727 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

your review has made me actively reconsider my position on her. gonna have to listen again

theacademy
March 7th 2012



28239 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

album melts face

conradtao
Emeritus
March 7th 2012



2088 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

that's the nicest thing anyone could say to me, Adam..

chambered69
March 7th 2012



1253 Comments


this is the review right here

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
March 7th 2012



49788 Comments


Why do staff waste their time reviewing bad mainstream albums? Four staff reviews for this shit, come on

Digging: Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) - You Will Eventually Be Forgotten

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
March 7th 2012



14986 Comments


MAYA has been so poorly received by so many people that to swoop into the fray two weeks late and champion the thing might seem eye-rollingly polemical. I think, though, there’s a great deal that needs to be said on behalf of this album; I believe, quaint a notion thought it may be, that MAYA is simply misunderstood.

klap
Staff Reviewer
March 7th 2012



10258 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

yeah we definitely shouldn't review relevant albums trebor

Digging: The Bilinda Butchers - Heaven

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
March 7th 2012



49788 Comments


This album is not relevant to sputnik users

klap
Staff Reviewer
March 7th 2012



10258 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

oh yeah i forgot the purpose of staff reviews is to cater to users

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
March 7th 2012



49788 Comments


I don't know how it works man
Do a lot of people who aren't users really check this site?

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
March 7th 2012



14986 Comments


who cares what they review



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