Posted by: Jeff | February 27, 2012

Album Review: Lana del Rey – “Born to Die”

Lana del Rey – Born to Die [Buy Here]

Interscope
Release Date: January 2012
Grade: D+
Lana del Rey – “Blue Jeans”

Lana del Rey took music blogs by storm this fall in the wake of the sultry earworm “Video Games”, but the controversy she produced far out-paced her musical output.  Lana del Rey (nee Lizzy Grant) may be a manufactured entity, replete with collagen injections and hours of post-production shine, but it’s not like that has barred an artist from becoming a major pop phenomenon (cough Stefani “Lady Gaga” Germanotta).  And the strength of “Video Games” suggested at the very least enough creative germ to outlast the indignation that a struggling artist would transform her identity to manufacture broader appeal.

The trouble is, it only took one more song before del Rey’s critical fault was truly exposed: this is an alter ego without any sense of identity.  As she wavers between vocal deliveries on “Blue Jeans”, all while trying to maintain an overly-bored, dismissive attitude about love, the whole thing comes off as insincere over-the-top role playing.

Expectations appropriately tempered, critics viewed del Rey’s rushed album release with some skepticism that, in the end, was too little.  The opening title track features a nice swell of strings, but vocally is del Rey at her most bored and distant, and it doesn’t take much to imagine bored pouty sighs at the end of each line.  “Off to the Races” is just plain bad, mimicking Nikki Minaj’s multiple-personality disorder delivery to horrible effect.  If del Rey settled on one, two, or even three vocal styles per song, the album might not feel so horribly inconsistent, with at least one cringe-worthy moment on every track.  But then again, that is del Rey’s shtick, a character whose seduction is supposedly rooted in her elusive diffidence.

That her label believed a makeover garnering modelling offers would effectively carry the spurned ‘woe-is-me’ nihilism of del Rey’s created persona is baffling, but not so much as the insistence on forcing a vocal range that doesn’t work.  Grant has a nice voice, but it’s not that versatile, and has a tendency to get pitchy in the upper register.  That said, her voice is perfectly-suited for “Video Games”, a track that is miles above anything else she’s put on record.  “Blue Jeans” and “Radio” are both listenable as well, but the rest of the album feels like a group of evocative trip-hop melodies ruined by the prominence of their lackluster vocals.

Lyrically, the album is no gold mine, either.  Featuring rhymes like “I’m your little starlet, harlot, singing in the garden” (on “Off to the Races”) and “I’m the national anthem, gorgeous and handsome, take me to the Hamptons” (on “National Anthem”), del Rey comes across as superficial and immature, pouting about her life of modest luxury and emotional neediness.  The writing feels rushed and rough, probably the result of pushing toward an album as quickly as possible to capitalize on the surprise success of “Video Games.”

In fact, everything about del Rey feels rushed.  It’s worth noting that given the glaring deficiencies in del Rey’s vocal style on record, it really couldn’t come as any surprise that Grant’s persona would crash and burn before the live television cameras of Saturday Night Live.  Having performed as del Rey only once before an audience – a performance that gathered mixed reviews at best – Grant appeared wooden and uncomfortable on stage, hidden behind an emotionless mask of collagen and trying desperately to play hard to get with America while struggling to slide into various vocal styles in “Video Games” and “Blue Jeans”.  Like the album, it wasn’t pretty.

It remains to be seen whether Lizzy Grant as a singer-songwriter has a chance at success.  But as Lana del Rey, so far her musical production has produced the same effect that her personality projects: hazy boredom and disappointed sadness.

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Responses

  1. She looks like a Slytherin version of Hermione. It finally came to me, after weeks of not being able to put my finger on it.

    • Wow, I’m never going to be able to un-see that.


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