Lana Del Rey – Born To Die (Interscope)

Oh boy, so much has already been written and said about the former Elizabeth Grant that it almost seems impossible to review her new album now that it is finally out. Everyone already seems to have an opinion of Lana’s talent, either from her single, Video Games, or from her various live appearances…Saturday Night Live in particular…or just simply her appearance. It’s difficult to form an opinion based solely on the music at this point.

And I suppose that is the point. Rarely do we make these decisions in a vacuum. Classic artists such as The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Elvis Presley all came with plenty of hype, backstory and self-mythologizing. All of that information bleeds into the brain while you’re listening to their music. So, Lana Del Rey is certainly entitled to reinvent herself as many times as she wants. David Bowie was admired for his ability to morph from one persona to the next. He changed his name after making a few early recoding, just as Del Rey has, and no one holds that against him 45 years later.

As for her SNL performance, it was pretty awful…but not a “shocker” as described by the NZ Herald. She didn’t fall over, forget lyrics or rip up a picture of the Pope, she was simply average. Much better is her more recent performance on David Letterman, but, of course, that hasn’t gotten as much press.

So, on to the album. Born To Die will probably not change anyone’s mind if they already have hard and fast opinions about Lana. Those who loved the haunting Video Games will find plenty more to latch on to. Those who think she is a no-talent product of media hype will also find something to confirm their already formed beliefs.

After listening to Born To Die, my feelings are mostly positive. Del Rey has constructed a fascinating character within these 12 songs. Some of it is well-worn cliché…she’s a bad girl who like bad boys…she contemplates living fast and dying young (and beautiful). There’s a reason stereotypes and clichés are used…they are often based on reality and, even more often, strike an emotional chord.

Probably the most original aspect of Lana Del Rey is her vocal style. She has a beautiful, sultry lower register which she mixes, sometimes abruptly with a thinner, baby doll-like higher pitch. Sometimes it works and sometimes is sounds affected, but it sounds uniquely like her.

Musically Lana’s lyrics are supported by lush strings and programmed beats. It’s not my favourite production choice, but it works alright in this context, although I’d like to hear her with a band playing behind her.

But there’s plenty of time for that. She’s only 25, this is her first album (as Lana Del Rey) and she’s done pretty well for herself so far.

I’m surprised she didn’t include her song Kinda Outta Luck on the album. From watching the video, it’s clear she’s having fun with her image and understands what she’s playing with. Plus it’s a cool song.

So, put me down on Lana’s side. Let’s hope she tours the planet and comes around to show us what she can to in a concert setting. I’ll be there.

Marty Duda

Click here to listen to Off To The Races from Born To Die

Click here to watch the video of Kinda Otta Luck