“The plastic queen of manufactured indie,” some would call her… not that there’s anything wrong with that. Yes, this review is in defence of Lana Del Rey. JUICE has never been a huge fan of hers but it amuses us to see the backlash she’s been getting as of late. Perhaps clueless hipsters felt betrayed that someone saw the skin-deep appeal of hipsterdom – retro necromancy, vague hip hop reverence, faux-rebellion (tamed here with the omission of “f*ck you hard under the pouring rain”) – and exploited their naiveté. We would be just as angry had we cared about keeping it real, or some abstract notion of musique vérité, but pop music is often time a carefully constructed lie. In that perspective, Born to Die is a pretty entertaining lie, much like Johnny Rotten and Tupac were.
Starting off strong with a string of tracks you’ve probably heard of before (‘Born to Die’, ‘Off to the Races’, ‘Blue Jeans’, and ‘Video Games’), the album trails off to songs that never stray too far away from the blueprint set by those four. Some succeeded greatly, such as the case with ‘National Anthem’, whose name lives up to its glorious string (you might recognise the sample). The same goes to the obnoxiously ironic Americana-titled ‘Diet Mountain Dew’ and ‘Dark Paradise’, both of which are epically melodious. In fact, Born to Die might just be too grand in its melody that they undermine Lana Del Rey’s lyrics.
While that sounds like a flaw, it actually works wonders to hide what we think is the album’s main weakness – her lyrical content. With the exception of the title track, a pop music accomplishment in our opinion, Elizabeth Grant never sounds quite as convincing as Lana Del Rey – from the hilariously white girl-appropriated hip hop slang to the forced swearing to her almost adorable romance novel one-liners.
This brings us to another point, is Lana Del Rey a Madonna or a Ziggy Stardust? The former being a reinvention addict, but always staying true to a consistent character, while the latter can be completely separated from David Bowie, Ziggy is a fictional character. Lana Del Rey comes off as too much of a one-off thing to be something Elizabeth would stick with longer than one album, any more it would be gimmicky. But then again she is committed enough to botox her lips.
Regardless, Born to Die proves that Elizabeth clearly has pop music acumen. With good production over one of the more interesting voices in years (we’d like to think her SNL performance wasn’t representative of her vocal chops), the album is a promising debut of an artist who knows what’s in now. Maybe a bit obvious in her pandering – “Pabst Blue Ribbon on ice…” she whispers sexily on ‘This is What Makes Us Girls’ – no wonder former fans feel so stupid after discovering Lana Del Rey is an image.
Perhaps all of us are giving too much thought into her image in relation to her worthiness as an artist. Born to Die might not be a great album, and it’s not the debut of a morose indie singer-songwriter hipsters thought it would be. It is, however, a worthier pop album than anything Gaga has ever done.
LISTEN TO: ‘Born to Die’ ‘Video Games’ ‘National Anthem’
IF YOU LIKE THIS YOU’LL DIG: Nicola Roberts, Florence + The Machine, Marina & The Diamonds
1. BORN TO DIE
2. OFF TO THE RACES
3. BLUE JEANS
4. VIDEO GAMES
5. DIET MOUNTAIN DEW
6. NATIONAL ANTHEM
7. DARK PARADISE
10. MILLION DOLLAR MAN
11. SUMMERTIME SADNESS
12. THIS IS WHAT MAKES US GIRLS
Sip on some haterade at lanadelrey.com.