Lana Del Rey is in what one might call popularity limbo as the release date of her first full length album arrives. Following the buzz of her initial musical output in 2011, Lana was dubbed one of the singers to look out for in 2012. The hype surrounding her seemed to match that of Adele just a year earlier. However, her much-publicized and criticized Saturday Night Live appearance brought everything to a halt at the most critical point, mere weeks before the release of the record Born To Die. So much so that her chance at mainstream success could be tarred by that one performance before she even has a chance to begin. Is there a way for Lana to fix it? I think there is. What she needs to do is do another prime-time performance that is so incredible, there’s no way everyone can’t be won over. Of course, this task may be nearly impossible as her critics may be looking for any and every opportunity to point out her flaws. Despite earning name-recognition, most of it is surrounded by negative reviews. It’s an uphill battle but one I’m taking personal interest in to see whether she can overcome and how.
Of course, the saying all press is good press may also work here. Her name is perhaps one of the most recognizable amongst newcomers in music at the moment so if anything, the curiosity factor is there. So even if the live performance on SNL bombed, maybe there’s something more in the recorded work. Curiosity worked on me so I decided to give Born To Die a chance.
In using one word to describe the record, dreamy might be what comes to mind. But it’s such a limiting word as a quality that really only applies to a couple of tracks, and even then, only musically. Essentially, what Born To Die is made of is the fusion of dreamy, ambient pop with electronic and hip-hop influences. At first, it’s refreshing to hear so many styles blended together but eventually, this mix feels forced and awkward as the album goes on. It’s as if this style was kept for songs that didn’t necessarily need this blend and wasn’t suitable in the best interest of those songs. In a sense, it’s part of an effort to try to come off as being edgy, more so than she needs to be, such as with Radio.
Some of the best examples of this blend of musical fusion come with the new single, and title track Born To Die, which has a curious beat that cuts through the floor of strings supporting Lana’s reverberated vocals. When listening to this song for the first few times, the arrangement of the words in the pre-chorus reminded me of a song that I couldn’t quite put my finger on… and I had to wreck my brain for days before I realized it was Laughing With by Regina Spekter. I might be the only one to ever notice that but I thought it was a neat comparison.
Without limiting myself to just one word, describing Lana Del Rey might involve saying she is the vocal-twin of Nicole Atkins, along with her dreamy musical backdrop mixed with a hint of M.I.A., as seen in National Anthem, topped off with the sauciness of Kate Nash as channeled through Nellie McKay as is heard in Off To The Races. That’s a mouthful!…resulting in a record that doesn’t have as much life as one would expect with so many sounds combined into one. There are times when Lana sounds bored and disinterested. The aforementioned National Anthem might be the album’s best song and should be the focus of this new artist rather than trying to break into the American mainstream with ambient pop songs like Video Games. Lana has strengths that are met on this album. They just don’t necessarily coincide with the same audiences that were won over last year by Adele’s vocals. In time.
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