Whether you love her or hate her, chances are you have a strong opinion of 25-year-old singer Lana Del Rey. Self-described as a “gangsta Nancy Sinatra”, she created a buzz in the later half of 2011 when she began self-posting videos of her songs on Youtube. Since then, she has been surrounded by a mixture of hype and backlash, including her notorious SNL performance, much gossiped-about plump limps and out-of-nowhere rise to fame. It seems like Lana just can’t catch a break.
But not everything you see or read about Del Rey is critical. Her striking face has graced the covers of Billboard, Interview, British Vogue and Complex- just to name a few, while her musical stylings have been compared to Adele, Florence and the Machine, Cat Power and Fiest. Her first full-length on Interscope, “Born to Die” was released worldwide on January 21, 2012.
According to Billboard.com, “Born to Die” made it to No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard 200 album chart, making it the highest entry for a female artist’s full-length major label debut since “America’s Got Talent” winner Jackie Evancho’s “Dream with Me” in July 2011. Not to mention the album has debuted at number one in seven other countries. The album opens up with the self-titled track “Born to Die”, a song showcasing Del Rey’s deeper vocals. This song has an incredible cinematic effect (shown perfectly in the music video), with lyrics such as “Come and take a walk on the wild side/ Let me kiss you hard in the pouring rain/ You like your girls insane” evoking sexual and romantic imagery.
“Off to the Races”, a chatty, higher-pitched tune is more annoying than catchy, but thankfully the lyrics and vocal prowess in “Blue Jeans” makes up for it. Tied for my favorite song off the album, it’s easy to see the widespread appeal of “Video Games”- the song that launched Del Rey into internet stardom. I can’t hear this song without picturing her pouty-lipped music video, so she must be doing something right!
While the lyrics may seem simple and even silly at times, it’s very relatable for most girls who have been or are in a shitty, one-sided relationship. The album is infused with a little 90’s hip-hop in “Diet Mtn Dew” and the quirky “Lolita”, although neither are stand-out tracks. On the opposite spectrum, “Dark Paradise” and “Million Dollar Man” feature a slower tempo and mood, but are easily forgotten in the lineup of other more memorable songs. A stand-out track (tied with the previously mentioned “Video Games”), “National Anthem” sums up Lana Del Rey’s image almost perfectly. Hands down, it is the best chorus on the record, “Red, white, blue’s in the skies/Summer’s in the air and baby, heaven’s in your eyes/ I’m your National Anthem.” It’s almost impossible not to sing along.
Other notable tracks include “Radio”, a song dedicated to all the haters. With lyrics like “Now my life is sweet like cinnamon/ Like a fucking dream I’m living in/ Baby love me ’cause I’m playing on the radio”, it’s hard not to love her. “Summertime Sadness” was made for blasting in your car during the warmer months, while “This is What Makes Us Girls” is a nostalgic tune about booze, boys and bitches that will make you feel like part of Lana’s clique. The album ends with “Lucky Ones” a love song with lyrics so corny, they’re actually endearing. “I got so scared, I thought no one could save me/ You came along scooped me up like a baby.”
I’m not going to say “Born to Die” is worthy of an “Album of the Year” status, but I will say it is a solid major-label debut with catchy pop hooks, haunting melodies, and a sensual, unique voice. A few of the tracks could have easily been cut (15 seems like a lot), but there are still a good chunk of stand-out songs that could successfully be marketed as future singles. Del Rey’s voice is haunting beautiful, with a mixture of highs and lows that pair perfectly with her sassy, nostalgic and sensual lyrics.