Born To Die
Madeleine Buisseret listens to everything but the lyrics on Lana Del Rey’s latest album, Born To Die.
Lana Del Rey, born Elizabeth Grant, took the music world by storm as her new album Born to Die became the fastest-selling album of 2012. But clouded by her much-talked about Saturday Night Live appearances, debates over voice talent and alleged lip surgery, it seems many people are forgetting about the raw music. So here we go.
Born to Die is a mix of dreamy Moby-eqsue hypnosis, soaring orchestral backing, jazzy ‘gangster Nancy Sinatra’ vocal style with a little bit of R&B and Indie thrown in too. Some call it a hot mess, but I think it shows self awareness. Rey seems to be promoting a character of a broken-hearted bad girl persona, falling in and out of love with the wrong men, bottle and dangling cigarette at the ready.
The most popular single ‘Video Games’ seems a waving salute to sexual innocence, and the song is brimming with tragic naivety. The music itself is very good; unpredictable and intruiging melodies coupled with Rey’s somewhat narcotic, lamenting vocals. This could however be a problem; it all sounds lamenting, every single song. The lyrics are heavy-handed, and after the umpteenth time of hearing about dresses being removed, brewing death and the ‘misunderstood beauty queen’ theme, that aspect can get a little tiresome.
So here’s an idea: forget the lyrics. This sounds silly, since many would say (myself included) that lyrics are as important as the music, but Rey may inadvertently be teaching us something here. Unlike the over-harvested chord progressions of chart hit squatters such as David Guetta or Katy Perry, Born to Die is packed with beautiful motifs. ‘National Anthem’ seems reminiscent of The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony, and may bloom as a summer hit. ‘Diet Mountain Dew’ feels casual and effortless. ‘Off To The Races’ has a sultry touch, strong R&B beats, and transfers Rey from vintage porcelain doll to sultry, lash-batting courtesan. ‘Summertime Sadness’ and ‘Dark Paradise’ have the same tedious themes, but the marching drums and Rihanna-style vocals in the former, and slow club-style of the latter is intriguing.
It’s true that Del Rey’s vocals may not have the power of other female artists, but the amount of criticism she has gotten for this has been unnecessary and over-reaching. Born To Die can be seen as shoving an unprepared newcomer into the spotlight, attempting to create a character she is not yet equipped to pull off. But on the other hand, there is so much thought behind the music, that even if the lyrics are monotone, the overall product still manages to be mysterious and mesmerising.