Album Review: Lana Del Rey, “Born to Die” (Interscope)
Comment section trolls with Eminem and Jay-Z in their collections tore Lana Del Rey to shreds for inventing a persona, critics who praise Lady Gaga for high-concept theatrics stomped on the former Lizzy Grant for draping herself in artificiality, and an idiotic debate raged about whether an artist signed to Interscope was truly “indie.” That’s not even counting all the shrill, mean-girl hatred aimed directly at Del Rey’s lips. All this extraneous blather, both before and after Del Rey’s weak-sauce performance on “Saturday Night Live,” muddies the water on whether “Born to Die” has any genuine life in it.
The absolute honest truth is that “Born To Die” was born at the right time in 2012, released in the early first quarter when movie studios dump their most exploitative horror bombs and most manipulative romances, and Del Rey has a whole lot of both in her. “Video Games,” the single that first earned Del Rey deserved attention, succeeded because it straddled the line between old-world Hollywood glamour and a severe case of David Lynchian creeps, but quality control falls off precipitously from there. “National Anthem,” containing the bona fide groaner “Money is the reason we exist/ everybody knows that it’s a fact — kiss kiss,” is too clunky to work as effective social criticism and insufficiently clever to operate as irony. The sonorous delivery on “Video Games” and the opening lines of the luxury rap pastiche “Off to the Races” get supplanted by baby-doll cooing on echo-laden dance-pop love songs such as “Diet Mountain Dew” and “Radio” that leave Del Rey sounding like Britney Spears trapped in a well.
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