Lana Del Rey – Born To Die

Lana Del Rey is a plasticised corporate puppet with the persona of an anti-feminist, vacuous waif. Or at least that is all that I have heard about Elizabeth Grant. Having only a vague notion about the rumours of her change of artistic redirection and interpretations of lyrical content, opting out of watching the now infamous SNL performance, I listened to Born To Die without having a strong opinion of her work and really, Born To Die is a decent record – perhaps not ground breaking or phenomenal but hardly disappointing.
The crux of the issue surrounding Born To Die is whether or not it is a thematic record set around the perspective of young women trying to deal with ideas of success and materialism, physicality and love or moments taken from her personal life which are reverent to the consumerist and sexualised nature of attainment. The intent of the artist is always at the back of peoples’ minds at some point and with lyrics like “Light of his life / Fire of his loins / Keep me forever / Tell me you own me / Light of your life / Fire of your loins / Tell me you own me / Gimme them coins,” you really do have to question the intent behind the album. At first listen I agreed with the ironic interpretation as a default (as if such blatant, degrading lyricism could be legitimate?). I still think this is the case but I am now well aware of why people are so divided about Lana Del Rey.

The opening track “Born To Die” acts as a raison d’être for the album, highlighting the notion that people are searching for happiness even though they realise mortality is nigh. It is one of the more honest tracks found on the record and elicits a bit of sympathy for the stories in the other songs. The sincerity derails with “Off To The Races” which is lathered in Americana, circling around a relationship solely based on sex and money. “Radio” is a stand out for being self-aware and vitriolic, making a jibe about the link between love and fame, one of the main reasons I believe that Grant is conscious of her artistic choices. “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 / [How do you like me now?]” 

Most tracks will keep you piqued, although your attention might peter out three quarters of the way through the album by its sheer length, with fifteen tracks and clocking in at an hour long in total. Musically the dreamscape, melancholic vibe with violin and piano, harmonies paired with dramatic arrangements now and again that hark back to the golden age of Hollywood is interspersed with some more modern pop sounding tracks like “Diet Mountain Dew” and “Lolita”. The constancy of the album sound-wise is a little bit dreary despite having that dulcet, wistful voice. The music side of Born To Die is not its strength; if it weren’t for the lyrics some tracks barely leave an impression on the listener.

With the furore surrounding Lana Del Rey at the moment you really do have to consciously go through the album and determine whether or not you think Born To Die is a naïve, horrifying glorification of female submission to men and money or if it is liberally slathered in irony, highlighting the dark side of modern day love and life and the travails of success. There is most likely a shade of grey which is closer to the truth but still, Born To Die is an interesting album either way.
by Mason Smith

February 1st 2012
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