REVIEW: Lana Del Rey – Born to Die
by Winston "Stone" Ford
I had an interesting conversation with a friend the other day. Essentially we wondered if we compared the digital ink between Lana Del Rey (this year’s buzzed act) versus Odd Future (last year’s buzzed act) who would win. It would probably be close.
But like it or not, “buzz” exists to do one thing. Sell music. You’re nothing unless your music is bought by the adoring masses, and sometimes digital ink dosen’t transfer to physical acceptance.
So again I ask, forget the distractions, how is the MUSIC?
Honestly, if you liked Del Rey before then you ‘re in luck, as the entire album follws the same neo-vintage structure as her blog classics “Video Games” and “Blue Jeans”. If you don’t like Del Rey, however, then you will find more to gripe about. I stand somewhere in the middle.
First off, the concept and production are what make this album. The selection of Emilie, the mastermind producer behind Kid Cudi’s sound provides this album with a decent combination of vintage vibes set to a hip-hop template. Emilie creates lush backgrounds–vintage twangs here, some downtempo strings there–to set the scene of what I would figure to be a sad Midwestern transplant living the life in the big city. It’s emoness is almost the female antithesis to what a Cudi or Drake album would be like, and Del Rey delivers some songs with such swagger (check “National Anthem) that it could almost pass for a hip-hop album.
But unfortunately this album falls short. The production which was so great by track 5, gets week and repetitive towards the end of the album. In fact, I almost felt like the same strings and twangs were being reused over and over again at the same measures. Every song has the same tempo with no variation. The album only has 12 songs but it feels like 20, and there is only so much “Hollywood sadcore” (her words, not mine) a dude can take.
But the real problem with this album lies with Del Rey herself. Even though the character has developed as an alter ego, Del Rey has no defined persona. The lyricism comes off as contrived, and the project lackes depth beyond the first few songs. The lyrics are engineered to push buttons and create emotions more than anything, but these emotions that are simply not there. Tracks like “This Is What Makes Us Girls,” with it’s references to drinking PBR and running from the cops while dressed in bikini tops come off like a bad mashup of John Mellencamp and Ke$ha.
I get it. The fact that Lana Del Rey is disconnected is the reason we are supposed to connect with her. But that ascetic isn’t reached here.
Having that said, there is a lot to build on in the album. The LDR concept is a good one, and do think she can be a breath of fresh air in the pop music scene. But unfortunately, she’s not ready yet. Both her album and stage performance is lacking. It’s nothing a few months of retooling won’t fix, but in this fast-paced world will we give her that time and allow her to grow?