Album Review: Lana Del Rey — 'Born To Die'
It's been a minute since I've had the motivation to write. Don't get me wrong, I have the urge almost everyday, but just no motivation. Finally, I had the idea of starting to do album reviews. Why, you ask? Well, a couple of reasons actually: it's good practice (or practice, nonetheless) and it's inspired by my most prevalent passion — music. I chose to kick off my album review posts with Lana Del Rey's major label debut 'Born To Die.'
If the haunting production or the apocalyptic-esque lyrics of the record's intro, the title track, wasn't enough to grasp your undivided attention, you're probably just deaf, to put it bluntly. The fearless and cinematically-adventurous ballad sets the tone for the rest of the album, as Del Rey's dark and sultry register glides through the production-heavy (but not over-the-top) tracks, and as she confesses the stories of a troubled girl living on the "dark side of the American Dream."
She makes it pretty damn clear her desire for true love in standout tracks such as "Blue Jeans," seemingly about a tainted love affair with an aspiring musician. It refreshingly tells the cliché story of opposites attracting and falling in love, and we eventually see Lana being caught an unrequited and potentially dangerous relationship. "Love you more, than those bitches before," she un-apologetically sings. The hip-hop influences can be clearly distinguished, and the progressing bridge features a distressed Lana who acknowledges her "ride or die" characteristic, ultimately soaking us in to her lovesick, sugar-coated frustration.
Aside from this, Del Rey also manages to tap into the semi-shallow and realistically-materialistic side that all of us possess. She boldly yet softly affirms her infatuation for the finer things in life, declaring "money is the anthem of success" on "National Anthem" and craving for "dope and diamonds" on songs such as "Diet Mountain Dew." The fast-paced "Off to the Races," which depicts a seductive femme fatale with a "Las Vegas past" on a quest for gold coins, cases of Bacardi chasers, and her one true love (yes, all in one single track), show us another side of Lana — a loyal, leather-laced and alcohol-influenced Coney Island Queen with a gem-encrusted imagination. After all, who wouldn't want to watch her slip on her red dress in a glassroom bathroom at the Chateau Marmont?
The album's highlights include all of the ones previously mentioned, as well as the captivating song that began the hype surrounding Lana Del Rey."Video Games" features hypnotizing chord progressions, equipped with a beautiful melody and lyrics that elaborate on the fulfillment of one finally being loved and having a life worth living. Despite this, it is incredibly hard to forget Lana's 'live fast, love hard, & die young' persona we begin to adapt on standout tracks such as the catchy "Summertime Sadness," where she sings "kiss me hard before you go" and "I'm feeling electric tonight / cruising down the coast goin' bout 99."
Emile Haynie produced the majority of the album, and you can easily hear similar production techniques in tracks from the catalogues of Haynie's previous collaborators, such as Eminem and Kid Cudi. The album is pretty cohesive in its overall structure and sound, though we tend to get lost and a bit overwhelmed with the gloomy and shallow feel of the album on dull moments such as the third-person omniscient narrative of "Carmen."
We are lightened up and reminded of her fortunate lifestyle on the subtle 'rags-to-riches, how-do-you-like-me-now?'-themed "Radio," and we begin to wonder how such a gorgeous female with what seems like all the glamour, dope and diamonds in the world — could still feel so "alone on the Friday nights." Whatever the reason, we are content with filling that grey area with the idea of finding that genuine and irreplaceable love we all vow for. We understand money, notoriety and rivieras can only fulfill so many wishes (explained by Lana in the beautiful bonus track "Without You" ), and those wishes that are the closest to our hearts tend to hurt the most when they aren't fulfilled.
Throughout the record, we begin to think she's hopelessly content with the emptiness her semi-fulfilled dreams and far-fetched depictions of reality give her, as she begins "glaring the lines between real and the fake" and differentiating the realities between her image and her inner being. In some way or another, I find myself relating to her.
All in all, the dark twisted fantasies, illusions and heartbreaks bluntly announced throughout the record make it nothing less than an almost-superbly-crafted pop album; one that could probably be deemed the 'diamond in the rough' in the depths of today's bubblegum pop music ocean.