Album Review: “Born to Die”

Music Critic and Music Critic

Grade: B

By now you’ve probably heard all about the Internet backlash that Lana Del Rey has received in past months: plastic surgery rumors, questions surrounding her name change, her dismal SNL performance and now, overwhelming negative reception of her debut album, “Born to Die.”

While some of this backlash is warranted (her SNL performance was bad, but not nearly as awful as the Ashlee Simpson debacle a few years back) and her lips do look fake (who really cares?), Lana del Rey’s new album is easily one of the most intriguing pieces of popular music in some time.

Lana Del Rey is the anti-pop star. She’s beautiful, but strange looking. She has vocal talent, but has an affectionlessness in her voice. And she takes an extremely cynical approach to the pop music motif: sex, summer, drugs, alcohol, love and break ups.

What really makes Lana Del Rey’s sinister lyricism work is the extremely dark and moody backdrops provided by Emile (who is best known for his work with KiD CuDi).

The title track, which opens the album, has big, cinematic strings that perfectly complement Del Rey’s vocals. One of the more sparse tracks, “Video Games,” is one of the more beautiful moments of “Born to Die.”

Most of the tracks on the album are pretty mid-tempo (unlike most pop albums that contain mostly up-beat songs), which can be a put off to some, but “Born to Die” has a wonderful, if not depressing, atmosphere throughout.

One of the more upbeat songs on the album, “Off to the Races,” chronicles a love story between Lana who has a “Las Vegas past,” an “LA crass” and an older man who loves her with every beat of his “cocaine heart.”

“Born to Die” is not without big, sing along hooks. Tracks like the aforementioned “Off to the Races,” “Diet Mtn Dew” and “Summer Sadness” all have intoxicating hooks that will stay in your head constantly.

What makes Lana Del Rey such an interesting figure is how she’s pretty much the polar opposite of today’s pop artists like Rihanna, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and countless others.

Tracks like “Summer Sadness” and “Dark Paradise” flip some of pop music’s oldest and popular themes into extremely cynical and depressing oxymorons. Pop fans may not be as receptive to Del Rey as they are to many of today’s chart toppers.

“Born to Die” isn’t perfect and is definitely a polarizing album, but is a daring piece of music that will evoke strong feelings, whether positive or negative.