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Album Review: Lana Del Rey – Born To Die

Photo: Wonderland Magazine

Lana Del Rey has been stealing a fair bit of attention this year from critics and music lovers around the globe as she found her stunning is-it-a-debut-or-not, ‘Video Games’, bothering the charts and taking over Youtube. Follow that up with the gorgeous, atmospheric honesty of ‘Born To Die’ and, as the old cliche goes, a star is born.

In contrast to the media perception of Del Rey, something a quick google search will flag up, her main charm is her honesty. ‘Born To Die’ has come under fire from many due to it’s questionable lyrics and addiction to simile – ‘take me like a vitamin’, ‘my life is sweet like vanilla is’ and ‘shinin’ like lightning’ to name just a few. Arguably, we’re not dealing with the next Shakespeare here, but Del Rey speaks with a relatable voice; she talks about the places people know, the emotions each of them are bound to feel and the images that they conjure in their own minds. Not many people compose an elaborate metaphor when they feel euphoric and nor should they need to; the simplicity and the charm of breakthrough track ‘Video Games’ is spilled through each and every composition and if that’s not enough then the occasional, understated moments of magnificence (‘Lets take Jesus off the dashboard, got enough on his mind’) should help you through.

One track that is likely to grab your attention is the majestic and  glorious ‘National Anthem’ that aptly adheres to the anthemic suggestions of it’s title. Crying out to be a single, it’s hooks are the finest you’re likely to hear all year and the addictive chorus is sure to be on the lips of indie and pop fans come summer 2012. On the subject of summer, ‘Radio’ brings a warmth to the album and takes things down a little from the explosive approach that many of the other tracks succeed with. Along with ‘Diet Mountain Dew’, Del Rey’s upbeat side kicks in and brings a welcome relief from the tales of disappointment that surround them. 

As Stereogum rightly pointed out, there are a few similarities to the divine Fiona Apple, particularly in the vocal delivery of the luscious ‘Million Dollar Man’  and it’s her touching performance on this album that elevates it above her peers’. Moving from the mischievous chatting in ‘Off To The Races’ to the teary-eyed conviction evident in the title track. ‘Born To Die’ doesn’t rely on a voice, however, as the soaring soundscapes of ‘Carmen’ and ‘Lolita’ prove. The latter has transformed from the feisty demo track into a bombastic arrangement that truly sets all guns blazing. Granted, it would’ve been nicer if it was more uptempo, alike it’s original form, but the current production is so pristine you can see Lana’s smouldering features reflected in it.

Sitting beside ‘Lolita’, the remaining bonus tracks are as good, if not better, than the material on the standard edition. ‘Lucky Ones’ is a touching ode to love, whilst ‘Without You’ takes things to an obsessive level, upping the sentiment tenfold. Team these bonus tracks with the plethora of tunes that Lana has yet to officially release and it’s evident that ‘Born To Die’ isn’t tossed together by a pretty girl that got lucky but, rather, a skilled writer whose ideas have been executed with stunning results.

Del Rey often states her intention with ‘Born To Die’ was to create something beautiful, so if your definition of beauty equates to a set of honest lyrics delivered atop a mesmerising wave of orchestral arrangements afforded such passion that they’re hard to ignore, it looks like her mission has been accomplished.

Oh and whilst I draw this review to a close, I’d like to add that it was an honour to be one the first reviews not to mention the Saturday Night Live performance; believe me, it’s easier than it seems.

Photo: Wonderland Magazine
Words: Simon McMurdo

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