Six months ago, nobody knew who Lana Del Rey was. Last October she released a grainy self-made music video for her single, “Video Games,” and the Internet exploded into a Lana Del Rey shrine. But, like a dysfunctional relationship, the adulation rapidly descended into suspicion, and Del Rey’s shrine crumbled into a mean heap of ridicule and backlash all before her debut album, Born To Die, was even released.
Now the album is out and Lana Del Rey, whose real name is Elizabeth “Lizzy” Grant, remains the most talked about artist on the Internet.
Born To Die, a strange musical concoction, begins with the title track, “Born To Die.” The introduction eases in with a triumphant arrangement of strings before sliding right into Del Rey’s signature deep, breathy croon. The song reveals a raw honesty as Del Rey introduces the plea, “Don’t make me sad / Don’t make me cry / Sometimes love is not enough / And the road gets tough / I don’t know why.” Unfortunately, that honesty loses its way as the album progresses.
Instead, we quickly shift into a Lolita tribute with the subsequent, “Off to the Races.” Although the track starts off intriguingly dark, it falls limp and turns obnoxious as Del Rey whimpers about being a misbehaving harlot.
The songs, which mesh orchestration superimposed on hip-hop beats with twangy guitars, unravel confusingly. Just like the themes that float throughout Del Rey’s lyrics — fame, youth, love and glitter — the album takes on a fickle form, bouncing back and forth from beautiful to borderline tacky.
Luckily, “Video Games” remains a highlight. The introduction, filled with bells that blend into harp and piano, beautifully accentuates Del Rey’s longing voice. It’s the reminder for why “Born to Die” and “Video Games” brought Del Rey instant recognition — their subtlety allows them to be youthful without being obnoxious.
Tracks like “National Anthem” showcase Del Rey’s stilted rapping with the contrived lines “Money is the anthem of success / So before we go out, what’s your address?” The rest of the tune’s lyrics follow suit, overflowing with vapid materialism without the melody to sustain them.
For a moment, Born To Die comes incredibly close to offering social commentary with “This Is What Makes Us Girls,” as Del Rey claims, “This is what makes us girls / We don’t stick together ‘cause we put love first.” The moment lasts for a whole 30 seconds before reminding us that the song is actually about a bunch of high school girls drinking “Pabst Blue Ribbon on ice.”
Perhaps the most confusing part about Born to Die is that even its terrible parts come off as parodies of themselves. Is Del Rey being serious when she croons, “Boy, you’re so dope / Your love is deadly”? Or is this intentionally campy? It’s hard to tell.
Nevertheless, Lana Del Rey remains the Internet’s favorite person to talk about. There’s something about her strange persona that piques the curiosity. Whatever it may be, Lana Del Rey has managed to burst into fame, muddle through the ridicule, come out with an album and still live to put on a private show at Amoeba Music.
Who’s to say all hope for Lana Del Rey is dead?