Born To Die, Lana Del Rey's debut, isn't terrible. Hell, it's actually sort of enjoyable. The title track "Born To Die," if you ignore the hipster-death-punk video, is a good enough. Even the candy-coated, vocally confusing "Off To The Races" isn't all that bad. The problem with Lana Del Rey doesn't really lie in her music. If this album had come out blind, her reviews would have been far more favorable. The music is interesting, if sometimes dispassionate and bland, and the lyrics, though sometimes wanky, are good too. No, the problem here isn't with the music. The problem is with the internet. And Del Rey's use of it to gain stardom. See, had "Video Games," "Blue Jeans" and "Diet Mountain Dew" not blown up as they did last summer, this album wouldn't have drawn the bile and ire it is now. Del Rey is prey to the old problem. She has over-promised and under-delivered, instead of adhering to the axiom's opposite advice. That's not her fault entirely. It's the fault of the machine in place here online that turned her into a sensation, when really, a tempered opinion would have been more appropriate. It is, as many have pointed out, the online world did this to Black Kids, another band who was loved for an EP and hated for an LP.
Is Born To Die good? No. It's reasonably decent. On the backs of the tracks we know, Del Rey is enjoyable. And complaints about her inability to sing, or at least demonstrate some Adele-esque range, are foolish. She's not a good singer. That's not the point. She's an image. She's the broken, childish, oversexed, lost and confused image of a generation of women and girls whose sexualities and personalities have become interchangeable. Del Rey isn't a good example. She's the weak, man-needing character that decades of liberation have tried to dissuade. If she's a parody, hooray. But I don't think she is. Still, it's not about her voice. It's not about the music. Her failure, at this point, hinges entirely on the promise we perceived and the disappointment we feel from overly raised expectations. It's a problem as old as time. There's nothing about Del Rey that is less concocted than Britney Spears, Katy Perry, or Rhianna. She's formulaic. She's normal. She's just not as talented. And her team didn't do as good a job for her as those of the respective pop starlets I just listed. And that's okay. Born To Die isn't great. And if not for all the press, it wouldn't have had to be.
Sure, the lyrics are alternately profound and cheesy. Sure, Del Rey's voice populates many ranges but none particularly well. But, claims that the music is inherently forgettable are unfair. The first half of the album is actually pretty memorable and solid. It's the second half that's the problem. And that's because, boom, fame, followed by a frantic rush to compile enough songs to fill and LP. It's not a good excuse, but pop artists have been forced to throw albums together for generations. Look at Beatles For Sale, and the Rolling Stones' Black and Blue. Not everything is a hit. I'm not saying Del Rey is on par with the greats either, but the glasses through which she was viewed switched from rose-colored to shit-tinted in 15 minutes. And in all fairness, songs like "National Anthem" are hackneyed and slack. Del Rey isn't great. She's hit-or-miss. Listen to Born To Die on Spotify. It's free there. And it's worth the experience. At least once.
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