Lana Del Rey may come off like a pretentious chit in her interviews and TV appearances, but Born to Die is a gorgeous effort that makes baroque pop less of a pretentious label and more of a… well, nice music. There is an attractive duality to the songs here – the production values and Ms Del Rey’s sultry alto go very well together in making many of these songs oddly quaint modern pop beats served in a classy retro style that brings to mind Nancy Sinatra and Brigitte Bardot, but the lyrics brings to mind the vapid doodling of a teenage girl who overreaches to sound profound and deep.
It’s a love story for the new age
For the six page
We’re on a quick sick rampage
Wining and dining
Drinking and driving
Overdose and dyin’
On our drugs and our love
And our dreams and our rage
Oh, okay, Miss Thing. It’s really a good thing that the song where the above came from, National Anthem, is a catchy song that makes it so easy to overlook the ridiculous efforts by the artist to sound complex and smart.
Blue Jeans manages to be stormy and sensual all at once, while Video Games is a beautiful haunting ballad – a heartbreaking one, too, if I listen closely to the words, heh. The title track is easily the best song here – it’s a majestic anthem with a slow build-up that leads to a sultry and sensual chorus. On all the tracks here, Ms Del Rey sounds like she’s either too bored to too cool for human emotions. The contrast between her icy vocals and the moody production values creates a sense of dissonance that actually works to give the songs a sense of desolation. It’s like listening to the bored warbling of a night club singer at 3 am and being struck by the sight because one is fascinated by what hidden anger and frustrations she may be keeping on a tight leash inside her head.
Born to Die is, in many ways, an album that is carefully crafted out of smoke and mirrors. Lyrically, the songs are inept and hollow. But the productions work around this flaw to create tracks that resonate with me nonetheless, perhaps because Ms Del Ray’s icy alto, like Suzanne Vega’s, gives each song a distinctly angry or melancholic undercurrent that makes each one a fascinating listen. Lana Del Ray is like a pupa – time will tell if she comes Tori Amos during her glorious the angry years or just another pretentious singer that creates a legend for herself that ends up being far bigger than her music. Until then, it may be fascinating to see what she will do next.