Lana Del Rey - Born to Die Review

Lana Del Rey's solo album is a resounding confirmation of substance, alongside style.

rating: 4

Lana. Del. Rey. Three little words which, over this past year, have come to gain a gravitas beyond their minute stature. This album - Del Rey's debut - is then a full stop at the end of a story that the build up, the hype and the controversy have been writing for her. And yet, given the full stop, the story isn€™t over yet. Lana (Elizabeth Grant) came to this release riding inside a snowball that started rolling with the appearance of Video Games online, and its subsequent release. That self-made promo of found footage and recordings, introduced the world to Lana€™s mix of classic Hollywood, high-class, glamour and a grittier blue-collar Americana and when it appeared online it quickly caused a storm. Most importantly though, it also introduced her music. Regardless of everything else that surrounded this snowball, adding to it on its way, if the initial roll wasn€™t as good as it was, then it wouldn€™t have rolled anywhere near as far as it has, or indeed picked up the unwanted baggage that it did. "Video Games" was a great song and thanks to the internet it gained the attention it deserved: blogshare upon blogshare upon reblog, youtube view upon youtube view upon upload upon link on friends€™ Facebooks. This seemingly sudden fruition drew out the sceptics who called foul and cried manufactured. Those who traced her life and found out Daddy was well off; those who focused more on her pouting lips, and whether they were real, than on the music and those who saw fit to resurrect her previous attempts at a music career to mock, neglecting the fact that this displayed that she had been putting the work in for a number of years before quelling those manufactured rumours. Of course, all of this could be the exquisitely well orchestrated plan all along, but, for the sake of this review, let€™s focus on the music. http://youtu.be/Bag1gUxuU0g Born to Die introduces the album of the same name. Sitting perfectly as an opening track, it rises and swells and showcases the mix of styles that make up this album: the melancholic strings of the 50s and 60s that you€™d find Nancy Sinatra or Dusty Springfield playing around, underpinned by beats that verge on trip hop, electronic flourishes and a production that seems sparse yet is full, with vocals pushed to the front so that you can€™t escape the lyrics that take you from the Ritz to rubble through heartache and the dark side of classic Hollywood. As a follow up to Video Games, I didn€™t rate its chances but as the starting batter, it sits best. If "Born to Die" and "Video Games" lay a similar frame, Off to the Races shows you another side, especially in Lana€™s vocal performance. Here we get a backing that brings the beat further to the fore coming across nearer hip hop and R€™n€™B, but still maintaining that classic swelling score to really make the rises rise. Then the vocal delivery displays a very gifted vocal performer; taking the low husky purr we€™re already familiar with and adding sections of rhythmic fast paced delivery. A breathy strain, a smooth singing voice and giggling sugary playing up to of the songs heroine, the gangster€™s moll with a dirty past. http://youtu.be/A6x3lRu0eHg Blue Jeans varies up the instrumentation and really pushes that smouldering romanticising of youthful love and lust, holding onto the classic imagery €˜it was like James Dean€™ but basing it in the now: €˜you were so punk rock and I grew up on hip hop.€™ Portraying love as hurtful and burning, mean and yearning, and ultimately ending in heartache, all the while unashamedly displaying how twee it can be €˜you fit me better than my favourite sweater.€™ Building to its heady and hurt-fuelled climax, heartbroken but still in love €˜I will love €˜til the end of time, I would wait a million years, promise that you€™ll remember your mine, baby can you sleep through the tears.€™ A particularly passionate vocal performance flicking between almost Kate Bush-style, breathy desperation and low-toned despair. The album really embraces that hip hop undercurrent with Diet Mountain Dew, laying down a solid beat and backing with a twinkling piano that slips between classic 60s and modern R€™n€™B, taking a hedonistic love story to the streets of New York city at night and at its most glamorous. This strides right through into National Anthem, a tongue-in-cheek self-glorification with its sloganeering of the importance of money, its sex, its drugs and Lana claiming to be America itself. It all comes across in delivery like Madonna in her 80s' prime. Million Dollar Man comes towards the end of the end of the album, and is a standout track well worth the wait. Sailing successfully on its subdued subtlety that makes its ending all the more powerful and soaring. Lana delivers a beautifully broken, bitter and desperate performance of the song€™s broken heart atop a lustful and equally broken jazz swing, all piano and strings and production noise. Reminiscent of Milla Jovovich€™s Rocket Collecting and Puscifer's Rev 22:20, but the spirit swigging, chain smoking sibling; frequenter of doomed relationships and high end cocktails bars where there€™s always a piano to sprawl over and sing. The album is a resounding confirmation of substance, alongside style. Regardless of what surrounds Lana Del Rey, her past and present, she has delivered a confident and quietly brilliant debut that will silence and infuriate the detractors in equal measure, it may well even convert them. This is not a perfect album; it could be argued that though the songs vary, they€™re variations on a theme and that some of the tracks lull in comparison to others. What this album is though, is proof that Lana Del Rey isn€™t perfect, but that she may well achieve or come close to it, if we let her. Lana Del Ray's new album Born To Die is available from Monday
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Life's last protagonist. Wannabe writer. Mediocre Musician. Over-Thinker. Medicine Cabinet. @morganrabbits