After her ridiculed Jan. 14performance on Saturday Night Live (SNL), Lana Del Rey has been the subject of heatedcontroversy in the popculture universe.
Building up steam since the viral release of her single “Video Games,” displaying both her blisteringly unique vocal style and head-turning looks, the expectations for her debut album have been sky-high.
The album, “Born to Die,” is a victim of bad timing. People have formed harsh opinions on Del Rey after only a handful of singles and live performances, in the form of everything from the authenticity of her pouty lips to catty investigations into her family’s wealth.
She didn’t underperform on SNL because she lacks talent. Her nerves cracked under the pressureof everyone rooting for her to fall from her pedestal of hype. Ifanything, “Born to Die” proves that she is a genuine talent that may have been spoiled by the harshness of the Facebookgeneration.
The album opens with the sweeping title track that perfectlycaptures the sound that Del Rey first introduced with “Video Games.” She sings in asweltering croon reminiscent of Nancy Sinatra that simply isn’t heard in music today. Her melodies are haunting and provide a dark romanticism most contemporary female superstars wouldn’t dare dip their toes into. This track is proof of why people became so entranced by Del Rey in thefirst place.
The second track, “Off To the Races,” displays a whole other side to her sound that her various YouTube demos only hinted at. She takes on a breathy Marilyn Monroe chirp over a mid-’90ship-hop radio beat. This is the track that puts a gangsta twist on her established Sinatratribute sound that reverberatesthroughout the album.
This is an unexpected departure that may rub a fewlisteners the wrong way at first. She opts to create fun, throwbackpop songs reminiscent of early Pink or Britney Spears that provide a flip side to her moremelancholy viral hits.
These two sounds marry one another in “Blue Jeans,” which is basically Del Rey campaigning to perform the theme to the next James Bond film. It has all the trappings of a ’60s pop ballad with heavy spy movie guitar notes.
Tracks like “Diet Mountain Dew” and “National Anthem” expand upon her more playful side with bouncing beats and lyrics about men with weakmorals and fast cars.
The album hits its peak by the eighth track with “Radio,” which starts out as a ballad and ends as a borderline rap beat. It fully reassures the listener that Del Rey knows exactly what she’s doing despite the slightly risky musical path she takes. Sadly, she can’t keep it up with the remaining six tracks.
Her favorite lyrical theme of good girls falling for bad men simply gets tiring and makes one wish she had cut out at least five tracks. It feels like she’s racing to the finish line with the uninspired “Carmen” and “Summertime Sadness,” both heavily repetitious and sounding like tacked-on bonus tracks.
This painful final string of songs is the classic mistake made on most artists’ first albums and is usually forgiven. Unfortunately with Del Rey, she can’t afford to be anything less than perfect after the deafening buzz that her Internet success created.
It’s unfair, but it seems the world is out to get Del Rey. Liveperformances recorded andposted on YouTube show that she has a stage presence that melted under the intimidating SNL stage lights. She rose up too fast, and this album would’ve been better suited to a quieter release as she gets more comfortable with the public’s gaze.
We all may have asked too much from Del Rey, but “Born to Die” shows that she’s a unique talent that deserves to be further developed. Hopefully, she won’t take after the James Dean-type character she often mentions in her songs and burn out tooquickly.