Note: We here at The Rotation thought we’d get a two-sided look at LDR’s latest album. This second installment is the negative review, written by Stephen Choi:
Saturation is a strange thing. It’s pervasive, it’s insistent, you turn around and its there, glaring right back at you. It craves the battle cry of the public; it fuels itself on both anger and love. So, it isn’t surprising how the static overload of Lana Del Rey’s dividing ascent has seized the attention of Georgetown’s various news outlets; only furthering the divvying momentum of her latest album, Born to Die.
But let’s remove all of this static for just a moment. Forget her well-broadcasted crucifixion, her vapid but noble performances, and her hype-insistent music videos. And for God sake, lets move that way considering those twitter-trending lips. Instead, we’ll isolate Lana, and believe that Born to Die snuck up on us like the next Radiohead album drop.
Yes, I’ve read her album reviews. And I make this odd request after watching her alter ego spread eagle on a carving board, repeatedly dismembered piece by piece. Certainly, it is difficult to disregard all of Lana’s tumultuous activities that have led up to this release. However, within this article, let us try to absorb her newest album for what it is: an album.
Upon a quick but uninterrupted first listen, Born to Die is filled with cooing images of sex, makeup and smoke. It’s straightforward. And like a tommy gun strung across her chest, Lana Del Rey lyrically riddles this album with clichés of romance, heartbreak, and desire. While the lyrics had me searching for a spark of some emotional ignition, the variation and bounce of the tunes here demand recognition of a decent effort.
However, the melodies can only do so much here. The album lines itself like a pulse attempting to be revived. With a dangerous dip early on, Born to Die tries to recover with some high points later on. “Dark Paradise” and “Radio”, two songs listed back to back, were nice surprises that were quickly overshadowed by impatient anticipation. Despite lines like “There’s no relief, I see you in my dreams / and everybody’s rushing me, but I can feel you touching me” forming fantasy expressions of lustful desire, the vocals never push its boundaries in conjunction with the emotion that is elicited. In “Radio”, there’s a momentary glimpse of a Lana in true form. Shades of cocky, flashy, confident are neatly wrapped up in lyrics such as ‘Now my life is sweet like cinnamon / Like a fucking dream I’m living in / Baby love me cause I’m playing on the radio / (How do you like me now?)’ Lana takes control, but then she releases, allowing the arrangement to just become more of an irresolute tease.
And when Born to Die hits bottom, it hits it hard. “Video Games” has the vocal energy of a lullaby, establishing a mellowness that makes a shrug at it seem like an effort. And “National Anthem” thrives on predictability with lyrics like “money is the anthem / of success / everybody knows it / it’s a fact, kiss kiss”. The effort here is completely absent, the vocal beat, everywhere, the song is not boring, it’s downright disappointing.
Concerning the other tracks, “Million Dollar Man” just helplessly reminds me a lot of Don Draper (not necessarily a bad thing). In the song, there is some smoothness and hurt all rolled into Lana’s bluesy vocal vibe. However, with “Diet Mountain Dew”, the lyrics contain so much inane repetition that it would make a Black Eyed Peas’ single cower in fear. And the final track, “Summertime Sadness”, closes out the album with an ending shyer and softer than the faintest whimper.
With its songs, Born to Die is an album that attempts to diversify itself from the current display hall of pop divas crushing today’s charts. The album itself has faired well, holding the number one position on the iTunes Top Ten Albums list. However, dropping shimmering images of classic Americana and tinkering with a sex infused American dream hasn’t really gotten the album anywhere of any thematic significance. Instead, it leaves the acute listener wondering about all the noise and hype produced in the past few months. Just like the occasional argument sparked by some petty, insignificant jab, with Lana Del Rey’s debut album Born to Die, I find myself wondering: Is this really it?