Lana Del Rey's "Born to Die" Is To Die For
Issue   |   Wed, 12/05/2012 - 01:03
Image courtesy of open.eu
Del Rey is a symbol of old Hollywood glamour and a singer with a self-constructed image.

What determines our identity? Are we stuck with that with which we are born, a result of our environments and families, or do we have the ability to construct them anew? For Lana Del Rey, the answer is clearly the latter. Born Elizabeth Grant in New York City, the 26-year old singer grew up in Lake Placid until she was shipped off to boarding school at the age of 14 to deal with her alcohol addiction. Although born into a family of means, Del Rey continuously presents herself as struggling and eternally isolated. This discrepancy has caused many to challenge the persona she showcases in her lyrics and videos. However, the crooner has indeed survived her fair share of trying personal experiences and makes a large effort to expose herself to others through her passionate involvement with community service, specifically through homeless outreach as well as drug and alcohol rehabilitation. The singer pulls off her self-constructed image marvelously and respect her dedication to maintaining an artistic guise.

Del Rey began her music career by playing in clubs around New York City under multiple pseudonyms. Upon settling on Lana Del Rey, she told Vogue, “I wanted a name I could shape the music towards. I was going to Miami quite a lot at the time, speaking a lot of Spanish with my friends from Cuba — Lana Del Rey reminded us of the glamour of the seaside. It sounded gorgeous coming off the tip of the tongue.” Del Rey signed to a record label and released an EP called “Kill Kill” in 2008, followed by her first full-length album entitled “Lana Del Ray a.k.a Lizzy Grant” in 2010 (her stage name was eventually changed to its current spelling). Soon after this release, Stranger Records discovered Del Rey after seeing her videos on Youtube and released her debut single “Video Games” in 2011, the song that has won her multiple awards and that remains her biggest hit. “Video Games” struck its audience with such force because for most of us, it was our introduction to her captivating voice, one that disguises her true age, race, appearance and upbringing in its unprecedented nature. Additionally, the song comments unapologetically on the way in which we live today. The lyrics are a blunt metaphor regarding our separation from our own desires, with a profound melody to match.

Del Rey’s second full-length album (on which she writes every song) is called “Born to Die” and was followed by an extended version called “Born to Die: The Paradise Edition.” On the album, Lana Del Rey’s voice is hauntingly soulful, capable of making the listener depressed and elated at the same time. Compared to Azealia Banks, Ellie Goulding, Sky Ferreira and one of my personal favorites, Marina and the Diamonds, Del Rey falls within an elite group of women with intense vocals, offbeat reputations and a lot to say. As with these artists, Del Rey’s music is very malleable in terms of remixing, and multiple house artists have utilized her vocals and melodies in their music. On their own, her songs can tend to sound alike, but Del Rey attempts (often successfully) to remedy this by mixing in disparate singing styles, even turning to pseudo-rap in some cases.
The songs on “Born to Die” highlight Del Rey’s signature breathy vocals while making keen observations about American culture and expressing the singer’s own opinions about our social conventions. I enjoyed the album — especially the transcendental videos, which are more like melancholy musical vignettes. However, some of the lyrics definitely reflect a sense of forced commentary and outdated societal qualms. Lines like “Money is the reason we exist/Everybody knows that it’s a fact/Kiss kiss”, can’t help but come off as clichés rather than as intimate sentiments.

Another important facet of the album is Del Rey’s interpretation of gender roles. Lyrics like “This is what makes us girls/ We don’t stick together ‘cause we put our love first”, are emotionally riveting testaments to the way women can lose themselves and confuse their identities in relationships. I was especially struck by how she admits wholeheartedly to her own submissiveness and reliance on men (emphasized in the song “Ride”). Del Rey has said “I did dream of escaping. I always just figured it was gonna be a man who would take me away.” Indeed, the singer is hardcore and incredibly creative, but it’s hard not to feel disheartened by her complete lack of effort in changing these “realities” or in suggesting any reprieve for the rest of us.

While her music has cast Del Rey into the spotlight, it’s impossible to write an article about her without noting her striking fashion sense. She’s been the face of H&M and Jaguar and has graced the covers of multiple different magazines, including Vogue and Glamour. She emphasizes old Hollywood glamour with her big, structured hairstyles and Brigitte Bardot eye makeup, which she sports on stage as well as in most all public appearances. Her maintenance of this look rings truer than Lady Gaga’s extravagantly forced costumes and helps round out the artistic image that she creates with her old timey vocals and grainy videos. She manages to balance a more classic 50s style with rocker tees, cut offs and lots of gems and studs, making herself look like the chicest runaway you’ll ever meet. Also, you’d be lying if you said you didn’t want a pair of red high-top Chuck Taylors after watching the video for “Born to Die.”

Overall, I am definitely a fan of Lana Del Rey’s, and would recommend checking out Born to Die. Her songs are powerfully evocative, and draw people who have no personal connection to her stories into her emotional and artistic sphere. When you’re listening to the album, be sure to check out “Blue Jeans,” “Dark Paradise,” “Summertime Sadness” and “Carmen.”

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Comments
Jack (not verified) says:
Wed, 12/05/2012 - 05:04

All that was said here was true, and I am glad to see someone that instead of juding Lana, actually listened to the music.

Dave Ehmann (not verified) says:
Wed, 12/05/2012 - 08:43

Well written and thoughtful. Too many people listen to the hype and not the music.
She is a very talented young lady.

Abigail J. (not verified) says:
Wed, 12/05/2012 - 15:22

Agree! Very well-written, the criticism is constructive and the review highlights the highs and lows of the album in an objective tone. Lana Del Rey rocks!

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 12/05/2012 - 10:39

"While her music has cast Del Rey into the spotlight, it’s impossible to write an article about her without noting her striking fashion sense."
No. It is entirely possible to avoid this. Especially in a music review.

Overall, her album is insipid, cliche, and entirely without unique value.

I'd also like to add that this review is 11 months late. Will the Amherst Student be raving about Adele's 21 next? Why not Cher's opus Believe?

It's clear that the reviewer merely enjoys the sound of Lana Del Rey's music, and is not attempting to justify that—and failing to do so, might I add—by desperately searching for lyrical meaning (there is none) or standout music among her role as "icon."

Jacob (not verified) says:
Wed, 12/05/2012 - 12:56

Why must you waste your time on an artist you hate? As if we really need to hear all of it. If you don't like her music, then move on and stop trying to put so much energy into defacing Lana and what she creates. Don't waste your time. It's pathetic.

"Overall, her album is insipid, cliche, and entirely without unique value"
Yes and Justin beiber and Rihanna and every other pop star, they're all so refreshing and 'unique', right?!! Please.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 12/05/2012 - 18:57

Actually I would find the comparison to Justin Bieber and Rihanna totally accurate. This album is the product of the same environment, driven by a few singles that everyone can get behind then loaded with filler to appease the masses.

Lizzy Grant (not verified) says:
Wed, 12/05/2012 - 15:27

Im sorry but I find a lot of lyrical meaning in her songs, her songwriting in my opinion is remarkable and her imagery is so very beautiful...If you choose to ignore this, then obviously you will never see what I see as a fan. You went on about how the writer is bias yet I dont see you making an effort to not be. Think before you submit.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 12/05/2012 - 19:02

"'Born to Die' Is To Die For" is the exact sort of wordplay that LDR would approve of. Which you could find clever or incredibly dull.
And I appreciated the LDR EP in January. 4 songs are enough before the entire album becomes a snore.

Darian (not verified) says:
Wed, 12/05/2012 - 22:28

So what exactly is your standard of an album that's worthy? What you have described could easily be applied to anything you can come up with. I believe you lack the right emotions to interpret her music. For once Lana's songs do not sound like party mixes. Finally she sings about something else. Well constructed sentences do not equal good taste. And there is really no need to continuously check back for replies. The attitude of 'having the last word' hints at a childish mind or an old lady at a bar. Keep your passive aggressiveness to yourself please. ;)

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 12/05/2012 - 23:21

Goes on an ad hominem attack.
Accuses me of childishness.

Fiona Apple is a great antithesis. Thanks for asking. Unlike Lana's trite "something else" that perpetuates a sort of narcissism as much as any party mix, Apple does a great job lyrically and musically.

Tiny Mixtapes provides an excellent breakdown: http://www.tinymixtapes.com/music-review/lana-del-rey-born-die

Darian (not verified) says:
Wed, 12/05/2012 - 22:29

So what exactly is your standard of an album that's worthy? What you have described could easily be applied to anything you can come up with. I believe you lack the right emotions to interpret her music. For once Lana's songs do not sound like party mixes. Finally she sings about something else. Well constructed sentences do not equal good taste. And there is really no need to continuously check back for replies. The attitude of 'having the last word' hints at a childish mind or an old lady at a bar. Keep your passive aggressiveness to yourself please. ;)

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 12/06/2012 - 00:08

I'd love to read a review of Believe...

Nikolaas (not verified) says:
Thu, 12/06/2012 - 01:43

Chill brah.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 12/05/2012 - 22:29

And plus, her p*ssy tastes like Pepsi Cola (check out her recent EP, "Paradise").

Green with envy (not verified) says:
Thu, 12/06/2012 - 15:55

Anonymous, women are sometimes horrible critics of other women. Or you might be a silly case of an unhappy back door bandit. ^__^

Nikolaas (not verified) says:
Thu, 12/06/2012 - 01:50

Chill brah.

Anthony Queen (not verified) says:
Thu, 12/06/2012 - 04:18

Her unreleased material is also quite amazing. She is a talented songwriter, and no one can deny that in this day and age it is difficult to find an artist who writes all their songs. Most of the popular singers today hide their lack of talent behind extravagant clothes and stage performances. Lana Del Rey keeps it raw and honest. Check out SIRENS released under her May Jailer persona, TEENAGE WASTELAND and many other unreleased songs you can find on youtube.

Vicky (not verified) says:
Wed, 10/09/2013 - 11:59

Lana Del Rey is one of my favorite celebrities, and she always looks so hot and bold. I have recently seen her beautiful wallpapers, but these Gifs are just rocking due to being awesome.