Released: 30th January 2012
Label: Universal Music/Interscope
TL;DR: Hyped purely because of her image, not at all about her music. Disappointment. 2/10
SHE’S been hyped to the highest degree as the next big thing, her lead single Video Games has now reached 25 million views (on one channel, millions more throughout) on Youtube and has certainly become a worldwide viral hit. She has seemingly been thrown into the mainstream and has to deal with a huge magnitude of popularity and attention despite previously releasing only one album that was relatively ignored. She is Lana Del Rey, but just who is she? And why should the entire world care about her?
Lana Del Rey is the stage name of Elizabeth Grant, daughter of millionaire investor Rob Grant, who has publicly backed her attempt at a music career since the beginning. Her debut album Lana Del Ray A.K.A Lizzy Grant was released on independent label Stranger Records and was ignored widely by the media, and yet one year and a name change later, she has become one of the biggest and most anticipated artists in a long time.
So with the unlimited funds, a huge backing from Universal Music and one of the biggest viral hits in recent times, will her first album under the Lana Del Rey moniker Born To Die live up to the hype? Or will the “self-styled gangsta Nancy Sinatra” fall flat in the spotlight?
First of all, it’s clear from the get go that Lana Del Rey is a manufactured product. She had the wealth already, so there is no way her original material was going to in any way relate to a wide spectrum of people. These days, she has appeared on SNL, adverts, European TV Shows, magazines, newspapers and pretty much every other form of something to shove in our faces, simply because of one corporation: Universal Music Group.
Universal have pushed Lana to change the A from Ray to an E to form a name that looks just as sophisticated and “big” as it sounds. They have used Interscope as her label and made sure that it will do its best to promote Born To Die, but not with the music on it, but with the face that produced it.
Launching that big lead single was already accomplished in Video Games. It’s anthemic atmosphere with the sombre strings and the hauntingly addictive vocal of Lana Del Rey hitting the heartstrings and minds of every kind of casual fan, and the title has proved enough to have some of the blogs hailing her as well.
So all the label had to do was promote her image, she is going to be given a Nancy Sinatra –like haircut and rock a nose and lips that will secure some kind of conversation and debates online about whether or not they’re real. She will be described as the modern Nancy Sinatra, a real bad girl who knew what her morals were and did not allow herself to be mistreated or misdirected by men and just become a real woman. However, it seems as if Interscope/Universal pretty much forgot about crafting that Sinatra personality into Del Rey’s brains.
This entire illusion of Lana Del Rey being a “different” kind of girl is shattered once the listener learns that her huge hit Video Games is about Lana trying to look as aesthetically pleasing as possible in order to get her boyfriend to keep his eyes off video games and on her for a change, which doesn’t sound like the message Universal wanted to put across to the mainstream.
Infact nothing on Born To Die represents somebody who has been described as Nancy Sinatra, especially as Lana describes a true “bad girl” as somebody who stays up past their bedtime and drinking despite being underaged, which once again does not represent individuality from all the other big female artists these days. This message is projected the most on a track that is genuinely called “This Is What Makes Us Girls” no less.
Music-wise, Lana is ultimately disappointing. Her SNL performance revealed her to a much wider casual audience, and she bombed. She was off pitch, creating some hilarious cringe moments throughout, eventually I felt sorry for her because it was her first big live performance and she was basically forced into it like any X Factor contestant instead of an artist who earned their way up there.
Born To Die is also disappointing. Many people would expect it to be fifteen tracks full of Video Games-esque anthems, but it’s surprisingly not. There’s a mix of 50’s sophistication with hip hop-inspired bass and drum beats, it certainly makes it somewhat interesting at least. Sadly tracks such as Born To Die, Off To The Races, Blue Jeans and many of the other songs here do not pull this combination off well, and I’ve even found myself thinking I was listening to Cher Lloyd, possibly the UK’s incantation of Lana Del Rey.
Diet Mountain Dew is the song title that sums up the taste I get from Born To Die, something I never want to imagine tasting ever again. Whereas Lolita is another radio friendly track that counteracts Universal’s pledge that Lana Del Rey is the “alternative” to the Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Ke$ha etc.
Lana’s vocals are on point here, and the strings that featured throughout are lovely. But by the end of the LP that sound starts to become a little synthetic, as if it’s all been tacked on for the sake of sounding sombre, rather than letting actual emotion shine through. If the strings were not present on many of these songs, they would probably not be as accessible, even Video Games would fall in quality if its strings were erased.
Overall Born To Die is a testament of the PR efforts by Universal Music Group. It somehow managed to push Lana Del Rey as the hottest commodity on the planet mostly through their manufactured image of Lana being a “bad girl” and an “alternative” to what is played on radios today, and gathered together an unbelievably huge audience who will most certainly buy her record while they’ve only heard one song from it. It’s interesting to see just how much the media can force somebody onto a record, especially a record released by somebody nobody knew about 12 months ago, and even right now they probably don’t even know this is her second album. Even more interesting is, what about a year from now? Will Lana Del Rey even be relevant then? Only time will tell.