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Lana Del Rey.
Lana Del Rey.

Music

Lana Del Rey's Born to Die is, sad to say, stillborn Add to ...

Blood drops are splattered on the liner notes to Born to Die, the impassive, career-suicidal first album from a near fictional singer. Goodbye Lana Del Rey, we hardly knew you.

But then, how could we, when it is so apparent that she never even knew herself. On the trip-popped slow-swirl of Radio, the Coney Island gal whose family knows her as Lizzie Grant sings about her new life, which is “sweet like cinnamon” as she lives the dream and digs her stature: “Baby love me ’cause, I’m playing on the radio / how do you like me now?”

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Getting on the radio, was that the goal, the validation? And then what, a coveted spot on Saturday Night Live? We all know what happened there: Lana Del Rey, with a big buzz about her and pair of cinematic singles to her credit, was caught in the headlights – a Bambi-eyed gown full of Ambien and cluelessness, woken up from a dream and shoved into a reality she wasn’t ready for, as a character she wasn’t familiar with. How did we like her now? We didn’t, we didn’t at all.

Born to Die, then, is the oddest of things, a comeback album and a debut record at once.

And it fails. Beyond the pouty, moody and previously released Blue Jeans and Video Games, the songs hold no charisma and no depth. Del Rey’s pulse-less singing and her songwriter-production team give us no reason not to listen to people like Jessica Lea Mayfield and Sharron Van Etten instead.

On the vamping Diet Mountain Dew, Del Rey’s admiration for Amy Winehouse is apparent. But the former has none of the latter’s rare combo of swagger and vulnerability. The result isn’t so bad, if your tastes lead to Winehouse-lite.

The fireworks that lead off the sweeping National Anthem are not deserved. The trying-too-hard mix of a giant swaying chorus, cutesy asides, hip-hop beats and the rhyme of “money is the anthem” with “God, you’re so handsome” lights up no skies.

Off to the Races is a sad, jumbled effort that never takes off. There’s some drowsy rapping, odd urban-music shouting and lush strings to close the mess off. One minute Del Rey is a sneering chanteuse, the other she’s making like Betty Boop. Being herself doesn’t seem to be an option, and she’s not much of a faker either.

The thing of it is, if this album weren’t saddled with such strong expectations it might be considered a promising debut. Video Games is a gorgeous blue-dark ballad, about a woman desperate not to be alone. The noir arrangement is exquisite.

But when the songs don’t come together, which is much more often than not, it’s hard to overlook Del Rey’s passionless, pinched voiced and bad acting. There’s a sense of tragedy and sadness that pervades this album called Born to Die. Del Rey is selling a persona that we might feel sorry for – which we do, but for the wrong reasons.

Born to Die

  • Lana Del Rey
  • Universal

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