From the moment that ‘Video Games’ began to go viral this autumn, Lana Del Rey had begun to divide opinion. Those who were defending Lana Del Rey stuck by their guns, claiming that ‘Video Games’ is almost musically a piece of perfection, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in pop music for a long time. However, with such acclaim there has been the inevitable backlash: there have been accusations as diverse as her music being manufactured (amidst rumours of her wealthy parents forcing her into the mainstream) to her having surgically enhanced lips. However let’s not ask questions about her lips, let’s ask questions about the standard of the album? Is there anything as heart wrenching and near perfect as ‘Video Games’ on the rest of ‘Born to Die’?
The answer, alas, is not quite; however we are still treated to a distinctive-sounding, consistently decent pop album. The album opens with the second single and title track ‘Born to Die.’ Reaction to this song before the album had been more lukewarm than for ‘Video Games’; however it is important to take a step back here and analyse exactly what Lana Del Rey is going for. The song opens with luscious strings and Del Rey’s voice seems to fill the entire room as she sits atop a throne alongside tigers on the video; the song continues at this high tension to the climax, where (in the video) she is being carried away from the flaming wreckage of a car. It is all very preposterous, with everything turned to eleven: basically it is silly pop music done to a very high standard; and the sooner people realise that this is what Lana Del Rey is all about the better.
Much of the album continues in the same vein; the orchestral sound that accompanies parts of ‘Born to Die’ continues throughout much of the album in union with sweet sounding pop synths and Del Rey’s soaring vocals. The lyrical range of the music is very limited (all the songs seem to be about a different female protagonist in varying romantic situations), but ultimately does anyone really buy a pop album for the lyrical quality or to discover the next Ray Davies?
In the end, anyone who buys this album expecting to find the next Kate Bush, after hearing ‘Video Games’, will be disappointed. Lana Del Rey is not going to be the female figurehead of the alternative music scene; however neither is she to be dismissed as another bimbo of pop music. It is undeniable that towards the end of the (weaker) second half of the album, the dramatic strings and beats begin to grate but the album has one incredible redeeming feature: Del Rey’s voice. A good example is the second track ‘Off to the Races’ – for the first half a minute of this track Del Rey sings with a very monochrome tone and frustrates the listener; however suddenly her voice moves into a fiery level of emotion and the song continues for four more minutes of passionate pop music.
The album can be summarised by this whole song: from beginning to end it will almost certainly fill your ears with its combination of strings, beats and Del Rey’s stunning vocals. Unfortunately, there is nothing as perfect as ‘Video Games’, which still sounds brilliant on the album incidentally, but it is important to remember that other pop artists have spent their whole career striving for a song as perfect as this. The rest of the album is generally of a very high standard, mainly thanks to Del Rey’s soaring voice. The haters and cynics can continue to criticise Lana Del Rey, if they so wish; but by doing this they are missing out on a very decent pop album, which is something unquestionably different and distinctive from the same old pop music we often have nowadays.