Monday, 30 January 2012

Lana Del Rey – Born to Die Album Review After First Listen



I thankfully didn’t discover Lana Del Rey until I heard Video Games on the radio (a Top 40 type of station I rarely listen to these days, no less). I did notice some hype but I really wish I didn’t know anything more about her. I’m quite pissed off on music "press", Twitter, music "fans" etc. All sharing their opinion on how fake or real she is way before I even had a chance to listen to her album. DIDN’T WANNA KNOW, THANKS.

Hearing Lana sing Video Games, either on the radio or my iPod, or watching her sing it live on Youtube left me with a sense of mystery but all the drama of the past month just destroyed it, if not completely. You couldn’t leave me with my illusion, could you? The case of Lana Del Rey is actually probably the first one in which the internet and social media had a completely negative impact on my perception of an artist. I found myself on the ofensive for her WITHOUT EVEN HEARING ONE FULL ALBUM OF HERS. It made me realise how much ICT sped up the normal cycle of media (lovewave-hatewave-comeback). It’s crazy, and I don’t like it at all.

Below are the (lagerly unedited) notes I took while giving Lana’s album (the regular one, not the Deluxe version) the first listen. My opinion will probably change over time, and I might write a shorter review which will sum things up a few weeks from now, or maybe not. Time will tell.

Born to Die: Technically not the first listen but a first proper listen anyway. Love the mood of the song, her voice works really well on it. Lyrics OK. As long as this is all fiction I’m onboard. The minute she starts going the Amy Winehouse route I’ll probably be turned off.

Off to the Races: Also not my first listen. Good chorus. Lyrics trying too hard sometimes. Drags a bit in verses & the bridge (around 3 min mark & the next 40 seconds).

Blue Jeans: Reminds me of a Kate Bush song too much. But no-one can get out of a comparison with a Kate Bush song winning. Quite a good song, actually, but after the first two songs it gets a bit repetitive.

Video Games: Definitely not the first listen. :) Still works but I suspect this is the sort of song you don’t wanna listen to too often. The song itself is not very inventive and it’s pretty simple in its structure but somehow it just works. When I first heard it on the radio it definitely made me pause and listen. Great mood, very atmospheric. Great song, great record.

Diet Mountain Dew: Finally a change of pace of sorts. A song that plants an interesting idea in my head: Lana is a classic movie star version of Duffy. Lyrically we can look to Macy Gray as someone who can do the „you’re no good for me“ lyrics better. Or Amy Winehouse. Whoever writes the lyrics to these songs is a bit below average from what I can tell so far. But it's hard judging lyrics on the first listen; for me anyway.

National Anthem: Verses of this song sound derivative off the Off to the Races chorus. An OK song but doesn’t stand out. Also I’d prefer if she didn’t speak in her songs at all. "Rapping" is OK but please, don’t speak a word in your songs, hun.

Dark Paradise: Also not my first listen...or maybe it reminds me of one of the previous songs? No, I must’ve heard it before. Very 90’s to my ears, which is not necessarily bad but since the rest of the album sounds like made by a 40’s gangster starlett spent a few weeks making friends with Marilyn Monroe and then decided to time travel further to 2012 to make a record in a black drug overlord’s music studio inspired by her affair with him...90’s are one timehop too much.

Radio: An extension of Dark Paradise. Her gangster obviously couldn’t give a bigger toss about her (see Video Games). An OK song. If Pink sang this one it could easily be on her Misundaztood album 11 years ago (with a slightly different production).

Carmen: A slower one, but it works. Almost as well as Video Games, actually. Reminds me of all the good things in theatrical singer-singwritery. Amanda Palmer and Chinawoman spring to mind. Too bad it comes at number 9, some people might never get that far. Could Chinawoman please cover this song? If you stripped this song of all the production (which is OK for a pop record but still); if you left just the song’s bare bones, it could be truly great.

Million Dollar Man: A nice surprise. Starts off sounding very Tori Amos-y (not just Lana’s voice which does sound Tori-like when in her higher register but the melody as well), but then some really interesting melodic choices happen and voila you have a song which actually stands out from the same few notes most of the album seems to repeat in various order. Not sure about rhyming „money“ and „honey“ though. Come on. Only ABBA can do that.

Summertime Sadness: I prefer when I can‘t guess lyrics in advance. Also another 90’s one. Reminds me of something but I quite can’t put my finger on what exactly. Aqua? Florence and the Machine? Filler.

This Is What Makes Us Girls: Sounds like Christina Aguilera’s unused song title from Stripped. A bit better than the song before but still, not a very exciting way to close the album.

Overall impressions after one listen: Lana Del Rey's Born To Die is a solid pop album. The songs range from slow to faster mid-tempo. Nothing entirely new under the sun but I've heard much much worse and way less exciting albums. Recommend to listen to it at night. Recommend it to someone who enjoys retro moods. And recommend to people who don't hate if their singer is more of a character than a real person.

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