Lana Del Rey’s debut studio album, Born to Die, has definitely caught my attention! It’s difficult not to feel the quiet melancholy in her songs as her low and haunting vocals add additional layers of depth to every track. Songs like Blue Jeans and Dark Paradise are, as Del Rey herself described, very “Hollywood sadcore”. Some of the songs could pass off as pop if it weren’t for the jarringly sad tone that drags you to the depths of despair.
Born to Die was released on January 27, 2012 on iTunes and on January 31, 2012 by Interscope, Polydor and Stranger Records. It has fifteen songs spanning over 1 hour and 40 seconds (including Special edition bonus tracks).
|Born to Die|
|Off to the Races|
|Diet Mountain Dew|
|Million Dollar Man|
|This Is What Makes Us Girls|
Born to Die
This song, meant to be a “homage to true love”, gives me the chills. ‘Cause you and I/We were born to die’ Lana Del Rey sings bluntly about a relationship that was doomed to fail. With the haunting melody and vocals, a chaotic picture of a messy relationship that’s edgy, mesmerising and yet will never work out is painted.
Off to the Races
Said to be based on a relationship of “freakish co-dependency” that was Bonnie and Clyde-esque, the chorus definitely stands out. It’s a fun, reckless and in some ways scarily nonchalant song about a girl gone wild who calls for a much older man to take care of her.
Just like the theme of the song, it started out a smooth listen for me, especially with the James Dean reference that made my heart melt and the hip-hop influences. Sadly, at some point, it got tedious. It tells the story of a relationship that started out great before the boy got into trouble and left abruptly.
Video Games is the most popular of her songs. It was a viral hit that shaped the course of the rest of Lana Del Rey’s album. I love the quietness of this song and how it tones down on the angst and talks about a potentially simple life. It however took me a few listens to really ‘get’ the song and appreciate it. Video Games is supposed to be about two different relationships from Del Rey’s past.
Diet Mountain Dew
Diet Mountain Dew felt more like a filler song for me. I didn’t love or hate it. It’s a shame because I love the name of the song!
I LOVED this song the minute I listened to it. This was the ultimate song of the album that has made me hit ‘replay’ over and over again. The song opens with lines from Marilyn Monroe’s famous ‘Happy Birthday, Mr. President.’ Carrying on with the American Dream theme, Del Rey reminisces about the good life she led with a former wealthy boyfriend.
From the opening notes to the dual voices used, this song spells out the reasons why I am mesmerized by Lana Del Rey’s music. It’s raw indie pop at its best.
Dark Paradise is probably my second favourite song. This four minute long song is about the repeated flashbacks experienced by Lana Del Rey after the death of her boyfriend. The song runs in parallel with the title song, Born to Die, with similar themes of angst, loneliness and wish to join her lover in death.
The song probably highlights the singer’s rise to fame (Baby love me cause I’m playing on the radio/(How do you like me now?)). It has the catchiest chorus but is lyrically a little repetitive.
Carmen is a song set in Coney Island that tells the story of a girl doomed to prostitution. It is a song that shows different shades of her life and what lies ahead of her. Lyrically, I am in awe of this song even though I personally couldn’t connect with it.
Million Dollar Man
This Fiona Apple-esque number tells the story of another relationship gone wrong. This time, it involves a “million dollar man” whose crooked ways catch up with him; leaving her hanging and heart broke(n).
Oh, the opening lines took my breath away. Of course “summertime” is equated with “sadness” in Born to Die.
This Is What Makes Us Girls
Surprisingly poignant and nostalgia-inducing. ‘This is what makes us girls/We all look for heaven and we put love first/Somethin’ that we die for, it’s our curse’.
Of fame and love and how love trumps all. The surprisingly sweet vocals make this song, even with the repetitive themes, stand out as you can’t help but sing along with a wistful sigh.
It’s amazing how LDR focuses on the love-hate relationship between Vladmir Nabokov’s Lolita and her stepfather; her deprived childhood coming into the spotlight.
A charming song that doesn’t really make much of an impact compared to the other songs.
If you go song by song, Born to Die is a mixed bag. But as an album, I found it raw and unique in style as LDR’s alternatively husky and sweet voice was perfect for the stormily cinematic atmosphere created. There are highs and lows and certain songs nail the exuberance alongside complete desolation associated with the American Dream.
Born to Die is by no means the perfect debut. There were songs that felt like fillers or those I personally couldn’t connect with but which others might love. But there are also these totally brilliant songs like National Anthem, Video Games and Dark Paradise that filled me with that something more I’ve always longed for. There’s no doubt that Lana Del Rey is here to stay!