Lana Del Rey does not really need to release an album. Due to the warp speed of the internet she’s had a whole career in a matter of months but it seems that we have already tired of her before Born to Die has actually been heard in full. All this, after two songs: the award nods, the front covers, the broadsheet articles, the endless debate. At least Gaga got to release an actual album before the heavy weight Feminist theorists came a-knockin’…
To release an album into this sniping territory is vicious for any artist. Whatever the clout of their record company, the preconceived notions seem to stick like glue but what of its contents? We know we needed ‘Video Games’. It called to us like an intoxicating siren song, relieving us from the nauseating feast of pop fleshpots vying for our attention. With Rihanna relentlessly banging her crotch into your face squealing about ‘S&M’, Katy Perry’s doughnut boobs and Gaga’s Cronenberg style carnival of the extreme, ‘Video Games’ was like a red velvet curtain opening to reveal a glimpse of silk stocking. A measured, dourly delivered paean to the alluring trappings of teendom, the chaotic lust and the unending sweet suffering of longing trapped in a swirl of strings, harps and piano. It was Skeeter Davis’s ‘End of the World’ sung by Laura Palmer before she became wrapped in plastic.
Born to Die does not exactly deliver on the “Ghetto Nancy Sinatra” sound it touts. Yes, the title-track sweeps into the same cinemascope view as ‘Video Games’, it’s the perfect mix of twanging guitars, spiralling strings and deadpan delivery. ‘Blue Jeans’ follows the same template with added vocal swoops and trills but it’s a trick that cannot be sustained over the course of 15 tracks.
Thankfully the up-tempo numbers come to life like a David LaChapelle photo flick book. They’re filled with candy coloured cartoon characters. The seamy side of sun bleached cities with bodies bloated on cocaine, floating in a Malibu pool, gorging themselves on all the cheap thrills money can buy with Del Rey dangerously cast as the mussed-up Lolita peeping over her heart-shaped sunglasses pining for true love amongst the plastic. The girlish hiccupping delivery of ‘Off To The Races’, and especially the cutesy-pie intonation of the breathless ‘Lolita’, may give any sensible-headed adult a severe case of the ‘icks’ but being 25 years old, it’s comfortably enough away from ‘Joe Le Taxi’ and ‘Lemon Incest’ territory and thankfully ends up being a ridiculous ode to fidelity in the melodic mode of Kylie’s ‘Red Blooded Woman’.
Where Lana strikes gold is on the glittering bone-fide pop thrill ride of ‘National Anthem’, part stuttering sucker-punch rhyme, part spoken word beat, it features what could be a sly summation of the furore she incited: “blurring the lines between the real and the fake”, all topped off with a firework popping, bunting-waving chorus – if she had an arsenal of these tunes she could silence every smirky blogger once and for all. With any luck she will eventually produce an array of pop gems as blistering as this and as vital as ‘Video Games’ and more importantly she will be allowed to develop to do so.
Some will have shut out Lana Del Rey forever on the strength of the hate on the gossip sites, on the mistrust of the magazines and the busy chatter of the blogosphere. As the self-ingestion nature of music moves onto the newest, shiniest thing, she might be afforded the gift of time to establish herself. Branching out from this her assured, if not completely accomplished, debut and transform from being the name on everyone’s lips to the soundtrack of their souls.