Friday, June 29, 2012

Born to Die | Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey is a fairly new indie pop artist, having only released one album thus far, Born to Die. Though her music would generally appeal to fans of Lykke Li, Born to Die is quite unique and includes jazz and R&B influences, making Lana Del Rey an artist that will surely be interesting to hear from over the years.

The first song is the title track, and it's one of my favorites. Right away, the strings are potent, dark and beautiful amid the dark, atmospheric electronic tone to the whole thing. Lana Del Rey's voice is on the deep end (though still very feminine), like velvet, but jazzier than one would initially expect. "Born to Die" has great lyric, and it's a love song in some sense, but about general life in other senses. I love it.

"Off to the Races" is the second track, and this is where I started to see that Lana Del Rey's music may take a little while to grow on some people. Her voice goes jazzy as well as experimental with her high and low notes though the music is still quite electronic. It almost sounds like R&B... but it's not. Indie R&B? Nope, this is indie pop despite it may have crossover appeal. Strings can be heard throughout the song, but the outro is where they are most potent.

We get to hear a little bit of Lana Del Rey's almost childlike high notes in "Off to the Races," but they are vastly important in the next song, "Blue Jeans." This, I'm sure, is just for effect, but it might irritate some. I don't really mind it, but I can tell it'll take a while for me to really get used to it. But, that vocal style completely disappears in the fourth track, "Video Games," where her lower register shines. Besides the title track, this is my favorite from the album. Simplistic piano chords are layered with strings, a noteable harp, and bells. Lana Del Rey is declaring her love in this sweet, almost nostalgic song, which eventually leads to its outro - the strings leaving the piano by itself to play the last few chords.

"Diet Mountain Dew" comes next, a more upbeat song. I really enjoyed this one, with its funky string line and catchy chorus. The whole vibe is best described as classy, and this is sort of continued in the intro of "National Anthem," as the strings remind me of The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony." "National Anthem" is a pretty good track, and it is primarily about money. The chorus is definitely something everyone will want to sing along with as soon as its heard. Vocally the verses are annoying (though it'd be fantastic if they were instrumental), but the general song is so catchy that I can't help but like it.

Lana Del Rey vocalizes quite a bit in "Dark Paradise," which is probably the most fun song on Born to Die. Lyrically, it's not bad, nor is it musically, but I don't seem to like it as much, primarily because though the lyrics are darker and bleak, the music is much lighter. It's like they don't match. However, "Radio," the next song, is one of the more superior songs on the album. It displays a happy-medium of Lana Del Rey's vocal styles, and it's just a great song! It's not upbeat, but it's not too mellow... This song is really well-balanced. A secondary favorite of mine from Born to Die. Plus, I feel it actually has the potential to do well on the charts if it was released as a single.

"Carmen" is the ninth song, and it is another standout. Each verse has a mysterious-sounding melody, but the chorus is quite cheerful-sounding. At this point in listening to the album, I have to wonder if we've come to the end of the whiny, girlish sounding high notes of Lana Del Rey that display such an odd effect, for they have not been present in the past few songs. Of course, since I just noticed this, I expected them to ironically come back during "Million Dollor Man," and I was right. But, they only last for a little bit. Truthfully, "Million Dollar Man" may be the most bluesy song by Lana Del Rey, a song meant for listening in the middle of a rainy night.

Another of the better songs is "Summertime Sadness." Really, the only negative thing about this song is the repetative "I got that summertime sadness" that loops; the rest of it is actually quite enjoyable. Unfortunately, the same can't be said about the last song, "This is What Makes Us Girls." I like an effective album-closer, and this was a let-down. Nothing about it is bad necessarily, it's just not memorable.

All things considered, Born to Die is a unique album for a unique artist. Just about every song is a love song, often with similar themes, but I think this works for Lana Del Rey. Not everyone will like her, as she's a bit unusual vocally and musically, but in a world of dominating mainstream that bores the human ears to death, this is probably a compliment.

Not every song is a pleaser, but Born to Die has a few special moments. Give the album a try.

4.5/5 Stars

EDIT, AUGUST 1ST: This album is a grower. Seriously, I'm in love. I changed the rating from a 3.5/5 to 4.5/5. Every slightly positive thing I said about any one of these songs has been magnified beyond anything I expected. The only ones I'm not the fondest of at this point are "Blue Jeans" and "This is What Makes Us Girls," but neither drag the album down.

Originally, I said to give the album a try. If you still can't find anything magnificent, try again. It's so worth it.

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