Lana Del Rey wants you to own her, love her, objectify her, abuse her and worship her. Now, there’s enough here — in her image, her music and the backlash it’s all received — for a whole team of pop culture critics, feminists and intellectuals to fuss about, but, all that aside, her new album Born to Die is great.
Lana Del Rey has that unique combination of characteristics that few artists possess. That is, she exudes a simultaneous vibe of chillitude and coolness along with an epic, cinematic sort of drama that is strung along equally by both hip-hop-inspired beats and orchestral melodies. One minute it’s all half-rapped, seductive whispers, the next it’s suddenly a crooned confession of love and desperation. Together, it all makes for a delicious, lush effect.
Sure, you can say that a lot of these qualities are nothing new — that Del Rey borrowed her beats from trip-hop, her depressed poutiness from Fiona Apple, the unabashed superficiality from Kanye, etc. But Del Rey has all of this in a neatly produced package with a mainstream appeal. The title track, “Born to Die,” encapsulates the entire album, with lyrics that are fatalistic and romantic in a desperate, our-love-is-our-doom kind of way and a sound that is luxurious and beautifully gloomy.
Now there are some Lana-haters out there who say she can’t hold a candle to modern songstresses like Adele or Amy Winehouse because of her seemingly expressionless voice. But listen to “Off to the Races,” and try to tell me that she doesn’t have the most alluring voice in the industry today. What other artist can sound like death one second, hit you with a sardonic line the next and then instantly switch on the playful charm? That’s a question for the haters to ponder.