Lana Del Rey’s Born To Die Is Released To Chart Success And Mixed Criticism

by (@kat_george)

It’s here — Lana Del Rey‘s Born To Die, the album that has been discussed almost as much as her “controversial” persona. While digital sales are telling one story — Born To Die took #1 and #2 positions on the US iTunes charts this morning and holds the #1 spot in 11 other countries (UK, France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal and Switzerland) — the critical reception to the album has been less than warm. While a few have praised Lana Del Rey as the dichotomous ingenue / bad girl who is bringing desperately needed direction and ideas back to music, many have fortified attacks on her image by surmising that her music is even less challenging or interesting than her aesthetic portrayal. And the rest are just sort of a bit… “meh,” finding Born To Die neither offensive nor completely worthy of the attention it’s garnered. We’ve clipped together some quotes from the flood of Born To Die reviews that have littered the Internet this week…

The Lovers

“If you ask me, I reckon the girl doesn’t know whether she wants to be a classic Hollywood glamourpuss or a modern pop star, so she’s doing both at once. Nothing wrong with that here, songs all cinematic, like a warped Casablanca channeling the Rat Pack via Do The Right Thing. More interesting than a lot of starlets by far, and more confident. Whatever she ends up being, she seems fun, this Lana Del Rey. A lot more fun than you’d think to look at her.” [Drowned In Sound]

“I like the album better with each listen—the more time I spend in its company, the more I feel as though I’m approaching it on something like its own terms.” [Slate]

The Haters

“For all of its coos about love and devotion, it’s the album equivalent of a faked orgasm– a collection of torch songs with no fire.” [Pitchfork]


“It’s the lyrics to her songs themselves that prove there’s no way to think about her on her own terms — she doesn’t have her own terms. What she wants so desperately is to know what we — that is, the default heterosexual male listener — make of her.” [Flavorwire]

“She’s just another aspiring singer who wasn’t ready to make an album yet. Given her chic image, it’s a surprise how dull, dreary and pop-starved Born to Die is. It goes for folky trip-hop ballads with a tragic vibe, kinda like Beth Orton used to do. Except she could sing.” [Rolling Stone]

“Most of the songs are just hideously under-written. The hooks are gone. The tempos rest on weird cheap electro beats that sound too cheap and too expensive all at once. Those tinny canned orchestral strings are on every song, and they don’t exactly find anything new to do. Neither does Del Rey’s persona; with bonus tracks, the songs come off like 15 different variations on a drunk chick at the bar trying to convince someone to come home with her.” [Stereogum]

The Fence-Sitters

“This is all stupendously hokey and stylized and yet immensely appealing; it’s a fully defined sound — a point of view, as Heidi Klum would have it — and worth surrendering to even if you’re the sort of person who’d enjoy watching a TV show where people who use the phrase “the gangster Nancy Sinatra” are shot out of cannons, directly into walls.” [SPIN]

“And yet it’s her music that makes her interesting, because almost alone of the women who’ve made a conscious choice to sing from the impersonal vantage of celebrity, she uses the impersonal vantage of celebrity to make music that’s personal in the extreme.” [Esquire]

“There is little wisdom in “Born to Die,” but more than enough pleasure… Del Rey doesn’t have the emotional and psychological depth to support all the satin and spotlights. Her invocations of Sinatra and Lolita are entirely appropriate to the sumptuous backing tracks, but, when it comes to lyrics, she and her collaborators get lost in a tangle of keywords… “Born to Die” is full of rubbery, well-formed melodies and harmonic richness—who cares who wrote much of it—but the character of Del Rey, authentic or not, is so inconsistent that she fades from view, into her own photo spread.” [The New Yorker]

“The album’s full of Del Rey’s lurching attempts to Pull Things Off — and it’s most interesting when she’s not quite succeeding, but trying very hard regardless. The music is more or less fine: slow-rolling beats, grandiose strings, and a great deal of cooing, like trip-hop tunes from a nineties movie soundtrack. (Or, sometimes, a mascara commercial; or sometimes just well-imagined pop, with a sleepy, dolorous quality you don’t hear in much pop these days.)” [Vulture]

“And, as easy as it is to pick her apart, what makes Lana Del Rey interesting to listen to, and to write about, is that there are genuine ideas here. Sure, they may borderline on gimmick at times, but Born To Die has its own sound, and that is more than we can say about a lot of music that is presently being released, whether it is pop or indie.” [Beats Per Minute]

[Photo: Complex]

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