Single Review: Lana Del Rey – ‘Born To Die’

“The title-track for her forthcoming album is almost formulaically a dizygotic twin of ‘Video Games’”

3 STARS

Digital Release: January 22, 2012

Physical Release: N/A

A very select few can ever pride themselves in claiming to have drummed up the hype that holds Lana Del Rey’s musical future in such highly-awaited anticipation. And if ever there was a rising artist worthy of the cliché “an overnight success”, then Del Rey, real name Elizabeth Grant, squarely fits the bill. But since appearing in under the brutal and often unforgiving scrutiny of newfound fame with the stark allure of ‘Video Games’, her questionable background has generated almost as many heated debates as her music. From her videos and “nervous” live performances to her looks and her parents’ bank balances, there are few left who haven’t at least heard her name, and all before her second single, ‘Born To Die’, has been released. Even established and highly respected artists returning to the spotlight would be hard-pressed to gather as much momentum as a demure little upstart like Del Rey has.

But even so, it’s not that easy to understand Del Rey. She may have the idolisation of many adorning fans already but Del Rey herself is a complete enigma. Her reluctance to speak about her beginnings could be perceived as admirable; wanting her music career to be a stand-alone entity worthy of it’s own critical and public acclaim, or it could be that she didn’t want the prejudiced backlash of people learning that she’d ultimately ‘bought’ her music career. Not that any of it appeared to matter, because as soon as it became public knowledge and her sales appeared to be declining rapidly, they resurfaced just as rapidly as more and more of her tracks leaked and we became beguiled by both her beauty and her voice once more. And yet, even with this knowledge, we still have no idea of who Elizabeth Grant is other than hasty preconceptions made given her background. Interviews with her barely clamber past awkward pleasantries and album talk as a result of her stubborn aloofness, and her music paints an image of a girl with nothing who wants a lover that can give her everything, and decorate it in a borderline neo-classical/urban romantic fashion. A truly intriguing construct, but not one that many would believe to be anything less than expertly executed showmanship.

Sobering up from her intoxicating cocktail of soothingly apocalyptic lyrics and a gently rousing production, it’s easy to see that ‘Born To Die’, the title-track from her forthcoming album, is almost formulaically a dizygotic twin of ‘Video Games’. The minimalist instrumentation, the sweeping strings, and the darkly seductive voice previously heard are all called back into action for the dramatic pessimism of ‘Born To Die’. Although, her voice’s clunky transitions from her deeper register to shrilly petulant femininity can prove cloying, as can her ability to sound incredibly bored whenever she opens her mouth. She turns up the passion at just the right moments, of course, to fill in the quasi-cabaret balladry with her hallmark colours of patriotism, but like ‘Video Games’, it does leave you wondering where the climax is as you meander, hypnotised by an enchantress’ velvet caress, throughout a directionless song. “Feet don’t fail me now/Take me to the finish line”, she purrs on the opening line, but not once during the song does it feel like she moves from the spot she’s standing in. She covets musical arousal and promises so much in just the first opening bars of ‘Born To Die’, and so long as you remain blissfully sedated by her dulcet tones there’s nothing stopping the song from reaching orgiastic heights of pleasure but, lifting your head off the velvet pillow and convalescing from her substance-fuelled trip to the wild side and back, it’s not hard to see that everything she promises relates back to nothing more than an impeccably consistent affectation.

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