Lydia Jenkin

Lydia Jenkin is an entertainment feature writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Album review: Lana Del Rey, Born to Die

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Lana Del Ray is rising through the pop princess ranks. Photo / Supplied
Lana Del Ray is rising through the pop princess ranks. Photo / Supplied

Having a millionaire for a father doesn't make your music good, neither does a controversial back story. And a couple of wobbly talk show performances don't make your music rubbish either. So setting aside all the hype, the bitching, the questions about whether or not her lips have been chemically enhanced, is Lana Del Rey's much anticipated debut going to keep her in the spotlight on its own merits?

Her vocal ability is both the best and worst aspect of the album. In her lower register she's weary and wise, with a unique crooning, and occasionally biting charm. Her resignation on Born To Die is a brooding, melancholy opening (even if there's one cliche too many). It's when she heads into her upper register that things start sounding a little annoyingly Lolita. It's an interesting contrast. All soft-focus and breathy when she sings "come take a walk on the wild side, let me kiss you hard in pouring rain", it's suddenly an entirely different song. It could be she's using her voice to play different characters, to poke fun, but it's hard to tell.

Off To The Races is one of the many swaggering RnB tracks on the album, and the production is on the button (Eminem/Kid Cudi producer Emile Haynie is responsible for the whole album), but when she's singing about her old man being a bad man, having a tar black soul and a broke down life, and referencing cocaine, black Cristal and Bacardi chasers in that weird breathy falsetto, is she lambasting the romanticised excesses of a pop star lifestyle, or simply being that pop star?

She may be playing a role, but it's a confusing one.

Some of the songs (Video Games, This Is What Makes Us Girls) have Kei$ha-like lyrical sentiments, but are delivered with serious drama and earnestness that seem out of step. And then there's all the taking off and putting on of red dresses, red nail polish, white bikinis, black bikinis, high heels and perfume, in between a lot of 'hard kissing'.

Is it irreverence or lazy lyrical writing?

There's something about Miss Del Rey's delivery that seems so knowing, that you have to think that the "Mills and Booyah" lyrics (as they have been described) are designed to make fun of the excessive melodramatic world she's come from. Snatches like "money is the anthem", or "I even think I found God in the flashbulbs of your pretty cameras" seem to indicate an underlying tone of sly eye-winking. But most of the audience lapping up this perfectly produced RnB pop construction won't be concerned with her lyrical intentions, they'll be too busy enjoying how good the beats sound pumping out of the car stereo, or the club speakers. And it does sound effortlessly good.

Unfortunately, whether it's conceptually clever or not, the songs are somewhat repetitive in sentiment and sound, and 15 tracks is probably five too many, with a few being forgettable. But it won't stop her from rising through the ranks of pop princesses and challenging Beyonce, Rihanna and Gaga for the crown.

Stars: 3.5/5
Verdict: Overly long, but powerfully produced pop debut with uncertain intentions.
Buy this album: Here

-TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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