Lana Del Rey- Born to Die

This review is somewhat late to the party, and so it seems that the exponentially growing Lana Del Rey media wave has finally burst, receding back into the internet ocean. It’s just another strata of instantly dated topicality to be added to the endless digital sea of pornography and funny animal videos, destined to perplex some future internet archaeologist.

It’s been a bizarre and at times difficult to comprehend phenomenon, how could something so musically innocuous generate so much buzz and so much hate?  The lushly produced ‘Videogames’, and the accompanying lushly produced video caused a stir in the blogosphere when it seemingly appeared out of nowhere last summer. Yet this initial excitement quickly curdled into bile as it emerged that Lana Del Rey was not actually all that she seemed to be. Why Lana Del Rey wasn’t her actually name,  she wasn’t actually some sort of doomed trampy 50’s starlet/ trailer park femme fatal, and that well produced song  with the expertly shot video with the high production values, why that may have had major label money behind it, oh the humanity.

Lana Del Rey seems to have caused so much ire because she’s a mirror exposing “hipster” tastemakers own superficiality. Why should it matter if she’s authentic, and how can a musician with a persona of such calculated artifice ever be authentic? This isn’t D.I.Y punk rock, this is pop music and inauthenticity is the name of the game. A large part of the furore stems from anger at being pandered to, yet can Lana Del Rey and her producers really be blamed for this? It’s so easy to pander to left field blogger whims. Vintage filters, and heavy doses of reverb are ultimately superficial signifiers of little actual substance, whoever is employing them; whether a genuine bedroom pop producer, or a musician backed by a substantial corporate machine. But instead Lana Del Rey betrayed the sanctity of the American Apparel-Ray Ban- instagram aesthetic. She reminds us that there is no unified counter culture in the fragmented internet age, there’s only different flavors of consumerism, and retro affectations, and accordingly an epic maelstrom of unruly internet backlash arose in response.

In any case all this noise has led to a phenomenal amount of media coverage and hype, and backlash, and counter backlash. It got so loud that even David Cameron was singing the praises of Lana Del Rey, shameless rubbery charlatan that he is. But what are you left with once you sweep away all this surreal media baggage? Why you’re left with a slab of sonically inoffensive and well produced pop. It’s lushly produced, oftentimes catchy, and features a few standouts, and Lana Del Rey’s vocals are pleasingly raspy and evocative.  There’s of course the eponymous ‘Video Games’, but ‘Blue Jeans’ may be the better track as it has a much needed sense of heft and forward momentum.

Another highlight is ‘Diet Mtn Dew’, a song that features honest to goodness hip hop inflections that somehow don’t grate. One critique to be made  is that the album is a tad overlong and overstuffed,clocking in at a substantial 60 minutes and featuring a whopping 15 tracks. A more focused and concise offering would have served better. To top it off all the best tracks are  front-loaded , which isn’t entirely surprising. The back half starts to drag on and it all begins to bleed together but nevertheless as a complete package it remains a perfectly serviceable and largely un-obnoxious slice of pop. And in an age where seemingly every pop song is bastardized dance pop drenched in autotune what more can you really ask for? At least it’s not fucking Ke$ha.

James Ubaghs

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