The appearance of Lana Del Rey – stage name of singer-songwriter Lizzy Grant – has fueled a firestorm of criticisms across the Internet over the last several months, and her major label debut on Jan. 31 with Born to Die was no exception.
The release in August of the music video for her first single "Video Games" started Grant's rounds on music blogs, and since then she's become a polarizing figure dividing the indie-rock community.
After an abysmal performance on "Saturday Night Live" on Jan. 14 that even garnered hate from NBC's Brian Williams, she's sent critics and fans into a frenzy. The creator of popular blog Hipster Runoff (which has now been dubbed the Lana Del Report) has likened the controversy surrounding the persona of Lana Del Rey to a blogger's existential crisis, and her music is playing worldwide, including at the most recent Dior Haute Couture show in Paris.
Is Born to Die, however, worth all of the attention that's been given to this self-proclaimed "gangster Nancy Sinatra?" In a word, no. Grant's created two captivating singles in the title track and "Video Games," characterized by her sensual voice that pivots between haunting and seductive, but the rest of the album is maddeningly similar.
From Grant's pouty lips fall 15 tracks of ballads and slow jams, punctuated by a few catchier tunes that quickly become repetitive. Born to Die has the characteristics of cinematic music that you'd expect to hear in a smoky jazz club. Grant's voice is complemented by varied backing music that includes strings and R&B beats, but it's not enough to save her from sometimes sophomoric lyrics about jilted lovers and the ennui of a 20-something.
Outside the two singles, "Blue Jeans" and "Diet Mountain Dew" are two of the stronger tracks on Born to Die. On "Blue Jeans," Grant sings of a lover who "fit[s] me better than my favorite sweater," living up to the sound of the vintage-obsessed image she's fabricated for herself. "Diet Mountain Dew," alternatively, is a catchy pop sing-along.
While the first half of Born to Die holds up, later deluxe edition tracks like "Without You" and "Million Dollar Man" don't do anything that wasn't already accomplished on the album's earlier ballads. "Lolita" is easily the most annoying track as Grant sings about making boys "fall like dominoes," and kissing them in the "D-A-R-K, dark tonight," repeatedly.
Individually, Born to Die's tracks are digestible, but they certainly don't work as a cohesive album. Grant's apparent apathy behind the guise of Lana Del Rey is reflected in her music, and she's certainly capable of better.