Feb 20, 2012
by Samuel Tekani
Born To Die is a poor-little-rich-girl montage of loveless fathers and celluloid weekends, strictly first world pressures given Shakespearean scale and shameless melodrama. Is this meant to be endearing? It’s the more heart-felt soundtrack to Bret Easton Ellis’ territory, extended adolescence combined with obscene wealth and emotional immaturity, resulting in phony sentiment and tortured posturing. Speaking of which, this album in a word? Pretty posturing.
Admittedly the sound is gorgeous, perfectly produced (more key words, cough) and toeing that line between indie-interesting and pop-blah. But the sorrow is maddeningly posed. Despite an elegant sonic signature Del Ray fails to transcend generic songstress, by having disproportionately empty lyrics. It’s like Ke$ha doing vocal track for Sigur Ros, Del Ray’s voice is nowhere near big enough to mask inadequacy, perhaps especially against such sweeping composition.
And it’s so frustrating because everything else is as it should be, it’s just the myopic breadth of her writing that holds this back from being phenomenal. Sure, the hooks will give it staying power (for the summer anyway), but ‘classic’ is an adjective she’s already shooed. Now having said that, this is pretty damn catchy stuff and manages to shrug off inane lyrics for some soaring moments, exemplars of which are title track ‘Born to Die’ and ‘Radio’ (my personal favourite).
Perhaps Ms. Del Ray should feel the most cheated, because it’s her silken siren voice that’s muddied and betrayed, a voice that really haunts with something implacably guttural, velvety and even funereal. Sacrilege that such a voice should toil to spit out flat, familiar tales of ‘bitch gonna marry rich’ followed by over-the-top lovelorn remorse (next time on Gossip Girl), etcetera. Perhaps if daddy’s plastic had had less to do with her career (mere speculation), something real could have emerged from the no doubt orgiastic revelries of her pampered existence, none of this LV toting poolside glamour but the cash drenched recklessness of a no-holds-barred adolescence. Now there’s something worth chronicling!
In spite of incongruous songwriting Born To Die will no doubt find success, crested overlong by inexplicable hype and armed-to-the-teeth with over-produced nubile charm. I expect most tracks will find a viral Greys Anatomy-esque coolness through spots on similarly exploitive t-v dramas, which is exactly where Ms Del Ray belongs (ooh, burn).