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But maybe shining a harsh light on the ridiculousness of seduction—and its often-frustrating payoff when it does work—is part of the point, part of the Lana Del Rey Project being attributed to her by so many members of the commentariat. The album has an overwhelming feeling of anhedonia, even though its trappings telegraph glamour; while the likes of Kanye West and Del Rey's labelmate Lady Gaga have been more than happy to let the hoi polloi know that the good life ain't all it's cracked up to be, Born To Die has little evidence that it can be any good at all.

At least, not until "This Is What Makes Us Girls" ends with Del Rey leaving her pals behind, "cryin' cause I know I'm never comin' back" but vowing to her friends that "it's all going to happen." That it closes the standard edition of the album offers a small spark of hope; it brings to mind the end of the similarly disaffected girlhood chronicle Ghost World, when the heroine hops a bus out of town in order to see what the world beyond the life she has already lived might have to offer. And it's incredibly appropriate here, because Born To Die is an album with the timeless pop question "Is that all there is?" lurking, obviously and ominously, behind its every moan and underneath each reheated Sneaker Pimps beat. Whether or not the vicious cycle of bloggability allows Del Rey to explore the answer to that question on a second album is, of course, another story.

What it feels like: Lana Del Rey
Interscope/Chuck Grant
What it feels like: Lana Del Rey

mjohnston@villagevoice.com

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6 comments
Ryan
Ryan

The reference to the "current malady of atmospherics trumping melody" is an interesting one, not because the trend it identifies doesn't exist, but because it is identified normatively, as a "malady." I too tend to prefer strong melodies to sonic textures, but this is purely a personal preference. In any given song, atmospherics could be just as valid an achievement as melodic innovation. I wonder if Maura is allowing a sort of pop-ism to influence her thinking on this album: where the baseline for evaluating music becomes the pop tropes of strong hooks and melodies, and other possible features are inherently less worthwhile. Since popism (or poptimism) has become the dominant critical stance amongst the critical cognoscenti over the past decade, it seems possible that it has calcified into the new rockism.

Dave B
Dave B

It's no secret by now that Ms. Johnston really, really dislikes Lana Del Rey... and for reasons that are only partly due to her music. The same complaints she makes about LDR (her look on the album cover, vocal tics, cliched lyrics, etc.) could be made of many other pop artists today (some of whom are bestsellers, or have received critical acclaim).

"Born To Die will make for a hell of a text on 21st-century girlhood once all the dust settles." Does every lyric every female singer utters count as a statement of its time? What about some of Lady Gaga's kinky lyrics; are they a text on 21st-century girlhood as well? Is "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" a seminal statement on late-20th-century girlhood? Or "Material Girl"?

Are some of Del Rey's lyrics odd, strange, overwrought, or bizarre? Yes, but since when is that unusual in pop music?

Maybe the writer was thirsty (or yearning for free drinks?) when she wrote this review, because in just the first few paragraphs she mentions: "glamorously spilling drinks as they give their sexiest looks" ... "when the flashbulbs stop popping and the free liquor runs out." ... and "the insane markup on bottle-service liquor."

Like many music fans, I'm interested to learn what critics think about Born to Die. And I've enjoyed some of Ms. Johnston's past articles. This review, much more than the others I've read of Del Rey's album, says more about the writer's biases and dislikes than it does about the album. Maybe it was cathartic for Ms. Johnston to pen this, but as a reader I don't find it all that useful.

Anon
Anon

Take away all the socio-babble that fills most of this review and what you're left with is fertilizer. Lana and her "team" have managed to con the world into thinking this caca has some depth. Big ups to them.

Guest
Guest

While not shying away from the fact that it is caca and that del ray is plastic. it's even part of her image, portraying herself as some kind of mkultra corporate drone. It's infuriating though that they've managed to have it both ways and can make her famous and cash checks while basically admitting she's full of shit and is predominantly a marketing creation. Only plus is that we are witnessing the implosion of all meaning and sooner or later the entire edifice will consume itself and be gone.

 
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