That Lana Del Rey’s much-ballyhooed video for the title track from her forthcoming album Born To Die first appeared on a sketchy Russian site (via Pitchfork) is all too appropriate, given that it opens and closes with the footage of the endlessly discussed singer standing topless in front of an American flag, hugging an overly tattooed guy that was endlessly looped for the song’s premiere twoish weeks ago. (Has it really only been that long?) The low-quality, blurry clip looks in parts like (of course) a movie you’d catch on TV one weekend afternoon, maybe during a rain delay in a baseball game or a moment when you happened to travel back in time to 1983.
The cinematic scope of the video makes it plain that Del Rey is a high priority for her record label, Interscope: An ornate castle (complete with its own chapel) serves as one setting, gorgeous shots of a cloud-cloaked, deserted plain bring to mind Kanye West’s video for “Flashing Lights,” two tigers flank the singer as she sullenly lip-syncs. (They don’t really do much, despite their being so ballyhooed by Del Rey and her attendant press in the run-up to the clip’s release. Maybe it’s a metaphor??) And at the end there’s lots of fire, because, you see, the whole video is about Del Rey actually being born to die; the shots of her in the castle with the tigers are pretty much the equivalent of her calmly, sardonically narrating the moments she describes in the song (kissing in the pouring rain, being insane enough to hallucinate her dude’s presence—or absence—while in bed). All this culminates in her bloody death, which is apparently caused by a car crash that stems from a post-post-coital-argument 80-mph makeout session. In most cases, the moral of a video that ended in such spectacularly grisly fashion would be “Don’t kiss the guy you’re fighting with while he’s driving, especially when you’re sitting in the death seat,” but given the abject misery put forth by Del Rey’s songs when they discuss the bad-for-her men that she can’t help but be attracted to (I mean, look at those tattoos! and the way he smokes!)—not to mention the way that the castle-dwelling version of her self walks into the light at the clip’s end—it’s probably more accurate to surmise that she believes being born to die is actually a blessing, because in the afterlife, there are presumably better dudes, or at the very least fewer internal and external expectations about what a young woman needs in order to have a fulfilled life—or, at least, to avoid confounding huffy Internet audiences.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 14, 2011