Lana Del Rey 

Born to Die

I'd love to find a guy who's been stranded on a desert island for six months — not so that I can reunite him with his family, per se. I think it'd be fun to have him review this damn album. In case you don't read the Internet, here's some background:

"Lana Del Rey" apparently had a flop of a career a few years back under her given name, Lizzy Grant. But she had a smashingly successful re-launch in October, under her new name, hinged mostly on the song "Video Games." Del Rey's music is schmaltzy, sweaty, out-of-touch, but for some reason makes people go bonkers. In critic-land, the past few months have been nothing short of a shit-storm of angst surrounding the starlet. The controversy mostly involves debates of authenticity. It's terribly confusing.

That said, taking this album at face value is not so daunting. Parts are enthralling — chiefly the production, which is classically cinematic with a hip-hop edge. The album is undeniably sexy, playful when it needs to be, and almost pulls off some of the more serious thematic strands. It's substantial (fifteen tracks) and, though it's hard for some to swallow, it's obvious that what Del Rey is doing is at least unique.

What you shouldn't expect from Born to Die, though, is any type of subtlety or deep meaning. Certain tracks fall entirely flat ("Lolita" may well be a Britney Spears rip) and, lyrically, there's face-palms aplenty. The album's central weakness is her voice. She sounds like a new singer; traversing her own vocal range seems a bit like crossing through foreign territory. And yet, she's not bad enough to ruin everything. The enduring strength of ballads such as "Video Games" and the juicy theatricality of tunes like "Blue Jeans" or "Off to the Races" make Born to Die worth checking out. (Interscope)

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