LANA DEL REY

After last year"s hit "Video Games" và the endless remixes, leaks, think-pieces, & controversy that followed, it"s finally here: the major-label debut from Lana Del Rey.

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What happens khổng lồ a dream fulfilled? More specifically, an American dream fulfilled, rags turning khổng lồ riches with the snap of a manicured finger, kissing James Dean in Gatsby"s swimming pool, getting played on the radio. This is a central question animating Lana Del Rey"s Born to Die. Our heroine has all the love, diamonds, and Diet Mountain Dew she could ask for, yet still sings, "I wish I was dead," sounding utterly incapable of joy. Lớn paraphrase Liz Phair, if you get everything you wish for and you"re still unhappy, then you know that the problem is you.

Given the waves of hype and backlash over the last six months, it can be easy to forget that we"re here, first & foremost, because of a song. "Video Games" struck a nerve not just because it was an introduction to lớn Del Rey"s captivating voice but because it seemed lớn suggest something as-yet-unarticulated about the way we live today. Whatever her intention, as a metaphor about disconnect and detachment from our own desires, "Video Games" felt frank, pointed, and true, & it had a chord progression and melody to lớn match. The ultimate disappointment of Born to Die, then, is how out of touch it feels not just with the world around it, but with the simple business of human emotion.

The singer born Elizabeth "Lizzy" Grant may have made her mark with a grainy homemade đoạn phim that brought to mind other grainy homemade videos in the indie sphere, but the slick sound và sentiment of "Radio", Born lớn Die"s most straightforward statement of purpose ("Baby love me "cause I"m playing on the radio/ How vì chưng you like me now?"), places it firmly within the realm of big-budget chart pop. Born lớn Die was produced by Emile Haynie, whose credits include Eminem, Lil Wayne, and Kid Cudi, and the album"s impressively lush atmosphere might be the one thing that will unite its detractors và apologists.

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The album"s recurring themes ooze out of every note: sex, drugs, and glitter hover in the yawning atmosphere around Del Rey"s breathy vocals. There are strings và trip-hop beats và bits of 1950s twang, and the melodies, assembled with assistance from hired-gun songwriters lượt thích Mike Daly (Plain trắng Ts, Whiskeytown) and Rick Nowels (Belinda Carlisle"s "Heaven Is a Place on Earth") are built to lớn stick. But for an album that aims for fickle radio listeners, many of its pop signifiers feel stale and ill-fitting. On "Million Dollar Man", Del Rey drawls like a highly medicated Fiona Apple, & "Diet Mountain Dew" và "Off to the Races" aim for chatty, sparkling opulence, this singer doesn"t have the personality khổng lồ bring it off.

The album"s point of view-- if you could điện thoại tư vấn it that-- feels awkward và out of date. Whether you take a line lượt thích "Money is the reason we exist/ Everybody knows that it"s a fact/ Kiss kiss" with a 10-carat grain of salt is up khổng lồ you, but even as a jab at the chihuahua-in-Paris-Hilton"s-handbag lifestyle, it feels limp and pointless (unlike, say, Lily Allen"s mock-vapid but slyly observant 2008 single "The Fear"). Still, the dollar signs in its eyes aren"t an inherent strike against Born lớn Die: Even in the wake of an international debt crisis và the Occupy movement, it was hard not to lớn fall for Watch the Throne. But that"s because Jay và Kanye made escapist fantasy sound so fun. Del Rey"s gem-encrusted dreamworld, meanwhile, relies on clichés ("God you"re so handsome/ Take me to lớn the Hamptons") rather than specific evocations. It"s a fantasy world that makes you long for reality.

And speaking of fantasy: The conversation surrounding Lana Del Rey has underscored some seriously depressing truths about sexism in music. She was subjected to the kind of intense scrutiny-- about her backstory và especially her appearance-- that"s generally reserved for women only. But the sexual politics of Born khổng lồ Die are troubling too: You"d be hard pressed lớn find any tuy nhiên on which Del Rey reveals an interiority or figures herself as anything more complex than an ice-cream-cone-licking object of male desire (a line in "Blue Jeans", "I will love you till the over of time/ I would wait a million years," sums up about 65% of the album"s lyrical content). Even when Del Rey offers something that could be read as a critique ("This is what makes us girls/ We don"t stick together "cause we put our love first"), she asks that we make no effort to change, escape, or transcend the way things are ("Don"t cry about it/ Don"t cry about it.") In terms of its America-sized grandeur và its fixation with the emptiness of dreams, Born lớn Die attempts to lớn serve as Del Rey"s own beautiful, dark, twisted fantasy, but there"s no spark và nothing at stake.

The critic Ellen Willis once wrote of Bette Midler: "Blatant artifice can, in the right circumstances, be poignantly honest, and she expresses the tension between image và inner self that all of us-- but especially women-- experience." But Born to Die never allows tension or complexity into the mix, & its take on female sexuality ends up feeling thoroughly tame. For all of its coos about love & devotion, it"s the album equivalent of a faked orgasm-- a collection of torch songs with no fire.