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Born to Die

by Lana Del Rey

Released January 27, 2012 via Interscope Records / Polydor Records

Reviewed January 26, 2022

Top tracks (based on community voting)
Video Games (54%), Born To Die (38%), Off to the Races (32%)

Informing a decade of alt-pop starlets, overnight indie darling Lana Del Rey knew her niche and used anything that was possible to infatuate impressionable suburban between-agers. Cupping their chins in her delicate hand just like how the bad boys would hold her, she’s a siren chanting mantras of discrete substance abuse and dancing on the flirtatious cusp of supposed love. The eponymous opener combines percussive blacksmith clanks with faded screeches and hollers against some neat string arrangements and her dark, soprano croons, while “Blue Jeans” wears the album’s effortlessly graceful yet haughtily gentrified hip-hop-ish beats on its sleeve (or pant-leg?). Compared to 2012’s hedonistic pop-soundscape, the album is strangely decadent and instrumentally mature, calculated; this has stuck among emerging songstresses following suit, from failed copies like Melanie Martinez to legitimate cases of constructive criticism seen in Billie Eilish. The modernist aesthetic dominating the album’s marketing visuals and the lyrical romanticism of patriarchal submission to men broken by their own system reminds me of an age I would never long for, yet Lana’s recall for it is Freudian and slightly obsessive. This character is what turns me away from Born to Die, but the sonic flesh that it inhabits is generally pretty. A positive benchmark that something more extravagant and philosophically mature can surely surpass. – Cam (7.3/10)

Lana Del Rey has come a long way since her 2012 breakout release, Born to Die, which turned her into an instant star. The commercial success has not lost an ounce of its momentum, but her discography isn’t one without flaw. With her seemingly overnight success, Del Rey became a subject of internet controversy, with claims of “inauthenticity.” The idea that consumers can ever truly understand who the real artist is—or that a persona inherently diminishes the value of a piece of art—is extremely convoluted. More importantly, “inauthenticity” is not even the issue with Born to Die; Lizzy Grant’s breakout is simply just boring. The melancholy-soaked fusion of chamber pop and trip-hop had potential, and the impact that this record’s production has had since is undeniable. But the lushness of Born to Die can only do so much. It’s a bit overbearing at times, and there isn’t enough variety to carry this style out for 50 minutes. And Del Rey’s songwriting—with its excessive melodrama and a near-dependency on 1960s Americana tropes—most of these songs are only bearable one at a time. – Dominick (6/10)

Born to Die is a microcosm of Tumblr’s Golden Age; a notable digital time capsule in which the roots of Nth-wave feminism were fortified, and cultivated the social climate that Lana Del Rey would later criticize in an Instagram-equivalant to a career death rattle. The record isn’t terribly lengthy, but it trudges along through a confusing haze of trip hop and lounge ambience, as Lana croons her dour lullabies and romanticizes the shit out of being delicate and in need of a gruff man to make cooing dolly noises at, or whatever… The lyrics are often just as senseless as they are overwrought and the noir atmosphere overstays its welcome in a way that makes you double-check that the album repeat setting is off not even three tracks in. Born to Die knows its destination, but fails to make the ride as exciting as the title could have suggested. Sonically, the record is notable in sparing moments yet largely unimpressive. The more engaging half of this project lives on now-defunct tumblogs that used to clutter the Tumblr dashboard with gifs and photosets of Lana Del Rey’s enigmatic aesthetics… mid century maudlin one moment, Old Hollywood tragedy the next, and then a chola-sona that would make Gwen proud. Born to Die’s cult following is unsurprising as Lana’s impact prepared the general public for acts such as Lorde and Billie, but it’s ultimately as cringe-inducing as the folks still convinced Lana didn’t get enough flower crowns for her work the first time around. – Henny (6/10)

Pax: 8.2/10 | Hadley: 8/10 | Pablo: 8/10 | Cam: 7.3/10

Dominick: 6/10 | Henny: 6/10 | DeVán: 5/10


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