Born To DieAlbum |
Polarizing artist's flawed but essentially likeable debut.
Forget, for a moment, that this isn't her name and those aren't her lips. Ever since a nice middle-class boy from small-town Minnesota transformed himself into beat-folk urban hero Bob Dylan, "authenticity" has been meaningless in pop music. If anything, the primary flaw of Born To Die -- and no question, it's deeply flawed -- is not that Lana Del Rey assumed a pose, it's that she doesn't stick to it. The woozy, dreamy This Mortal Coil-meets-The Shangri-Las vibe of the album's best tracks is hugely appealing. At its best, Born To Die does for Julee Cruise's cult-fave 1989 collaboration with David Lynch, Floating Into The Night, what contemporaries like Best Coast did for late '80s indiepop singles: it's a brash update of a sound that deserves an audience beyond its existing cult. The problem is that the good-to-great songs are surrounded by filler tracks that have nothing to do with Del Ray's self-proclaimed "gangster Nancy Sinatra" vibe. In particular, "Off to the Races" and "National Anthem" sound like leftovers from her old career as Gwen Stefani wannabe Lizzie Grant. Some of the other underwritten tracks, including "Diet Mountain Dew" and "This Is What Makes Us Girls," at least get the '60s-soundtrack-influenced atmosphere right. Del Rey might have been better served by teasing out a couple more singles on the level of "Video Games" and "Blue Jeans" while putting together a full album's worth of quality material. With the backlash already well underway, this half-baked debut may derail her entirely.