Lana Del Rey’s second record, 2012’s ‘Born to Die’, shows her continued growth as an artist from the first record. Pop music is currently in the midst of a surge of female singers who have a tinge of the old fashioned in their bag of tricks, but unlike limp-wristed singers like Adele and Christina Perri, Lana Del Rey has a genuine grasp of the art form and how to make quality material. One of the reasons for this is that she understands the importance of image. She has embraced the femme fatale, bad girl persona and that certainly lends a lot of weight to her material.
From the baroque-style opening track, the title track, Lana Del Rey creates an atmospheric, dreamy environment in which this record will flourish in throughout its full duration. This a great, wondrous track that is seeping with a sexual sensuality that she is clearly not shy in the least about owning up to. On the next track, “Off the the Races”, however, it begins to reveal itself that Lana Del Rey isn’t exempt from the 21st century pop diva complex altogether, as she begins to slip into the familiar territory of pushing things a bit too much without any work to be done by the listener. The whole ‘hey-look-at-me-the-cute-pop-star-talking-about-my-cuteness’ thing that has become such a nauseating cliche is what this track really is, even if it is quite agreeable musically. The thing that separates her from the pack is the fact that she isn’t solely defined by this and is, in fact, capable of presenting herself with an audaciousness that is clever and refined. This is best represented in the undisputed highlight of the record, “Video Games”, which is sexier than any track should be allowed to be. So this juxtaposition is what goes on to define the rest of the record. Tracks like “National Anthem” revel in the cliches, while “Summertime Sadness” is something more genuine. Regardless of all of this, “Diet Moutain Dew” is just too infectious of a song to argue with. Sorry.
At the end of the day, Lana Del Rey is quite a complex musical figure. On one hand, she’s no different than any other pop diva presenting low-IQ nonsense to an easily impressed audience. On the other hand, she’s something totally different; something dark; troubled; gothic; dangerous. It’s this side of her that tends to win out over the other and this is why she’s an artist worth giving attention. Her perceived sense of troubled emotion mixed with her femme fatale image make her an irresistible figure that you can easily forgive for occasionally dabbling in what has become accepted as the conventional pop diva narrative. This does, however, cloud the chances of any of her records being considered flawless. With that said, this is a fair record that has its highlights; it’s baroque sensibility should be applauded; Lana Del Rey’s conduction of her bad girl image should be applauded; her vocal performance should also be applauded, she definitely knows how to utilize her voice as a tool to induce hypnosis. Hypnotic is a good word to describe her and this record, even if she is capable of more.