Poor Lana, she’s been getting a lot of stick lately. First, there were the revelations about a previous secret life; music careers, botox, and millionaire fathers.
Then, there was embarrassing praise from the squarest man you’ll probably ever meet, David Cameron, who seems to be making a habit out of pissing off the famous. And finally, there was that Saturday Night Live performance, which although was about as comfortable to watch as the act of taking large bites out of your grandmother’s age-old china, should be applauded for its ability to outstage Daniel Radcliffe on the awkward front.
But for Miss Rey, the common blogger’s starlet who was thrust into middle-of-the-road success, a car-crash was always just around the corner, right? You’d think that for a girl repeatedly wrung out on indie music forums and columns, a club that has for years been battling the petty-bourgeois industry that is mainstream music, Del Rey would crawl out the kitchen sink a tad too dry for praise.
Wrong. 'Born To Die' is in fact a highly pleasant and charming album. It’s not just the music that stays true to the original single Video Games: lavish, dramatic orchestrations heavily laden with jazz, R&B and trip hop sounds; the effortlessly catchy melodies on songs like 'Diet Mountain Dew', and 'Lucky Ones'.
There’s also something captivating and Nabokovian about the perversity of the pop-trash lyrics (not least because there’s a track aptly named Lolita on the album). Twelve songs about a heroine’s doomed love affair with a classic bad boy, the one true love to whom she is so devoted, that she would spare every last breath of her tortured life. “I can be your china doll, if you wanna see me fall,” she purrs on track 'Without You'.
Though most of us would tire of a whole album’s worth of dangling cigarettes, red lipsticks and wife-beater vests; patent vignettes on the three D’s of flawed love – drink, drugs and death, the repetition is saved by the odd literary nod, such as in song Carmen. When the 17-year-old beauty appears on stage in the famous French opera comique, all the men ask her when she will love them. “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle,” she replies, “Love is a rebellious bird that no one can tame.”
And it is the way such citations are taken and blown up across a whole album that makes Del Rey so compellingly characterised. So she drew on the assistance of a team of heavyweight co-writers. There’s nothing new in spoilt brats attempting postmodernism through overdramatics and artificial references to money and fame, as the thousands of Lady Gaga forums out there will tell you.
No, Lana Del Rey isn’t the indie singer songwriter we all initially believed she was. But what she is is a finely tuned popstar. She is a performer, and 'Born To Die' is a well thought out project that has been hammered into elegant shape over time. Until we, and maybe even Lana herself come to terms with this, we’ll be going round in circles, never fully appreciating what attracted us to her and her music in the first place. Something for the romantic in us to connect with. Whether it’s manufactured or not.