Here is my unprofessional and unscientific critique of Lana Del Rey’s new CD Born to Die — ok so I don’t hate it, but I don’t exactly love it. I like the songwriting, and I genuinely like some of the songs but, I’m given to bouts of melancholia so the CD suits me fine. Why don’t I love it? This is the reason: as I listen to the songs all I can think about is – How is she going to sing this live?
Lana sings some of the songs entirely out of her range, and I’m not griping about the high notes, it’s the low ranges that are the problem. She can’t sing that low then switch to high ranges in the same song — just watch her SNL performance again to see for yourself — in order to do that she needs to have a lot of breath and voice control — which she does not have. In the studio the songs sound great but I flinch at the thought of her trying to sing them live (especially Carmen *shudders*) — this is the one time I hope an artist lip syncs in concert (although to be fair Lana herself has said she’s more of a studio singer than a live singer). Million Dollar Man is a great song, strong lyrics, really great but, even in the studio recording there is an audible struggle in the vocal range changes. I checked youtube and found a live version of the song — and I wished I hadn’t found it. I really hope she invests in a vocal coach because I would like to see her sing these songs live — but only after she’s had time to practice with a vocal coach, not before then.
(There are other performers who cannot sing live, such as Rihanna and Katy Perry, the difference is, they can distract you with their performances. Lana Del Rey’s music doesn’t lend itself to backup dancers and acrobatics, leaving her open to excessive scrutiny of her singing.)
The songs musically are very retro with a modern spin, kind of like a mash up of Frank Sinatra, Gwen Stefani, The Verve, and some other things I can’t identify. Radio is very melancholic and very retro then….she curses — I equate saying “a fucking dream” to a modern spin. The Lucky Ones however, sounds like a song my mom would have liked back when women wore corsets and gloves with their dresses. This Is What Makes Us Girls is more modern and with the right remix it’ll become every 16yr old girl’s anthem.
As far as I’m concerned Without You and Dark Paradise are the best tracks on the album, the lyrics are beautiful and she sings well on both of them. Born to Die is the reason I started listening to Lana so that track is also a favorite, Video Games is a great song but also a song to put on repeat the nights your insomnia kicks in — if that doesn’t lull you to sleep you might want to check with a doctor. Lolita is fun, fun, fun and I can see her making a video where she’s dressed as Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita – very retro and very much fitting her image. (on a sidenote for some reason Lolita reminds me of Gwen Stefani’s Holla Back girl – can’t really explain why, maybe it’s the rap singing….)
The album is good, not terrible, I have been listening to it for a couple of days and have only skipped a few tracks. In all fairness to the critics who hated the CD I will love the wackest of songs if the lyrics are beautiful, so there’s that. I can’t hate the album completely because I like the writing — kill me but I’d rather listen to Lana’s Diet Mountain Dew than Nicki Minaj’s Stupid Ho.
Maybe that’s Lana’s appeal, she may not be able to sing like Gaga but at least she won’t scare the shit out of your mom…..until she starts singing about getting high.
The CD is not terrible, it’s not great, it’s good and definitely not the worst thing out there, if you don’t want to buy it listen to it on Spotify first – I’m sure you’ll find yourself liking a song or two. (FYI her album is currently #2 on Billboard this week)
(I found this photo of a young Marilyn Monroe and it reminded me of the cover shot of Lana Del Rey’s CD — I don’t know if it was intentional but it certainly is interesting)