Let January 31, 2012 be known as the day that it happened: the day that Born to Die (out now on Interscope) finally dropped. After months of furious Internet opining, illegal downloads of leaked tracks, tons of grainy live footage, and one questionable Saturday Night Live performance, we now have an entire record of moody, lilting pop songs with which to rightfully judge Lana Del Rey. So what is the verdict?
It is—wait for it—not that bad. Some of the songs, in fact, are actually pretty good. I’ve been a fan of the title track since that crazy explosion- and tiger-filled video hit YouTube, but as the album opener, it sets a high bar that few of the other tracks can hit. "National Anthem" has a booming, cathartic chorus worthy of belters like Florence Welch, but the quasi-rapped verses come off as a little cheesy. The cheese factor is Del Rey’s biggest problem on Born to Die. Songs like "Diet Mountain Dew" are catchy and fun to sing along to, so long as you try to ignore the fact that she’s comparing her boyfriend to a soft drink championed by hyperactive middle schoolers. On "Off to the Races," LDR tries more rapping—it’s weird, but it works. She even quotes Lolita on the chorus (yeah, she went there), and while it makes you want to shake your head in disbelief, it's also hard to deny that the song is sinister and sort of awesome. Del Rey is definitely going to catch some flack for "This is What Makes Us Girls," an anthem that flies in the face of conventional "chicks before dicks" wisdom, mostly because she doesn’t question the stereotypes she’s singing about ("We don’t look for heaven and we put our love first/Don’t you know we’d die for it? It’s a curse"). It’s kind of like "Shit Girls Say" in song form—sort of entertaining, but a little bit offensive if you think about it.
But here’s the thing about Lana Del Rey. All of this time, people have been complaining about her lack of "authenticity" because of her hipster, "Lolita got lost in the hood" (her words, not mine) aesthetic. But really, she’s just a pop singer, not that different from Katy Perry or Lady Gaga. Instead of candy-colored wigs or haute couture-gone-insane, her theme is 1960s chanteuse crossed with Brooklyn ingénue. Maybe she didn’t pick it out herself, but who cares? It’s her thing now. Let’s collectively get over the fact that LDR has proven herself to be more Ke$ha than Cat Power and get on with our lives. And let’s get drunk and cry to "Video Games," because it’s just that kind of song.