From her allegedly manufactured image to her atrocious live performances (YouTube her now infamous performance on SNL) and the much-anticipated debut of her second album “Born to Die,” Elizabeth Grant, the real name of the 25-year-old New York native “Lana Del Rey,” has absolutely nowhere to hide, much less offer up any good explanations for her tarnished image as the next “it” girl of indie pop.
For a singer who describes herself the “gangster Nancy Sinatra,” Del Rey, for the most part, sings like she’s either being punched in the throat or being asphyxiated. Online magazine/blog Gawker correctly deduced that Lana Del Rey was created as the poster child of college students who are “Urban Outfitters shoppers and obsessive Tumblr users,” and what went so wrong in the pouty-lipped singer’s rise to fame is the fact that her target audience turned on her.
Ironically, the aspiring indie pop star has been shunned by hipsters, who pride themselves on their immaculate taste in “true” and “genuine” music and now find Lana Del Rey’s manufactured image an offense to their never ending search for authentic talent. The fact that her career took off largely because of her millionaire father’s connections did not set well with those who at first appreciated the singer for her supposed “originality.” Being cradled to fame under her wealthy family’s imperious wing certainly did not help Ms. Grant’s attitude either. When under fire for her lackluster and often unbearable live performances, she would reply with “my fans know I’m no showstopper;” and when asked about the backlash from her train wreck of a performance on SNL, the singer nonchalantly said “I actually felt good about it. I thought I looked beautiful and sang fine.” I didn’t know looking good had anything to do with being a musical guest, and I certainly wasn’t made aware that “fine” was acceptable for national television.
With her public image and reputation aside, “Born to Die” isn’t an entirely terrible album. It’s not great either. It’s mediocre and predictable, and all the tracks sound so similar that they meld into one another, creating a unison of comatose love-sick chorus. All the good songs have already been offered to the public: “Video Games,” “Born to Die” and “Blue Jeans” have been played to death over the past several months. Others like “Carmen,” “Radio” and “Diet Mountain Dew” are also pretty catchy—something you’d play on a day you’re bored and sick of your iTunes. With that being said, tracks like “National Anthem” and “Off to the Races” make me think Del Rey hired a high school girl to pen her lyrics. It makes me cringe hearing her croon “he doesn’t mind I have a Las Vegas past/he doesn’t mind I have a LA crass way about me/he loves me with every beat of his cocaine heart.” Those words came straight out of a teenage girl’s notebook of angst.
Lana Del Rey’s voice isn’t bad either. It’s low and husky with a little bit of sexiness forced in, but at least she’s not completely autotuned. As an artist, she focused way too much on style than substance; instead of spending all that effort on her lips and hours on creating her trademark retro makeup and hairstyle, Del Rey should have learned to conquer her shaky live performances and really listen to her critics. Del Rey has potential, but whether or not she wants to achieve it or simply ride the tide of her current fame is entirely up to her.