Lana Del Rey
‘Born To Die’ (Polydor)
Never has there been so much expectation based on so little evidence. Predominantly off the back of one single, Lana Del Rey has wound up as the ultimate web-buzz poster girl – a strange phenomenon based on pouts and affected quotes, doe-eyed glances, instagram photos and 16 million YouTube hits. Of course, in recent weeks there’s been a slow stream of leaked demos prepping us for her full debut (the cynics among you may even argue that they were purposely released to curb the hyped expectancy somewhat), but now heralds the time when the self-styled “gangster Nancy Sinatra” really has to prove herself. A year to the day after the release of ‘21’, is this finally an artist that could steal Adele’s chart-dominating crown? Quite possibly. For whilst ‘Born To Die’ is (thankfully) hardly twelve carbon-copies of ‘Video Games’, it does entirely encompass the sepia-soaked, old Hollywood charm that the singer’s breakthrough hit hinted at. Riddled with sombre laments on lust and death, the record exists in an evocative, widescreen world where girls perpetually wear furs and red dresses and boys look like tattooed James Deans. Whether huskily spitting about “gold chains”, “cigars” and her “tar black soul” (‘Off To The Races’) or cooing, baby-voiced and fragile, to “kiss me hard before you go” (‘Summertime Sadness’), Del Rey is both the narrator and the doomed heroine in a land of her own making. ‘Carmen’, perhaps, exemplifies this most clearly; veering theatrically from jaded, weary advisor to wide-eyed young novice, with swelling strings, French dialogue and the overblown drama of a Moulin Rouge off cut, it shows that the singer is clearly playing a character. A character that she evidently embodies fully, but a character no less. With this backbone of enhanced, pseudo-reality in place, ‘Born To Die’ can happily fl it between the cold-hearted, hip hop sass of ‘National Anthem’ and the genuinely quite moving, jazz-inflected ‘Million Dollar Man’ without feeling too incongruous. There’s the odd moment where it all goes slightly off – ‘Diet Mountain Dew’, for example, is literally built to soundtrack Sex & The City, whilst ‘Summertime Sadness’ is a little too reminiscent of the title track – but the exaggerated, cartoon-like vividness of the majority of these offerings almost thrives in the extremity. ‘Born To Die’ may ultimately prove too-blinkered a vision to fully appeal to the Sheeran-loving public in the long run, but Lana has certainly proved that she’s not just here to play games.