Controversial chanteuse Lana Del Rey's highly anticipated album was released this week, to the cheers and jeers of the Internet at large. The Hollywood glamour girl with the sultry voice is obviously no stranger to heavy criticism and cutting speculation, and some say her profile has actually been bolstered by her very vocal detractors--a career path not unlike those of viral video sensation Rebecca Black or pop star Justin Bieber. We've heard the critics go on and on about Lana's "dead behind the eyes" look, and we've heard the hoopla about her "Saturday Night Live" performance debacle, but now let's focus on what the big-name critics have said about the real meat-and-potatoes issue here: her actual debut album, Born To Die.
Rolling Stone, Grade: 2 of 5 Stars
Rolling Stone made sure to distance itself from the music blogger community that has been buzzing over Del Rey for the past year before delving into a generally panning review.
"Given her chic image, it's a surprise how dull, dreary and pop-starved Born to Die is... Her strength is the lyrics, which have the pop-trash perversity that the music lacks...lyrics about the perils of seduction work better when attached to seductive tunes."
Pitchfork, Grade: 5.5 of 10
Indie music superpower Pitchfork.com gave the album a more forgiving, albeit unenthusiastic, review, noting its pop potential and the strength of its lead single "Video Games," but also its lack of overall depth.
"The ultimate disappointment of Born to Die, then, is how out of touch it feels not just with the world around it, but with the simple business of human emotion...For all of its coos about love and devotion, it's the album equivalent of a faked orgasm--a collection of torch songs with no fire."
Spin, Grade: 6 of 10
Spin started its review by pointing out some of the best musicians of the past 50 years have had name changes, gimmicks, and other public relations-conjured hype attributed to them: Bob Dylan isn't his real name, the Ramones aren't real brothers, etc.
"This all has been so absurd: Who cares what percentage of that, or this record, or her is true? What do you care? Whether Born to Die sells 100,000 copies or 10,000 or 1,500, it has served a valuable purpose as the Internet's insta-backlash, hype-vortex tipping point, the darkest night yet of our Tumblr-ing soul...This record is not godawful. Nor is it great. But it's better than we deserve. We broke her; we bought her."
The Guardian, Grade: 3 of 5 stars
Let's hear from a U.K. voice, since Brits could potentially give more heed to Lana Del Rey's fantastic performance on England's "Later...with Jools Holland" show than her dismal "Saturday Night Live" appearanace—but not by much. The Guardian's mediocre review delves into the hypothesis: "Isn't there, though, a chance that Grant might be playing dead?"
"Unlike other hedonic outpourings, such as, say, Lady Gaga's 'Just Dance' or Katy Perry's 'Last Friday Night,' Lana Del Rey's partying is fueled by a knowing sadness, and sung in that laconic, hypnotic voice, which ultimately saves this thoroughly dissolute, feminist nightmare of a record for the romantics among us...there's a lyric (telephone wires 'sizzling like a snare'), or a guitar arpeggio to keep you from puncturing a wrist vein with a cocktail umbrella."
EW.com, Grade: C+
With Del Rey's thematic obsession with the concept of Hollywood, why not hear from a voice that is one of the most "Hollywood" out there? But EW.com didn't sway from the general consensus that Born To Die doesn't live up to the hype.
"Born to Die's wild swings between unqualified stunners and bizarre miscues provide no real answers...Is Lana the real deal, or the result of a misguided attempt to build the perfect femme fatale out of Nico's leather jacket and Nicki Minaj's wig?"
The New Yorker, Grade: None given, but overall positive
One of the more removed voices in the cacophony of Del Rey Internet-slamming, The New Yorker gave Born To Die an optimistic review that acknowledged its weaknesses, celebrated its strengths, and expanded its discussion to criticizing the critics and the practices of pop music. Of all the reviews, this is the most thoughtful, objective, and rational a perspective as we (or Lana) could have hoped for. Unfortunately, the review indicates that one of the album's biggest weaknesses is the persona of Lana Del Rey herself.
"Anyone committed to taking Del Rey down now would have to be deaf to the gorgeously odd confections that pop affords. There is little wisdom in Born to Die, but more than enough pleasure...Born to Die is full of rubbery, well-formed melodies and harmonic richness—who cares who wrote much of it—but the character of Del Rey, authentic or not, is so inconsistent that she fades from view, into her own photo spread."
In summation, the critics seem to give Born To Die and resounding "meh" *shoulder shrug*. This could prove a problem for the singer, as notoriety built on the back of a pretty picture and not a strong album will prove flimsy. Had she been in the reality-show scene, like impeccably put-together but questionably talented ladies Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton, perhaps Del Rey would have a more certain future. But her critics don't seem to be backing down any time soon despite what she does, possibly making the title Born To Die a morbidly ironic prediction about her music career.
An interesting tidbit to note is U.K. music site NME.com nominated Lana Del Rey for an NME Award this year—but in their "Best New Band" category. Contenders in the "Best Solo Artist" category include Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds and Florence + The Machine, whose names insinuate a band, not just the main artist. Could this be an indication of Del Rey's artifice becoming institutionalized?
All in all, Lana undoubtedly has a certain something that resonated with listeners. Her career could be further nurtured with the right management, music, and decisions, if the Internet could ever "get over it."
What do you think of Lana Del Rey's Born To Die album? Have you heard it? Would you buy it? Leave your comments below!