The past couple of months have been terribly fraught with controversy for ascendant singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey, who just put out her major-label debut solo album, Born To Die (Interscope Records). The 25-year-old sensation, known for her hauntingly retro songs steeped in blues and old Hollywood glam, continues to be raked over the coals and her artistic integrity seriously questioned in the wake of a rather unflattering performance on Saturday Night Live in mid-January. There are those who have dubbed the performance one of the worst musical outings in SNL history.
As history has shown, the backlash over a floppy public display (and the subsequent haterade) can completely destroy the average fledgling career. Fortunately for the New York-bred Del Rey, she is no average artist.
Not to belabor the point, but I watched that SNL stint by Del Rey (born Elizabeth Grant), and while it was indeed a poor reflection of her gifts, it would be wholly unfortunate were that single misstep to deter people from paying attention to her new album, which for the record is an exceptional effort.
If you crossed the sad-soul persona of a Nancy Sinatra with the haunting angst of Norah Jones, the result would probably be Lana Del Rey, who like the aforementioned icons, makes music that acknowledges the melancholia within all of us, while speaking highly of her prodigious penchant for wicked melody, Americana, and wink-winks to a vanished era in Hollywood imagination.
Laden with indie pop, sad-core soul and slight hints of hip-hop, Born To Die is a mash-up of alternative genres that take on such soporific themes as despair, yearning, emotional freedom and the ubiquitous appeal of youthfulness in a world obsessed with the young. Throughout, Del Rey’s bewitching voice, full of intrigue and mystery, is inescapably mesmeric. In short, this girl’s music has real magnetic pull.