All aboard the hype train.
Lana’s album Born To Die dropped this week, and your friendly neighborhood bloggers teamed up shortly thereafter via Facebook chat to dissect and generate thoughtful insight about what will surely be remembered as the Jagged Little Pill of our era.
If you hadn’t noticed already by some of the aesthetic “improvements” we’ve made lately, we’ve been prepping for this day for a very, very long time. Born To Die is everything we hoped it would be, and in many ways, more. Also, in several other ways, less.
Eric: Del ready.
Matt: And so it begins.
Song: “Born to Die”
Matt: I like the guy that yells things like “HEY” and “LOUDER” through some sort of filter in the background. Also I think he’s featured on every song.
Eric: He is for sure on the new Drake album. I actually think I’ve ended up liking “Born to Die” more than “Video Games.”
Matt: Me too. “Born to Die” is one of the four and a half superstars of the album.
Eric: It’s funny, because I do genuinely like the lyrics too. I think a lot of the times she just cuts up “Mad Men” scripts, puts the words in a fishbowl and draws them out at random to write songs. But “BTD” has a nice doomed lovers thing going for it.
Matt: …And substitutes anything that doesn’t have to do with her bad-boy boyfriend… with her bad-boy boyfriend.
Eric: She definitely ran out of original material.
Matt: I’m pretty sure she’s actually a robot who was created by Pitchfork to gratify the hipsters for years, but then she malfunctioned and kept outputting the same songs and sounding like a man on SNL so they had to give her a 5.5. Actually, I think Lanabot’s creators intended her to be an EP-robot at first because of her limited range. But then she went haywire and did 3x as many songs as she should have.
Eric: Bad Lanabot. It’s like the CTRL-V keys got stuck.
Matt: I think you’re right. No “If… End” sequence for this Lanabot. She’s stuck in an infinite loop.
Eric: I think <REPEAT LINE value = “Lucky Strike cigarettes”>
Matt: Sometimes you are intimidated by her, and sometimes you just laugh.
Song: “Off to the Races”
Eric: And I’m on on record as to how I really like “Off to the Races.”
Matt: This song IS pretty good. it’s a needed burst of over-the-top seductive energy.
Eric: She’s more like a gangsta Liza Minelli. Because Nancy Sinatra WAS a gangster. Her dad had actual mob ties. And “Off to the Races” is pretty blatant about its posturing, but it’s probably the best example of that schtick.
Matt: There’s that yelling guy again.
Eric: There’s a Mickey Avalon song called “So Rich, So Pretty,” and “Off to the Races” is the female version of that song.
Matt: Oh, the yelling guy makes an early appearance in Blue Jeans.
Eric: Lana Del Rey is the female Mickey Avalon. You heard it here first.
Matt: I keep ignoring your Mickey Avalon comments mostly because I have no idea who that is.
Song: “Blue Jeans”
Eric: I don’t think we give enough credit to the actual *music* on this album. These are some moody, lush orchestrations.
Matt: Sometimes, if you listen close enough, you can hear the stock options in her voice.
Eric: I don’t care if this is factory produced. The factory did a really good job at sounding like an old Clint Eastwood movie.
Matt: I bet Clint Eastwood is the one yelling in the background.
Eric: He would be shouting “Get off my lawn.” Also, her higher range sounds best when she’s not trying to sound like a 3-year-old.
Song: “Video Games”
Eric: Aaaaand “Video Games.”
Matt: Where it all started.
Matt: This one sounds like velvet and emotions.
Eric: I could write an entire essay on how what this song meant to me in Virginia. That sounds over-dramatic, but I legitimately mean it.
Matt: This song : Your Virginia escapades :: Jimmy Eat World : My high school experience.
Eric: I think what this song has going for it, which might be due to it being the “first,” is that she sounds the least like a character here. “Video Games” is just pretty singing.
Matt: “Video Games” is by far the most genuine and vulnerable piece on the album.
Eric: Good Lanabot. Also, for someone who was born in Lake Placid, her songs sound an awful lot like California highways.
Matt: It’s like all of the 1960s decided to masquerade as 2010. Or the other way around.
Eric: Let’s be honest: I am a sucker for faux-retro music, and at her best, Lanabot pushes all the right buttons for me.
Song: “Diet Mountain Dew”
Matt: Who are her musicians? Does anyone know?
Eric: The Roots. They’re everyone else’s backing band.
Matt: “Diet Mountain Dew,” rather than being gratuitous product placement as the “Lana as a Marketing Novelty” proponents might think, was actually so named because that is Questlove’s favorite drink.
Eric: Also I’ve never met a human who drinks Diet Mountain Dew. It’s robot fuel. It is, coincidentally, the same color as antifreeze.
Matt: Tracks 1-4 and ARE Lana at her best. And I’ll give “DMD” a half star.
Song: “National Anthem”
Eric: I don’t hate “National Anthem” as much as you do.
Matt: If you dislike 3-year-old Lanabot, you should hate this track.
Eric: It is entirely banal and devoid of meaning, but it’s fairly mindless fun.
Matt: It’s also the SECOND song on the album ALREADY on which she has used some variation of the phrase “take your body downtown.”
Eric: I think this where the “gangsta” part of her persona is supposed to come in.
Matt: I like when she “raps” from 2:14-2:22.
Eric: The way she says “ovation” is impressively creative. “Ohvaysheeun.”
Matt: When she whispers “of success” I giggle and then just lose it.
Eric: There are some really catchy little hooks in there, Matt. It’s not entirely bankrupt. It’s MORALLY bankrupt, but it has some bright points.
Song: “Dark Paradise”
Matt: Now, I DO actually like “Dark Paradise.”
Eric: It’s kind of boring.
Matt: Well it’s not Skrillex. But it’s nice.
Eric: You could say that about anything.
Matt: And anything would sound profound after “National Anthem.” I think I just like it because it’s not “National Anthem.” But enough about “National Anthem.”
Eric: I really despise stupid similes. “Every time I close my eyes, it’s like a dark paradise.” That is seventh-grade diary poetry.
Matt: It’s better than the third-grade metaphors of “National Anthem.” And the song’s natural beauty and vulnerability mask the dumb similes. A little bit.
Eric: You know some very materialistic third-graders.
Matt: I like the breakdown at 2:40.
Eric: I too enjoy the breakdown somewhat. But eh. This could have easily been ANY throwaway pop song.
Matt: I didn’t say it was the best. It’s the sixth best song on the album. But I do like it.
Eric: Hey, now “Radio” is nice.
Matt: If she didn’t do the whole “HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW” bit I think I would like it 8x as much.
Eric: Sorry she’s not sorry. The bridge on “Radio” is adorable. Come on.
Matt: She’s definitely going for some of the Nicki Minaj split-personality singer duality for a lot of the album.
Eric: YES. That didn’t even occur to me. Weird.
Matt: To… some effect. Well, it’s effective I guess.
Eric: Also, on great pronunciations: “vitamin.”
Eric: In this regard and this regard only, she is like Lil Wayne. “It doesn’t rhyme? DON’T CARE.”
Matt: It’s a little repetitive. Not the worst part of the album.
Eric: It’s dreamy.
Matt: There are some nice allowances for creative liberty in her programming. But “Carmen” sounds like it’s mired in sludge.
Eric: This is the closest thing the album has to a “story song.” Also, is she speaking French?
Matt: I don’t care enough about this song to listen closely.
Eric: I just don’t understand how these mid-album slogfests make the final cut.
Matt: Input money and bad boys, output songs. Ladies and gentlemen, LANABOT.
Song: “Million Dollar Man”
Eric: “Million Dollar Man” is supposed to be a torch song. It is making me sleepy.
Matt: The vocals are actually quite nice in this one. It’s a shame they’re wasted on such a listless song.
Eric: Yeah, I really forgot I was listening to music. She doesn’t have a powerhouse voice that can carry a song like that on its own.
Matt: To be clear, she does have a good voice.
Eric: Yeah, but it doesn’t clear the rafters.
Matt: She tells her baby he’s the best a LOT. Oh, and he’s bad too. In case you didn’t know. I wonder why she’s so sad with all this money.
Eric: Money buys happiness. Get with it, LDR.
Song: “Summertime Sadness”
Eric: Also, “Summertime Sadness” isn’t too bad.
Matt: It’s, again, a little ridiculous. But not the worst.
Eric: It’s interesting enough, which is a relief after the Valium coma we just endured.
Matt: For some reason, I just picture people doing the Charleston reeeallllly slowly every time she says “su-su-su-summertime sadness.”
Song: “This Is What Makes Us Girls”
Matt: “This Is What Makes Us Girls” is the low point of the album. SHE ACTUALLY SAYS “PABST BLUE RIBBON ON ICE.” Also, any feminist worth her salt should have a major problem with this song.
Eric: I think it ignores basic biology. Putting love first is not what makes one a girl. Two X chromosomes.
Matt: Biology is foreign to Lanabot.
Eric: Yeah, this song is just a mess.
Song: “Without You”
Matt: The yelling guy brought his friends to the party here.
Eric: I really want to skip this track.
Matt: Money, notoriety, and rivieras: Lana. She’s still Lana From the Block, though. I just wonder what block she’s from.
Eric: There aren’t any other houses on her block. Just empty storefronts and mountains of Cristal bottles. Also, really, can we skip this track? I have literally nothing to say about it. It inspires apathy. Also, she turns into Bruce Springsteen in the breakdown.
Matt: You know, it’s funny. For all the ridiculous nonsense on here, I LOVE this album. Also, it’s a good thing she keeps spelling out D-A-R-K.
Eric: “Lolita” is dumb, but at least it’s not boring
Matt: D-A-R-K DO IT MY WAY.
Eric: P-A-R-K LET THEM ALL SAY.
Matt: There’s a little M.I.A. in there.
Eric: But M.I.A. could pull it off.
Song: “Lucky Ones”
Matt: And finally, as we enter the last track, our journey draws to a close.
Eric: That makes me happy. Gosh, this is just too long.
Matt: If you weren’t won over by any of the first third of the album, FLEE. If you were, flee anyway. Quit while you’re ahead.
Eric: I absolutely LOVE the first third of the album, am ambivalent to the middle, and I am actively angry at the end.
Matt: Born To Die, everyone.
(1) “Born To Die”
(2) “Off To The Races”
(3) “Blue Jeans”
(4) “Video Games”
(5) “Diet Mountain Dew”