Born to Die (Lana Del Rey album)

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Born to Die
Studio album by Lana Del Rey
Released January 27, 2012 (2012-01-27)
Recorded 2010-11
Genre
Length 49:28
Label Interscope, Polydor, Stranger
Producer Evan Reilly, Patrik Berger, Jeff Bhasker, Chris Braide, Emile Haynie, Justin Parker, Rick Nowels, Robopop, Al Shux
Lana Del Rey chronology
  • Born to Die
  • (2012)
Singles from Born to Die
  1. "Video Games"
    Released: October 7, 2011 (2011-10-07)
  2. "Born to Die"
    Released: December 30, 2011 (2011-12-30)
  3. "Blue Jeans"
    Released: April 6, 2012 (2012-04-06)
  4. "Summertime Sadness"
    Released: June 22, 2012 (2012-06-22)
  5. "National Anthem"
    Released: July 6, 2012 (2012-07-06)
  6. "Dark Paradise"
    Released: March 1, 2013

Born to Die is the second studio album by American singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey, released on January 27, 2012 by Interscope Records, Polydor Records, and Stranger Records. After signing a record contract with Stranger in June 2011, Del Rey enlisted a variety of producers to work on the album, including Evan Reilly, Patrik Berger, Jeff Bhasker, Chris Braide, Emile Haynie, Justin Parker, Rick Nowels, Robopop, Tim Larcombe and Al Shux. Musically, Born to Die contains a string of trip hop ballads, with the album deriving characteristics from such musical genres as alternative hip hop[2][3] and indie rock.[4]

Critical reaction to the album from critics were polarized, with some praising its distinctive sound, while others criticized the songs' repetitiveness and melodramatic production. Nonetheless, it topped the charts in eleven countries, including Australia, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Born to Die was also named as the third biggest selling album of 2012 on the UK iTunes Chart.[5] According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), Born to Die was the fifth global best-selling album of 2012 with sales of 3.4 million copies.[6] Six singles were released from the album: "Video Games", "Born to Die", "Blue Jeans", "Summertime Sadness", "National Anthem", and "Dark Paradise".

Background[edit]

"I wanted to be part of a high-class scene of musicians. It was half-inspired because I didn't have many friends, and I was hoping that I would meet people and fall in love and start a community around me, the way they used to do in the '60s. I wanted to be seen as a good singer, and not much more than that."

—Del Rey on the difficulty of her career beginnings[7]

Del Rey was born in New York City, New York in 1986 and was raised in Lake Placid, a quiet village outside of New York. At age fifteen, she was sent to boarding school in Connecticut, before moving to New York City at eighteen to study metaphysics at Fordham University. While attending the university, according to Del Rey, her musical experience began here, discovering the right acquaintances on her own.[8] After her uncle taught her how to play guitar, she realized that she could probably write "a million" songs with only those six chords.[9] She then began performing in clubs in New York City, using various stage names such as Sparkle Rope Jump Queen and Lizzy Grant and the Phenomena. Recalling the experience, Del Rey said, "I was always singing, but didn't plan on pursuing it seriously. When I got to New York City when I was 18, I started playing in clubs in Brooklyn – I have good friends and devoted fans on the underground scene, but we were playing for each other at that point – and that was it".[10]

Development[edit]

"I learned that there's no reason why people decide they like music when they do. Even if you're the best singer in the world, there's a good chance no one will ever hear you. You make a decision to keep singing or to stop. I've been singing in Brooklyn since I was 17 and no one in the industry cared at all. I haven't changed a thing since then and yet things seem to be turning around for me. Perhaps the angels decided to shine on me for a little while."

—Del Rey talking to Ryan Dombal of Pitchfork Media.[11]

At age twenty, Del Rey signed a USD$10,000 recording contract and moved to a trailer park outside of New York City. The album that she recorded was later shelved, catalyzing her to pivot her focus. Instead, she began work in community service, and for the next five years, worked at homeless outreach, drug, and alcohol rehabilitation centers.[8] A few years later, Del Rey signed to 5 Point Records, an independent record label owned by David Kahne. Del Rey released a three-track EP Kill Kill in 2008 under her real name Lizzy Grant, followed by a debut album Lana Del Ray in 2010.[12][13] It was the singer's first professionally produced album, released under Lizzy Grant on an independent label with producer David Kahne.[13] Del Rey stated that "David asked to work with me only a day after he got my demo. He has been known as a producer with a lot integrity and who had an interest in making music that wasn't just pop."[14] The EP was available for purchase on iTunes for a brief period before being withdrawn.

According to David Kahne, who produced Grant, Grant bought the rights back from [her label] 5 Points as she wanted it out of circulation to stifle future opportunities to distribute it as she had been offered a better deal—an echo of rumors that the action was part of a calculated strategy, also confirmed in an interview with David Nichtern label owner of 5 Points Records.[15][16] Later in June 2011, Del Rey was signed with Stranger Records,[17] to release her debut single "Video Games";[17] in July 2011 ("News of her signing broke in late October, but the ink on the contracts had dried in July"),[16] she signed a joint deal with Interscope Records and Polydor Records.[9][16][18] While being interviewed by Rosie Swash of The Observer, Del Rey revealed, "I just put that song online a few months ago because it was my favourite. To be honest, it wasn't going to be the single but people have really responded to it. I get very sad when I play that song. I still cry sometimes when I sing it.".[19] A month or so after she signed with the two Universal Music Group sub-labels, the song went viral on YouTube. It was later reported that the singer would release her second studio album under the labels in January 2012.[18] During an interview with French TV show Taratata, Del Rey revealed that the album would be titled Born to Die.[20] It was released on January 27, 2012 in Brazil[21] and in Ireland,[22] January 30, 2012, in the UK, and on January 31, 2012 worldwide.[23]

Composition[edit]

A 22-second sample of the song's chorus, features Del Rey incorporating a Jessica Rabbit persona over a "lush-strings-meet-hard-beats" background.[24]

A 26 second sample of the song's final chorus, in which Del Rey states, "Baby you da best/Kiss me hard before you go."[25]

Problems playing these files? See media help.

In regards to the use of her lower vocals on the tracks, she stated that "people weren't taking me very seriously, so I lowered my voice, believing that it would help me stand out. Now I sing quite low... well, for a female anyway."[26] The singer's first singles, "Video Games" and "Born to Die" were described variously as "quasi-cabaret balladry",[27] "woozy and sometimes soporific soundtrack soul",[28] and "pop".[29] Her own description of her music is "Hollywood sadcore".[30] Tim Lee of musicOMH noted the songs are extremely similar, commenting that "her (alleged) agents clearly having stumbled upon a formula with which they can (allegedly) print money and (allegedly) further consign Lana's secretive, (allegedly) real debut LP to the annals of history. You didn't hear it from us, right?"[31] Del Rey has once been described as a "gangsta Nancy Sinatra",[32] though she cites Britney Spears, Elvis Presley and Antony and the Johnsons as her musical influences.[33] When asked about her musical style, the singer stated:

"I would have loved to be part of the indie community. But I wasn't. I was looking for a community, I don't even know any people who are musicians. I never met that indie popular indie, whoever the fuck that is. Who IS indie? First of all, I can't really get my head around what indie music is. Because if you've heard of it, it's sort of pop music, right? Because it's, like, popular? Or is it just that it's not on the radio? It's not like I was in an indie community and then I blew up. It's like, I was living on the street and I'm not – like, for real, you know what I'm saying?"[18]

Songs[edit]

A 28-second sample of the song's final chorus, features Del Rey using lower vocals over a background mixed with swathing strings and harps.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

The third track, "Blue Jeans", was influenced by hip-hop and has a minimalist beat that recalls songs by Timbaland.[34] "Off to the Races" has been lyrically described as "a freak show of inappropriate co-dependency",[35] with a chorus that recalls Sheryl Crow's "down and out drunken loner persona" in her 1994 single "Leaving Las Vegas".[35] Pryia Elan of NME noted the track "almost falls under the weight of this persona. There's none of 'Video Games'' measured, piano-led reflection. Instead the psychosexual rumblings of the lyrics and the dual voices she uses off set the comparatively simple musical shades on display."[35]

"Off to the Races", "National Anthem", and "Diet Mountain Dew" employ an alternative rap technique that was described as almost "chatty".[2][36] "Million Dollar Man" was likened to a sedated Fiona Apple.[36] Musically compared to soundtracks for James Bond films, Born to Die contains trip hop beats and a cinematic sound reminiscent of the 1950s.[36] Thematically, Born to Die circulates around sex and drugs, with Del Rey playing a Lolita-esque persona.[2] Bill Lamb, a reviewer at About.com, wrote that "National Anthem" "[seems] lost in a messy blend of money, sex, and corporate greed, but it is the rousing yet graceful arrangement that solidifies the song's point of view as a clever critique of a society that is just as messy as these words."[37] "National Anthem", Lamb says, fits into the lyrical structure of Born to Die in that the theme, as a whole, is that of a "bitter, albeit narcotized, criticism of all of the wealth and emotional artifice Lana Del Rey is accused of embracing."[37] Vocally, NME observed that Del Rey sings like a "perfect mannequin" on "National Anthem", criticizing the track for baldly revisiting the beat-driven chorus of "Born to Die".[38] Del Rey recorded a demo of a song called "Ghetto Baby" in 2012, but the song was cut from the album and given to Cheryl Cole who recorded it for third studio album A Million Lights.[39][40]

Singles[edit]

"I feel like "Video Games" and "Blue Jeans" and "Born to Die" are all like part of a trilogy; I had met this guy and I was really struck by him visually and when it became clear that we couldn't be together anymore, I just knew in my heart that I would still honor that relationship for a long time...It was just more about living in the memories of the best of the past and just honoring that time."

[41]

"Video Games" was released as Del Rey's debut single on October 10, 2011.[42] The song received mostly positive reviews from contemporary critics, who praised Del Rey's vocals and considered it as one of the best songs of 2011.[43][44] "Video Games" attained worldwide success, reaching number one in Germany and top-ten positions in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Netherlands, Ireland, Poland, Scotland, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.[45][46][47] An accompanying music video was directed and edited by Del Rey, assembled from video clips of skateboarders, cartoons, shots from old movies, and paparazzi footage of Paz de la Huerta falling down while intoxicated.[48] The music video was considered as the one that propelled the singer's online popularity.[48] The second single and title track, "Born to Die", was released as a digital download on December 30, 2011.[49] The music video for it leaked on December 14, 2011,[50] and was based on a concept created by the singer, while being directed by Yoann Lemoine.[51] The music video received generally favorable reviews from contemporary critics.[52]

Del Rey announced "Blue Jeans" as the third single from the album following "Video Games" and "Born to Die". It was officially released on April 6, 2012.[53] An accompanying music video, directed by Yoann Lemoine, premiered around the web on March 19, 2012.[54]" " The song "National Anthem" was announced as the fourth single and was released on July 9, 2012. The music video for "National Anthem" was released on June 27, 2012. "Summertime Sadness" was released as the fifth single on June 22, 2012. The official music video for "Summertime Sadness" was released on July 20, 2012. Dark Paradise was also released as the sixth and last single on March 1, 2013 only in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Poland.

Other songs

Due to strong digital downloads following the album's release "Radio" charted at number 67 in France. Also, "Without You" debuted at number 121 in the UK.[55] "Off to the Races" was released as a promotional single in The Netherlands on January 6, 2012.[56] A music video, directed by Del Rey, was released on December 22, 2011.[57] "Carmen" was released as a promotional single in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland on January 26, 2012.[58][59][60] On February 27, 2012, Del Rey revealed through her Facebook that the video for the song "Carmen" was shot and would be finished being edited that day. The video for "Carmen" was released on April 21, 2012.[61]

Promotion[edit]

A brunette female sings on a stage in front of a crowd, wearing a black dress that covers above the knees and black high heels. A blue balloon obscures the upper righthand corner.
Del Rey performing during a promotional concert held in Amsterdam, 2011.

Del Rey's song "Video Games" was featured for the first time on prime spot on The CW's Ringer on September 28, 2011 during a pivotal scene, propulsing Del Rey into the mainstream.[62] Del Rey also promoted the album with performances in a number of live appearances, including for MTV Push,[63] and at the Bowery Ballroom, where, according to Eliot Glazer of New York, "the polarizing indie hipstress brought her 'gangsta Nancy Sinatra' swagu."[64] Matthew Perpetua of Rolling Stone commented that, despite Del Rey being nervous and anxious while performing her songs live, the singer "sang with considerable confidence, though her transitions from husky, come-hither sexuality to bratty, girlish petulance could be rather jarring."[65] Del Rey also performed "Video Games" on Dutch television program De Wereld Draait Door,[66] on British music television show Later... with Jools Holland,[67] and on an intimate show at Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, California.[68] Del Rey also gave several interviews for newspapers and online magazines such as The Quietus,[14] The Observer,[19] and Pitchfork Media,[11] while creating her own music videos for several tracks such as "Blue Jeans" and "Off to the Races".[69][70] On January 14, 2012, Del Rey appeared on Saturday Night Live to perform "Blue Jeans" and "Video Games". Her performance soon came under scrutiny, and was even criticized by NBC anchor Brian Williams, who referred to the performance as "the worst in SNL history".[71] Hosts Andy Samberg and Daniel Radcliffe quickly came to her defence, with the latter stating the criticism towards her was less about the performance and more about "her past and her family".[71] Ringer played another Del Rey song "Blue Jeans" on February 14, 2012 during the last scene of episode 13.[72]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic (61/100)[73]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 2.5/5 stars[74]
Entertainment Weekly C+[75]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[76]
The Independent 2/5 stars[77]
Los Angeles Times mixed[78]
The New York Times negative[79]
The Observer 3/5 stars[80]
Paste Magazine 6.4/10[81]
Pitchfork Media 5.5/10[36]
Rolling Stone 2/5 stars[82]
Slant Magazine 4/5 stars[24]

Born to Die received generally mixed reviews from music critics.[73][83] At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 61, based on 38 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews".[73] Jaime Gill of BBC Music commented that the album "isn't perfect", criticizing the production of songs such as "Dark Paradise".[84] However, Gill concluded that Born to Die is the most distinctive debut album since Glasvegas's eponymous disc released in 2008.[84] Slant Magazine writer Sal Cinquemani gave the album 4 out of 5 stars, and commented that several tracks had their production changed for the album, making tracks such as "National Anthem" and "This is What Makes Us Girls" less "radio-friendly".[24] Cinquemani stated that, "ironically, the album's sole weakness is the strength of its immaculate production, which can be a bit overwhelming over the course of 12 tracks."[24] Alexis Petridis of The Guardian also graded it 4 out of 5 stars, saying that Born to Die is "beautifully turned pop music, which is more than enough", with most melodies "constructed magnificently", while also stating that Del Rey "doesn't have the lyrical equipment to develop a persona throughout the album."[76] Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune gave a negative review, and highly criticized the repetitive production.[85][86]

Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone declared that the lyrics, with their "pop-trash perversity", were the strength of the album but that Del Rey had a voice that was “pinched and prim” and that she "wasn't ready to make an album yet". Sheffield rated the album 2 out of 5 and concluded, "given her chic image, it's a surprise how dull, dreary and pop-starved Born to Die is".[82] Allmusic gave the album two-and-a-half out of five, saying "There is a chasm that separates 'Video Games' from the other material and performances on the album, which aims for exactly the same target—sultry, sexy, wasted—but with none of the same lyrical grace, emotional power, or sympathetic productions... an intriguing start, but Del Rey is going to have to hit the books if she wants to stay as successful as her career promised early on".[74] Sputnikmusic disliked the album, saying "The worst thing about Born to Die is that even its great songs contain problems"[87] The Observer's Kitty Empire rated the album 3 out of 5 stars, and said that, unlike pop singers Lady Gaga and Katy Perry and their "hedonic outpourings", "Lana Del Rey's partying is fuelled 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."[80]

The A.V. Club panned the album, calling it "Shallow and overwrought, with periodic echoes of Kesha's Valley Girl aloofness, the album lives down to the harshest preconceptions against pop music."[88] Randall Roberts of Los Angeles Times also noted that the singer's vocals have "so much potential and yet [are] unrefined", and said that despite having stand out tracks like "Summertime Sadness" and "Dark Paradise", listening to the album "has become tiring and woozy, like if you'd taken a half-dozen Ambiens when you'd put the record on – and now you’re getting very, very sleepy."[78] Pitchfork's Lindsay Zoladz gave the album 5.5/10, and commented: "The album's point of view—if you could call it that—feels awkward and out of date... [it] never allows tension or complexity into the mix, and its take on female sexuality ends up feeling thoroughly tame. 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."[36] NME gave a positive review, giving the album 8/10 and saying "Although it's not quite the perfect pop record 'Video Games' might have led us to wish for, Born To Die still marks the arrival of a fresh—and refreshingly self-aware—sensibility in pop."[89]

Accolades[edit]

Publication Accolade Year Rank
The Hype Machine Top Ten Albums of 2012 2012 #2[90]
Spinner Spinner's 50 Best Albums of 2012 2012 #45[91]
Gigwise Gigwise's Top 50 Albums of 2012 2012 #42[92]
NME NME's 50 Best Albums Of 2012 2012 #45[93]
FACT FACT Magazine's 50 Best Albums of 2012 2012 #19[94]
The Fly The Fly's Top 50 Albums of 2012 2012 #11[94]
The Guardian The Guardian's Best Albums of 2012 2012 #17[94]
Uncut Uncut's Top 75 Albums of 2012 2012 #51[94]
Drowned in Sound Drowned in Sound's 50 Favorite Albums of 2012 2012 #40[94]

Commercial performance[edit]

Born to Die was a commercial success. In the United Kingdom, it sold 50,000 copies on its first day of release.[95] It debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart and sold 116,745 copies. By accumulating digital sales of 50,007, the album became the fifth album ever to sell upwards of 50,000 downloads in a single week.[96] Born to Die remained at the summit of the chart in its second week, selling an additional 60,000 copies.[97] As of November 2013, the album had sold over 836,000 copies in the UK.[98] On the week-ending July 27, 2013 the album rose twenty positions to number 50, re-entering the Top 50. In France, the LP debuted at number one on the French Albums Chart with sales of 48,791, whose 16,968 digital copies.[99] The album remained at the top position the following week with 23,888 copies sold.[100] As of February 2013, it has sold over 365,000 copies in France.[101] In New Zealand, the album debuted and peaked at number two on the charts, spending forty-weeks in the chart. After the conjunction of Born to Die: The Paradise Edition, the album charted at number six.[102] "Born to Die" is the fifty-seventh best selling album of all time in that country.[103]

In the United States, the album attained first-week sales of 77,000 copies, subsequently debuting at number two on the Billboard 200, behind Adele's 21,[104] and shipped over 500,000 units in the country by January 2013, getting Gold certification.[105] On the week ending August 31, 2013, though the album was over its 80th week on the chart, it re-entered the Top 20. As of September 2013, Born to Die has sold 1,000,000 copies in the United States, and has been certified platinum by the RIAA.[106] In Italy, the album debuted at number five. The week after, it fell to number nine. In the first two weeks, the album has sold 6,271 copies. As of June 2012, the album has sold in Italy 24,372 copies. After the re-release in November 2012, the album jumped from 27 to 14. The LP has since been certified Gold. Following an iTunes discount, the album re-entered the iTunes Top 10 and jumped from 57 to 31 on the Italian Charts on the week-ending April 28, 2013. On the week-ending June 2, 2013, the album spent its seventieth week on the chart and fell ten spots to number 46. As of September 2013, Born to Die has shipped 5 million copies worldwide according to Interscope Records.[107]

Track listing[edit]

Credits adapted from the liner notes of Born to Die.[108]

Born To Die – Standard version
No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "Born to Die"  
4:46
2. "Off to the Races"  
  • Lana Del Rey
  • Tim Larcombe
  • Patrik Berger
  • Haynie
5:00
3. "Blue Jeans"  
  • Lana Del Rey
  • Haynie
  • Dan Heath
Haynie 3:30
4. "Video Games"  
  • Lana Del Rey
  • Parker
Robopop 4:42
5. "Diet Mountain Dew"  
3:43
6. "National Anthem"  
  • Lana Del Rey
  • Parker
  • The Nexus
  • Haynie
  • Bhasker (add.)
  • David Sneddon (vocal)
  • James Bauer-Mein (vocal)
3:51
7. "Dark Paradise"  
  • Haynie
  • Nowels (co.)
4:03
8. "Radio"  
  • Lana Del Rey
  • Parker
  • Haynie
  • Parker (add.)
3:34
9. "Carmen"  
  • Lana Del Rey
  • Parker
  • Haynie
  • Bhasker (add.)
  • Parker (vocal)
4:08
10. "Million Dollar Man"  
  • Haynie
  • Braide
3:51
11. "Summertime Sadness"  
  • Lana Del Rey
  • Nowels
  • Haynie
  • Nowels (co.)
4:25
12. "This Is What Makes Us Girls"  
3:58
Total length:
49:28
Sample credits

Personnel[edit]

Performance
Technical

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Sales/shipments
Australia (ARIA)[167] 2× Platinum 140,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[168] Platinum 20,000x
Belgium (BEA)[169] Platinum 30,000*
Brazil (ABPD)[170] 2× Platinum 80,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[171] Platinum 80,000^
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[172] Platinum 20,000^
France (SNEP)[173] 3× Platinum 365,000[101]
Germany (BVMI)[174] 3× Platinum 600,000^
Greece (IFPI Greece)[175] 3× Gold 9,000^
Hungary (Mahasz)[176] Gold 3,000x
Ireland (IRMA)[177] 2× Platinum 30,000x
Italy (FIMI)[178] Platinum 60,000*
Mexico (AMPROFON)[179] Platinum 60,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[180] Platinum 15,000^
Norway (IFPI Norway)[181] Gold 15,000*
Poland (ZPAV)[182] Diamond 100,000*
Portugal (AFP)[183] 2× Platinum 40,000x
Russia (NFPF)[184] Platinum 10,000*
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[185] Platinum 40,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[186] 2× Platinum 60,000x
United Kingdom (BPI)[187] 2× Platinum 876,000[98]
United States (RIAA)[188] Platinum 1,000,000[106]
Summaries
Europe (IFPI)[189] 2× Platinum 2,000,000*

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone

Release history[edit]

Country Date Format
Germany[190][191][192] and Ireland January 27, 2012 CD, digital download, LP
France[193][194] January 30, 2012 CD, digital download
United Kingdom[195][196][197] CD, digital download, LP
United States January 31, 2012[198][199] CD, digital download
Australia February 3, 2012[200] CD
Japan February 8, 2012[132] CD, CD+DVD, digital download
United States February 21, 2012[201] LP

References[edit]

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External links[edit]