If F.Scottz Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby could be condensed into a forty minute long aria, it would be Lana Del Rey’s (Lizzy Grant) “Born to die”. Del Ray’s second album is a testament to just how awry the American dream has gone and how, despite decrying all the dissipation and decadence, we still love it, or at least love to hate it.

The star-spangled anthems are an unusual but alluring combination of orchestral instruments and Del Rey’s hip-pop swagger. The album’s title song Born to Die, in the fashion of any great symphony, begins with a sudden, forceful accent of violin (sforzando) and rolls into the twanging guitar and thud of drums. The same old-Hollywood tenor is carried through in “Blue Jeans”, and the albums more romantic ballads like the headlining track, “Video Games”.

The sounds are mellow in tempo but mellow-dramatic in movement. These compostitions epitomise Americans as the world sees them- unapologetically ritzy and ambitious, like Jay Gatsby in his bawdy suites. Any self-proclaimed liberal who says that the album is produced by greedy capitalists, is probably listening to it the same way they support republican policies-secretly.

If you want “depth” the lyrics are not the place to look either. Most of the verses lack any show of literary sophistication or personal insight. However, it might just be the very frivolity of Del Rey’s lyrics that make it so moving. As she sings about “kissing in the pouring rain” and “playing video games” one cannot help but long for that elusive “simpler time”. The seemingly superficial lyrics speak to a very real desire to escape the war outside and relive our imagined youth, when even Gatsby’s lover knows that “you can’t repeat past!”

While most of the words are simple and somewhat unoriginal, “National Anthem” is a lyrical surprise. The chorus sounds like it could very well have been the work of hip-hop emprassarios Jay-Z and Kanye West- “Money is the anthem of success/So before we go out what’s your address?/I’m your national anthem/God you’re so Handsome/Take me to the Hamptons/Bugatti Veyron”.Well-crafted commentary on class and material culture is indeed unexpected from a woman who is indefinitely swooning over some James Dean-type.

Born to die is an ode to opulent western-epics, Grace Kelly romances and Shakespearean tragedies. Yes, the album contains gimmick, gaudy pop-melodies, gratuitous sex, and frivolous libretto, but do not mistake naivety for stupidity. Lana Del Rey may be all pout and sexy sundresses but Lizzy Grant is an intelligent woman who knows what will sell. Whether you think it’s a dream or a nightmare, you will not stop listening to Born to Die.

-By Mwinji Siame

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