Lana Del Rey, "Born to Die" (Interscope Records)
Before you judge Lana Del Rey for her disastrous performance on "Saturday Night Live," listen to her album.
This month's performance on "SNL" was strikingly horrific. Del Rey sang two songs with no emotion or effort, appearing bored and detached. Her hair even looked strange. The whole thing was a mess, but that's not the complete case on her album, "Born to Die."
Del Rey's buzz has been outrageous over the last few months, with headlines ranging from that "SNL" performance to her father's wealth to her plump lips. But her debut is somewhat impressive, at times lovely, at others lackluster.
The 12-track set mainly finds the 25-year-old singing about a tumultuous relationship — she often sings about how he "likes those insane girls" — and she sounds convincing on the first single "Video Games," as well as "Dark Paradise" and "Summertime Sadness," which is almost as good as a Lykke Li track. But on other songs, Del Rey is a lyrical failure, sounding unfocused. On "Diet Mountain Dew," with its hip-hop beat, she sings about 7-Eleven and a Pontiac; others songs are also sprinkled with similar nonsense. Del Rey is part of a cluster of mainstream pop singers — Lady Gaga, Ke$ha — who often blurt weird things in song, which is unfortunate for the listener (and unfortunate for them, too).
Sonically though, "Born to Die" shines, thanks to rap-based producers like Emile Haynie (Ice Cube, Cormega, Kid Cudi) and Jeff Bhasker, the man behind much of Kanye West's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" and "808's and Heartbreak." It's a mix of 1960s retro, eerie artsy girl hooks and weird-girl pop — an odd mix, and overall oddly uneven album.
CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: "Summertime Sadness" has a hook that is a little dramatic, very addictive, and all-around amazing.
Mesfin Fekadu covers entertainment for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/musicmesfin