Who the heck is Lana Del Rey?

Jennifer Suh

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I heard her name before I became familiar with any of her songs. Rumors of collagen injection and her devious marketing strategies were publicized and criticized. For this reason, I was surprised to see Lana Del Rey take the “Saturday Night Live” stage before she had even released her first studio album, Born to Die, which resulted in even more criticism. Despite the controversial publicity she has received, one thing can be said for certain: Lana Del Rey definitely has a good voice but just doesn’t always know how to use it.

When I first heard her acclaimed single, ranked in the top 10 on numerous European charts, I didn’t exactly know what to make of it. However, the second time I listened, I could admit that it was a good enough song, but her vocal style seemed a bit boring and the melody felt repetitive. Despite my critiques, there is a certain mystical quality in her voice that makes you want to listen to more of what she has to offer.

Because of her consistent and specific vocal style, the first three tracks released sounded very similar to each other. Her recent single, “Born to Die”, is another slow and bluesy track. Her lyrics are haunting and intense, and her words express a mix of extreme emotions as she sings: “Choose your last words/ This is the last time/ Because you and I/ We were born to die.”

Although I was concerned that the whole album might sound like one long song, her recent YouTube uploads proved otherwise. From the clips of “This is What Makes Us Girls” and “National Anthem,” her voice seems reminiscent of Britney Spears’ “Femme Fatale.” “Off to the Races,” another of Del Rey’s tunes, felt pleasantly different from her previous work and may actually be a better direction for the artist to take in order to help build a more original artistic persona.

Del Rey seems to channel (or attempt to channel) different female performers in her work, including Adele’s soulful voice. However, in comparison to Adele’s powerful vocal performance, especially in “Rolling in the Deep,” Del Rey lacks that level of richness and power in her own voice; instead, her vocals come off as raspy. Nonetheless, her voice is still certainly unique and her music has some great catchy qualities. However, Del Rey may continue to fall beneath some of her genre’s more popular leading female performers due to her struggling originality and underwhelming performances.

She has been both acclaimed and criticized even before the release of her first album, showing that there is definitely a certain musical debate surrounding Lana Del Rey. Check her out for yourself by listening to her re-released singles along with a few other songs that came out January 10, or wait for Del Rey’s first studio album, which will be released January 31 in the U.S.

-Jennifer Suh