Still from VH1 Interview 2012
Our Thoughts On:
Born To Die,
Lana Del Rey
10 Year Anniversary
In celebration of Born to Die’s 10-year anniversary,
the COPY music team takes a look back on the legacy of a 2010s cultural touchstone.
By Taylor stout & the music team
For as long as I can remember, Lana del Rey’s public image has existed in a constant push-and-pull between mockery and acclaim. The first time I ever saw her was when my middle school math tutor showed me her then-current, much-maligned SNL performance (which is, granted, insane). The performance took place in January 2012, around the release of her major label debut, Born to Die.
In 2012, Pitchfork called Born to Die “the album equivalent of a faked orgasm.” In 2019, after the release of her album Norman Fucking Rockwell!, they called her “one of America’s greatest living songwriters.”
Maybe the whole point of Lana is artifice—her own and her world’s. It’s a source of both glamour and disillusionment. The only question I’ve held consistently throughout the decade since Born to Die’s release is: how in on the gimmick is she?
This is perhaps the sister album to Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon: The End of Day in the way that it shaped the music of the decade into becoming more emotionally open with its audience. “Summertime Sadness” was inescapable for a time and carried with it this feeling that pop music was taking a turn for the depressed. After all the glitz and glamour and in-your-face attitude of the 2000s, it was quite the shift to get a female crooner gently singing about video games and suburban slump. It wasn’t totally new as the emo bands of the past decade had touched upon similar issues with great success, but to do it with such calming, sultry vocals felt refreshing. This is what made Lana Del Rey big, but it’s good to see her shine with a masterpiece like Norman Fucking Rockwell!
Favorite Track: “Video Games”
Lana Del Rey. The chokehold that name holds over society is all I can think of as I struggle to make my way through Born to Die (for the first time I may add, even though I was a very active member of the Tumblr era in the 2010s). Her voice is effervescent, her lyrics serve poetry from an American Apparel bodysuit-clad party girl’s iPhone notes (when the Notes app actually looked like… a notepad) who’s seen a lot of road, and her instrumentals are cinematic. It’s all great and grand but very much not my style. I have no insane memories of when I first heard Lana when she was on the radio, except switching the channels when I heard her ethereal voice drone apathetically. The only thing I do love is the effect she’s had on society as a whole, my prime example being comedian Benny Drama. I could watch him sing Lana every day of the week, but getting through this album felt more of an extension of my 9-5 corporate gig. Woof.
Favorite Track: No favorite track here folks...
I did like a remix of “Video Games” back in 2011 if that counts at all (and, even though it’s a “cover” from another album, Benny Drama’s cover of “West Coast”)
I think one of my friends bought me Born to Die and Ultraviolence on vinyl for my 15th birthday, but I never really appreciated the cinematic experience of Born to Die on vinyl until more recently. The production of this record, done by Emile Hayne, creates a lush landscape of sound and allows the listener to be transported into the “vintage sunglasses black-and-white film” aesthetic that reigned supreme in the Tumblr era of 2012. Something I’ve noticed recently about Lana’s songwriting, which appeals to such a range of audience, is her juxtaposition with words like “sweet, cinnamon, cola, flower, heart, sugar,” and then these tangible, tainted experiences, like in the track “Radio,” when she sings, “Baby love me ‘cause I’m playing on the radio / How do you like me now?” This kind of songwriting style, sweet then dark, combined with the vintage orchestral sound, makes a record that still sounds new and original almost ten years later.
Favorite Track: “Radio” / “Million Dollar Man”
I was 13 when I first heard, “Got my bad baby by my heavenly side / I know if I go, I'll die happy tonight.” Whether the long-term effects of that are good or bad, it’s too soon to say, but a lasting imprint on me this album did make.
Favorite Track: “Video Games”
This album truly shaped who I am (I do not know yet if that is upsetting or empowering? That seems like a common theme surrounding Lana?). When I was 13, my Instagram bio was, “Walkin through the city streets / Is it by mistake or design?” I sang a cover of “Diet Mountain Dew” with a short-lived girl band in high school. In re-listening to this album, I discovered that I know every single word to every single song (including the unreleased ones only available on Youtube). Say what you will, but Lana changed the popular music of our generation forever.
Favorite Track: “Lolita” (I’M SORRY)
Back when this album came out, I was still getting most of my music from the various radio stations that I would cycle through. I discovered Lana and this album through “Summertime Sadness” and my 14-year-old self’s connection to the music. “Oh, my God, I feel it in the air / Telephone wires above are sizzlin' like a snare.” She transcends the moment and there’s no telling what she’ll do next, but we’ll always have this music.
Favorite Track: “Diet Mountain Dew”
My dad and brother came home from the grocery store one day in 2012 (I was 12) and said, “Taylor, we heard a song on the radio we thought you would like.” It was “Video Games” by Lana Del Rey. Do with that what you will. It’s easy and justifiable to hate Lana (I do sometimes), but the first few seconds of “Born to Die” still make my heart sing. Friends and I bonded over this music; we exchanged links to unreleased tracks. I worried that revisiting this album would make me sad, that I would hear fucked-up ideas of femininity that I had absorbed as a kid. Honestly, I was having way too much fun to care. Born to Die is like a movie, in that it’s most enjoyable when you let yourself get lost in the world it creates. Listening to “Dealer” from 2021’s Blue Banisters makes me feel how Born to Die did in 2012.
Favorite Track: “Video Games”
This album was and still is the soundtrack to my freshman year of high school. It’s me straightening my hair and putting on too much eyeliner; it’s me thinking I’m the misunderstood main character while walking to first period; it’s me coming of age around hundreds of other teenagers who are also just trying to figure it out.
Favorite Track: “Blue Jeans”