10 Years Ago, Lana Del Rey’s Born To Die Became the Blueprint for Pop Melancholia

Looking back at Del Rey's major-label debut, released this week in 2012

lana del rey born to die

The thing about being a trendsetting artist is that work that defies the norm isn’t always understood in its time. Once the ground is broken, once an idea or an aesthetic becomes palatable, it’s destined to become trendy, which means it’s time for it to die so the cycle can begin again.

Such was the case for Lana Del Rey’s seminal Born To Die, received with middling reviews by critics upon its release on January 27th, 2012, but rapturously by certain demographics. Del Rey became the queen of indie sad kids, a purveyor of melodrama, and the patron saint of tragic romance.

Here, a decade later, it’s far easier to look back and see how Lana Del Rey, and Born To Die in particular, shifted the trajectory of pop music, alternative airwaves, and indie playlists. The album proved that there was a place for nuanced theatrics, and that tapping into such a space isn’t only emotional but profitable, too.

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The viral success of “Video Games” melted into the sleeper hit “Summertime Sadness,” and the album introduced the world properly to the dark fantasy that is the character of Lana Del Rey. Born To Die isn’t her magnum opus (that would be Norman Fucking Rockwell!), nor is it how many non-fans would identify her (“Young and Beautiful”) — but it was the collection that started it all.


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