"Born to Die" (originally titled "Born 2 Die") is a song written by Lana Del Rey and Justin Parker and produced by Parker and Emile Haynie in 2011. Taken from Del Rey's first major-label album of the same title, Born to Die, the song served as the album's second single, it was officially released worldwide on December 30, 2011.
Writing and inspiration
The song was written by Del Rey and Justin Parker after the success of "Video Games". Mention of the song was known as early as July 2011 when Del Rey posted lyrics via her now defunct personal Facebook account.
When it comes to the writing of the song, in an interview with Dazed Digital, Parker stated they connected as they shared a similar psychological approach to life. Parker said "my philosophy is 'you only live once' and we just came up with the concept "born to die" in conversation one day. We were half-joking but it really started to resonate. Once you're born, the only certainty is dead".
Musically, "Born to Die" is an apocalyptic down-tempo ballad with hip-hop influences. It was composed in the key of E minor and at a tempo of 86 beats per minute. It features similar instrumentation to "Video Games", but focuses more heavily on the hip-hop influenced beat also featured in "Blue Jeans". The song contains the use of male background vocals similar to the ones in "Blue Jeans", "Diet Mountain Dew" and "National Anthem". It samples "Long Red" by Leslie West and a 1972 live performance of the song. There are three known demos that have been leaked. A demo beat produced by Haynie was leaked on SoundCloud in 2017.
Following the release of the single, Robert Copsey of Digital Spy commented, "we thought it would be near-impossible for Lana to top the chilling 'Video Games', but her new cut – the title track from her forthcoming album – may just have out-haunted its predecessor." Laura Snapes of NME considered the song not "quite as flooring as 'Video Games', but then that song is fairly extraordinary", while Entertainment Weekly contributor Grady Smith considered it a "beautifully dour tune". Pryia Elan also of NME said the song "is a grower and whilst not as pitch perfect as 'Video Games', it's pretty damn fine". Aaron-Spencer Charles of Metro noted "Lana Del Rey's Born to Die is a slow yet strong song, with Lana singing about her relationship experience over an orchestra. The calm tone of Del Rey's voice sets sad-love mood really well." Tim Lee of musicOMH said the song is "essentially 'Video Games' with percussion", and noted that "her (alleged) agents clearly having stumbled upon a formula with which they can (allegedly) print money and (allegedly) further consign Lana's secretive, (allegedly) real debut LP to the annals of history. You didn't hear it from us, right?"
Use in media
The song was used as the soundtrack in a trailer for the 2012 German film titled "Measuring the World" (German: Die Vermessung der Welt).
Del Rey performed the song live many times during her career. The track was included in setlists for all of her previous tours, as well as festival tours.
|Released||December 14, 2011|
|Producer||Emmanuel Reyé, Mourad Belkeddar|
|Location||Palace of Fontainebleau, France|
|Vevo views||505+ Million views|
|Producer||Emmanuel Reyé, Mourad Belkeddar|
|Location||Palace of Fontainebleau, France|
After feeling dissatisfied with the home production of the video for "Video Games", and with a budget given by her new label, Interscope, Del Rey shot the video for "Born to Die" in the royal Fontainebleau Palace in October 2011. She wrote the treatment for the video, and presented it to filmographer and fellow musician Yoann Lemoine in late 2011. He rewrote the concept, known as "The Lonely Queen", which featured her in Heaven after dying and remembering her and her lover together, into a more reasonable concept.
An alternate version of the music video surfaced in December 2019. This video was sent to MTV UK VH1 (Europe) for "We Love: The 10's" by Del Rey's team during 2012. It features various different takes and an abrupt introduction.
The video depicts the "live fast, die young" mantra Del Rey has used throughout her career. It begins with Del Rey embracing her lover, played by Bradley Soileau, with an American flag behind them. Then Del Rey is shown in "Heaven", sitting on a throne with two tigers next to her. Interlaced clips of her and her lover are shown throughout clips of the castle, Del Rey in the throne, and Del Rey walking about the castle. Her lover and her meet at the castle, and begin to kiss on the hood of, and inside, a vintage Ford Mustang. The two then drive through the night before crashing. Soileau is shown holding a bloody corpse of Del Rey while the car is aflame behind them. Interlaced clips of them inside the castle, lying on a bed and standing against a wall are also shown throughout the video.
Behind the scenes
Promotional photoshoot by Clement Jolin
- Del Rey has stated that the song is part of the "K" trilogy with "Blue Jeans" and "Video Games".
- Getting high is a common subject in Del Rey's songs, such as "Brooklyn Baby", "High by the Beach" and "Your Girl", among several others.
- In the beginning of the song, the sample of Del Rey singing "Why?" is later reused in "Art Deco" and "Cherry".
- Rain is also mentioned in "Blue Banisters", "God Knows I Tried", "Hot Hot Hot" and "Salvatore".
- "Roses" and "Summertime Sadness" also reference kissing hard.
- The phrase "Come and take a walk on the wild side" is similar to the phrase "I'll keep walking on the sunny side" from "Dance Till We Die".
- The phrase "Friday night" also appears in "Body Electric".
- The phrase "It's like I told you" also appears in "Freak".
- The line "Come take a walk on the wild side" stems from the Lou Reed song "Walk on the Wild Side".
- The theme of Del Rey worrying that her lover won't be in Heaven also appears in "Young and Beautiful".
- The "wild side" is also mentioned in "Take Me to Paris".
- The lyric "I can see but once I was blind" is similar to the lyric "I was blind before I saw the world through your eyes" from "TV in Black & White".
- The lyric "I'm hoping at the gates they'll tell me that you're mine" is similar to the lyric "Gargoyles standing at the front of your gate; trying to tell me to wait" from "Bel Air".
- The lyrics "Lost but now I am found, I can see but once I was blind" are a reference to the religious 1779 song "Amazing Grace" by John Newton. The lyrics referenced from the song are "I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see".
- Album version — 4:46
- Instrumental version — 4:46
- A cappella version — 4:44
- Radio edit — 4:01
- Radio edit (clean version) — 4:06
- Demo version 1 — 4:23 (produced by Justin Parker)
- Demo version 2 — 4:44 (produced by Emile Haynie)
- Demo version 3 — 4:22
- Demo version 4 / Alternate Final Mix - 4:29
- "Born 2 Die" early mix version — 4:49
- Demo beat — 2:25
- Paradise Tour version — 4:50
Demo version #1
Demo version #2
- AlunaGeorge Remix — 3:12
- Chad Valley Remix — 3:46
- Clams Casino Remix — 3:07
- Clams Casion Remix Instrumental — 3:08
- G.Vump Remix — 5:52
- Gemini Remix — 4:50
- Gemini Remix - DJ Mix Edit — 4:42
- Hackman Remix — 5:16
- I Am A Camera Remix — 6:03
- Kris Di Angelis 'Love Below' Remix — 5:07
- Leo Zero Remix — 11:38
- Leo Zero Remix (Disco Dub Edit) — 7:33
- Lil Silva Remix — 4:52
- Marcus Intalex Remix — 5:42
- Moodymann Remix — 6:14
- Parrade Remix — 5:47
- PDP / 13 Remix — 6:22 (also known as Damon Albarn Remix)
- PDP / 13 Get High Dub — 6:22
- Woodkid & The Shoes Remix — 4:03
Born to Die CD by Polydor in UK
Born to Die - The Remix EP CD by Vertigo in Germany, Austria & Switzerland
Born to Die - The Remix EP 12" Vinyl by Vertigo in Germany, Austria & Switzerland
Born to Die (PDP/13 Remix) / Blue Jeans (Penguin Prison Remix) 7" Vinyl by Polydor and Interscope Records in US
Born to Die 7" Vinyl (part of The Singles compilation) by Interscope Records and Polydor in France
Born to Die 7" Picture Vinyl by Polydor in UK
Born to Die CD by Polydor in Finland
Born to Die CD by Universal Music in Netherlands
Born to Die CD by Vertigo in Germany, Austria & Switzerland
Born to Die - Two Armadillos Official Remixes 12" Vinyl by Two Armadillos White in UK
- Lana Del Rey — vocals, songwriting
- Justin Parker — songwriting, vocal production
- Emile Haynie — production, keyboards, drums
- Larry Gold — strings arrangement and conduction
- Steve Tirpak — strings assistance
- Jeff Bhasker — guitar
- Ken Lewis — additional vocal noises
- Brent Kolatalo — additional recording
- Dan Grech Marguerat — mixing
- Duncan Fuller — mixing assistance
- John Davis — mastering
- Published by EMI / Sony ATV (ASCAP)
- Mastered at Metropolis Mastering, London, United Kingdom
Charts and certifications
- ISRC: GBUM71111152
- ISRC: GBUM71202579
- ISRC: GBUM71200440
- ISRC: GBUM71111192
- ISRC: GBUM71200434
- ISRC: GBUM71111578
- ISRC: GBUM71111434