Lana Del Rey is an enigmatic figure, unable to be imitated, and befitting someone on their own, she’s lonely.
Ultraviolence threads that feeling — a seedy, hyper-romanticized sense of isolation and loss — inflating it to cinematic proportions. She’s become a screen onto which we project our desire and/or our loathing, which she’s well aware of. Del Rey addresses pundits on “Brooklyn Baby” (ironically where her lyricism has drawn the most flak): “You never liked the way I said it/ If you don't get it, then forget it/ So I don't have to fucking explain it.”
Ultraviolence sounds ethereally tragic — hitting play, you realize why so much of the extraneous matter surrounding Del Rey focuses on a sense of drama. Her music drips with it, veering between vulnerability and menace, but with maturity and conviction once absent.
The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach produced much of the record, evoking the lush “walls of sound” of Del Rey’s 1960s idols. “Cruel World” is an opener that fits Bonnie Tyler’s catalog, with twanging guitars and thudding drums popping at just the right moments. Del Rey leaps the intervals in the chorus of “Shades of Cool” with grace, bringing to mind Nancy Sinatra, the woman Del Rey was pegged the “gangster equivalent” to.
On the standout track “Old Money,” strings flutter as Del Rey offers a sobering take on aging — “Will you still love me when I shine/ from words but not from beauty?” Sparse piano at her side, the only backing needed to deliver a true-blue ballad in the ilk of “Video Games.”
Though Ultraviolence radiates her growth as a singer and musician, at times it can feel as if Del Rey is singing from sonic terrain where she dares you not to like her. Even if you don’t, she’s a fully committed original in pop music, and there are not enough of those around.
- Album: Ultraviolence
- Artist: Lana Del Rey
- Label: Interscope
- Songs: (1) Cruel World (2) Ultraviolence (3) Shades of Cool (4) Brooklyn Baby (5) West Coast (6) Sad Girl (7) Pretty When You Cry (8) Money Power Glory (9) Fucked My Way To The Top (10) Old Money (11) The Other Woman