Lana Del Rey, Ultraviolence – a review
Lana Del Rey • Ultraviolence • Interscope • US Release Date: June 17, 2014
“He hit me and it felt like a kiss.” Depressing, depressing, depressing! The aforementioned lyrics are the norm throughout alternative singer/songwriter Lana Del Rey’s latest album, Ultraviolence. The album is an incredibly moody affair that perfectly matches Del Rey’s incredibly robust, unique voice. Even thought it’s lyrically difficult to digest at times, Ultraviolence is arguably Del Rey’s best release to date; it’s as if the pieces cohesively came together.
“Cruel World” opens with heavy production that contrasts her previous work. Equally if not more impressive are the lyrics, which open with a ‘bang’: “I shared my body and my mind with you / that’s all over”. Throughout the opener, Del Rey describes herself as crazy and her ex- as crazy too. Ultimately, Del Rey seems to be glad a dysfunctional, immature relationship is over. It’s an epic way of doing so.
“Ultraviolence” is more disturbing, given its literal violence. On the chorus, Del Rey sings “With his ultraviolence…I can hear sirens, sirens / he hit me and it felt like a kiss / I can hear violins, violins…” The dark tilt of the songwriting and the concept of the power of perceived love make this track a winner.
“Shades of Cool” is certainly cool, given its jazzy, enigmatic nature. Del Rey sounds particularly alluring on the chorus, where she ascends into her stunning upper register. The lyrics remain chilly: “‘Cause you are invincible / I can’t break through your world / cause you live in shades of cool / you heart is unbreakable.” Though ambitious in length like everything else, “Shades of Cool” hypnotically retains attention.
“Brooklyn Baby” is perfect for the hipsters, referencing Lou Reed, Beat poetry, and a “rare jazz collection.” While a bit too indulgent and sleepy, it’s still worthwhile. “West Coast” stands out more, particularly thanks to a change of tempo during the chorus that eliminates any notion of monotony. More importantly, “West Coast is another instance of Del Rey expanding her artistic range.
“Sad Girl” also plays true to its title, as Del Rey ambitiously seems to reference Bonnie and Clyde: “His bonnie on the side, bonnie on the side / makes me so sad, girl / his money on the side, money on the side…” The music supports this idea, given the western cues prominent during the introduction. Vocally, Del Rey’s playful moments within the performance are a sensational touch.
Sadness segues into “Pretty When You Cry” as Del Rey addresses her lover “Don’t say you need me when / you leave and you leave again / I’m stronger than all my men / except for you…” Intense and unsettling, “Pretty When You Cry” is another excellent moody fit in the scheme of Ultraviolence.
On “Money Power Glory,” Del Rey’s shallowness is quite surprising: “I want money, power, and glory / Alleluia! I wanna take you for all that you got.” Basically, if her God-fearing boyfriend thinks he’s getting a strong relationship, he’s mistaken. Shock value continues on the accusatory “F*cked My Way to the Top” which can be characterized as ‘shade central.’ Apparently, Del Rey need to get it out of her system.
Penultimate selection “Old Money” showcases the beauty and richness of Del Rey’s lower register. Masterfully executed, “Old Money” is arguably the set’s most chilling track. Ultraviolence closes with “The Other Woman,” a cover popularized by Nina Simone.
All in all, Ultraviolence is a fine effort by Lana Del Rey. Where previous releases Born to Die and Paradise had their share of legitimate cons, Ultraviolence feels more consistent and cohesive. Vocally, Del Rey has definitely ascended a level.
Favorites: “Cruel World,” “Ultraviolence,” “Shades of Cool,” “West Coast,” “Old Money”