Lana Del Rey - Ultraviolence
Record Label: Interscope / Polydor UK
Release Date: June 13 2014
“Lana Del Rey is Marmite” is an expression that perfectly sums up the public opinion of the New York singer with people either loving her distinct sound and astounding vocals or loathing her songs for being too “bland” or “boring”. No matter where your opinion lies on Lana, there's no doubt that she's successful as her first major label release Born To Die was a number one hit in the UK and has shipped more than 7 million copies worldwide which, despite the mixed reviews, has resulted in commercial success for Lana. In the build up for her follow up album, Ultraviolence, Lana has described it as being stripped down but still maintaining that same cinematic nature that has helped her in creating a devoted fanbase.
Anyone that was anxious over whether or not Lana would deliver on the darker sound that she had promised can lay their worries to rest as Ultraviolence delivers that unsettling vibe by the bucket-load. Lead single "West Coast" evokes a sense of self destruction which has producer and Black Keys member Dan Auerbach deliver a killer swing that is unlike anything else on this album. The theme of destruction manages to find itself into other tracks such as album opener "Cruel World" which, at six minutes long, may overstay its welcome for some but sets the gloomy scene with glistening guitars and hazy vocals about an ex lover which might be a subject that's over used but Lana's new take on it helps her stand out from the likes of Katy Perry. Eponymous track "Ultraviolence" maintains the same disturbing vibes from A Clockwork Orange, where the word originated from. Lana sings about an abusive relationship with strings and piano mingling well together to provide one of the album's best tracks.
Before anyone assumes that Ultraviolence is failing to deliver on Lana's trademark cinematic sounds, it's clear that it's even bigger than before on this record. If Born To Die was the cheery, independent debut film then Ultraviolence is the Dark Knight-esque follow up summer blockbuster. Album closer "Flipside" has vague, vibrating strings which wouldn't go amiss on an XX record. It has a static sound during the whole track, as if Lana's losing signal in her own sorrowful version of hell that she's created over the album's 70 minute run time.
A moral that Lana seems to stress on this record is that being a sexy plaything for powerful men isn't as appealing as some may think. "Fucked My Way To The Top" shows the perils and complexity of such a situation. "Old Money" has a haunting chorus whilst "The Other Woman" is a powerful ballad that has been described as being a song about a “lonely old home-wrecker taking stock of her life” with Lana's voice quivering to perfectly create that image. Although she may show cynicism towards being mere eye candy to men, Lana makes it clear that “there's only one thing this bitch wants” on the track "Money Power Glory.” She delivers a devious blend of seriousness with a hint of sex that would make whatever guy she's talking to feel unsettled in a whole other way.
The album isn't completely flawless by any means; the lack of hip hop beats may be unappealing to some but even though they are missed, for the most part Lana manages to deliver sounds that should be a welcome replacement for those who miss those beats. There are some tracks that may be uninteresting to some but to judge the whole album by this would be unfair as it would be ignoring everything that this album does right. With many pop stars being a generic carbon copy of another, it's comforting to know that there's faith in the form of Lana Del Rey.