‘Ultraviolence’ by Lana Del Rey

By on June 27, 2014
ultraviolence ex

When I first discovered Lana Del Rey in January of 2012, I was (seemingly) one of the few people who saw her talent and potential as a great artist. I loved that she didn’t sound like every other artist I was hearing. I found her take on Americana, love, co-dependency and insecurity fascinating and brilliant. Her music made me want to smoke a pack of Marlboros and sway around my room with a glass of wine in my hand, and although I have done neither, her music still makes me feel that way.

But not everyone found her album, Born To Die, and her self-proclaimed “gangsta Nancy Sinatra” persona as fascinating as I did. Born To Die got middling reviews at best and some even downright scathing. While I would have left a few tracks off had I been in charge of the album, I still thought it was a very solid introduction.

Flash-forward two and half years later, fresh off acclaimed songs “Young and Beautiful” from last summer’s The Great Gatsby and a haunting rendition of the classic “Once Upon A Dream” from Disney’s recent Maleficent, Del Rey returns with a vengeance that neither the West nor East Coast can fully handle. With Ultraviolence she dispels any doubts that her critics could have had two years ago. From the hypnotic opener “Cruel World” to the perfect cap to her infectious concoction, “The Other Woman” (a cover of a 1959 Nina Simone song), Lana with the help of producer and member of The Black Keys, Dan Auerbach, creates a truly beautiful record that has never made doubt, depression and daddy issues sound so appealing.

With lines like “Cruel World”’s “Everybody knows I’m the best, I’m crazy,” and “F****d My Way Up To The Top”’s “I’m a dragon, you’re a whore. Don’t even know what you’re good for,” Lana is more confident than she ever was on Born To Die. But she’s also more confident in a way that you wouldn’t expect. She seems to have fully accepted that she searches for herself in other people. She will always give everything she has to a relationship, even if she knows it’s not going to work, and she may never be truly happy no matter what she does. She’s realized her place in the world (whether it’s good or bad) and embraces it.

This is exactly what I think can be so off-putting to some people about Del Rey. She accepts not being an equal and not being able to fulfill herself. In a world where self-empowering anthems are rampant, her lack of interest in presenting herself as Wonder Woman doesn’t fit with the current landscape of pop music, but she takes all of this pain and turns it into pieces of music that sound directly cut from her soul.

Together, Del Rey and Auerbach create their own genre of music with Ultraviolence: a blend of jazz, 70’s rock and pop. It sounds like a record that could played to the writing of a Great Gatsby-ish novel. She shines bright in “Shades of Cool,” which might just be one of her most brilliant tracks ever, giving us one of best guitar riffs I’ve heard recently, all the while telling us just how cool her man is. She also glitters in “Cruel World,” “Ultraviolence,” “Brooklyn Baby,” “West Coast,” “F****d My Way Up To The Top” and “Old Money,” showing us that only she could get away with these songs. Lana makes you long for a world that, in reality, doesn’t exist, except for in the deep depths of her mind. You come away from the record wanting to look like a Lana Del Rey song. How many albums make you feel that? Not many. She shows us a woman who doesn’t want your help. She’s completely fine being the girl that goes from man to man – never settling.

Every artist has “that” record: the one that defines who they are as an artist, the one that everyone remembers, the one that cements them in the pages of music history. Ultraviolence is certainly that record for Lana Del Rey. It’s a record that will stand the test of time, mainly because it sounds like it wasn’t even made in our time. Some may still doubt her, still question her authenticity, but Lana Del Rey is no longer the little “Lolita lost in the hood” as she once described herself. She found her neighborhood, and she’s comfortable there.


Taylor Dougherty


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