Lana Del Rey
Sharpen yourself up and make ready for a bit of the old Ultraviolence.
Lana Del Rey is the performing pseudonym of Lizzie Grant. Or is Lizzie Grant really the pseudo-person here? Her third studio album Ultraviolence installs a new window into her Malibu beach house mystery. With the surprising announcement that Black Keys guitarist and singer Dan Auerbach would be producing the album, Ultraviolence became a hotly anticipated follow up to her 2012 break-out LP Born to Die. This album definitely cools in the shade beneath the megalith that is Dan Auerbach, but it emerges as an enigma of a record of its own brand.
While Born to Die dithered between the worlds of straight-forward pop, hip hop and R&B, Ultraviolence takes a slow-burning blues departure with renewed dedication to her neo-retro crooning. ‘Neo’ being the operative word here. Despite being a vocally driven record, Del Rey takes an almost lazy approach to some of her offerings, but it strangely works. There are some bars where it sounds like she’s barely bothering to open her jaw enough to let the words out, instead pushing them out with her lips and tongue. It’s almost as if she’s reminding the listener that she’s really above this whole endeavor, but you’re still here listening aren’t you?
Lana gets a lot of flack for her lyrical content. Ultraviolence will only fan the flame in that respect. In the opener Cruel World she implores her lover to “Get a little bit of bourbon in ya. Get a little bit suburban and go crazy” Seeing it written down makes it look ridiculous, but that mocking sway of her accusatory singing makes sense to the ear. Especially when you hear her growing distaste for his antics.
Consistent themes of girl meets boy after boy after boy and each one of them is awful to her are prevalent throughout. But it’s the way she straddles between being above it all and being utterly powerless to infatuation that make her stories worth hearing. If only all your friends’ dating problems were this alluring and also accompanied by Dan Auerbach playing guitar.
The title track on Ultraviolence also won’t help the anti-feminist rap she seems to get from critics. Especially not with lyrics like “He hit me and it felt like a kiss.” Taking it at face value, the romanticized abuse will obviously turn you off. But to that end she reveals in a recent interview: “For me, a true feminist is someone who is a woman who does exactly what she wants… Everything I was writing was so autobiographical, it could really only be a personal analysis.” Really the ‘Jim’ she grapples with in Ultraviolence isn’t for you to figure out, that’s her battle.
It’s alright to gravitate to this album merely for the Clockwork Orange reference. It just turns out that this dystopian future in her case is the smoldering blues seeping from the burning rubble of her relationships. The polished grit of musicianship laid as the groundwork is worth the listen alone if you’re not into the whole mumbling 1920’s proto-diva thing. You may want to thank your lucky stars you don’t have lovers like Lana does, but in all reality you’re just lucky she’s not your lover.
See two examples of men you’re happy not being: