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Album Review
Ultraviolence

Ultraviolence
by Lana Del Rey

Label
Interscope/Polydor
Rating

Review Date
3rd July 2014
Reviewed by
Louisa Kasza

You may not believe this, but Ultraviolence, Lana Del Rey’s sophomore album, is even sadder than Born to Die. There’s a world-weariness permeating the album, from Woman Left Lonely-styled opener ‘Cruel World’ to classic heartbreaker ‘Old Money’. It makes sense: Del Rey has been through the wringer of media and popular opinion since before she even released her debut and has been showing a few cracks of late. There’s less swagger and bravado and even more reflection than usual here (although if you do want swagger, head right to ‘Money Power Glory’ and the perfectly-titled ‘Fucked My Way up to the Top’).

The overall sound differs, too. The fact that Black Keys’ guitarist Dan Auerbach helped produce the album might have something to with its sun-drenched 1970s bad trippiness. There’s a truckload of reverb and distortion, giving a washed-out, even shoe-gaze feeling to tracks like depressive love ballad ‘Black Beauty’. It actually seems typically contrarian of Del Rey to produce something more Janis Joplin than Grimes at the point where it seems pretty obvious that guitar-driven music is going to be terminally uncool for the next decade or so.

Although the album has a more cohesive feeling than the schizophrenic Born to Die, it wouldn’t be Lana if it wasn't still a mixed bag of moods, sounds and ideas. Del Rey is the ultimate chameleon: she glamourises and distorts female achetypes, from perky cocaine dealer through to glamorous mistress and tear-stained ingénue. Inevitably, there are cringey and even offensive moments, such as the unfortunate line: "He hit me and it felt like a kiss" on the title track, not to mention the steel drums and "latino" flourishes on cocaine ditty ‘Florida Kilos’. But of course, we are talking about someone who wears feathered headdresses in music videos: good taste is not clearly not a priority.

And of course there’s the inevitable – and surely intentional - cheesiness inherent in Del Rey’s kitschy Americana pastiche. Sometimes it seems like she just has to be taking the piss, as in the skilfully arranged but supremely embarrassing ‘Brooklyn Baby’: "I've got feathers in my hair / I get down to Beat poetry". Still, that’s the fun of all the artifice that is Lana Del Rey – she throws a spotlight on pop culture, and some results are more gratifying than others.

Sometimes it seems like people made up their minds about Del Rey back when Hipster Runoff was still a thing. She's a phony, a bad singer, a sweaty marketing executive dude zipped into a young woman's body. Often there’s a reluctance to change opinions over such a divisive figure as Del Rey. However, there’s still time to jump on this particular bandwagon – and the new album is more than worthy of your time and attention.


Links
facebook.com/lanadelrey




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