ARTIST: Lana Del Rey
When Lana Del Rey first started to get recognized by critics and the public the result was a consensus confusion. Was she a sex symbol? Has there ever been a pop star with such a velvety voice and isolating pout? Flower crowns? Can you believe how good this is? Can you believe how bad this is? Is she real? Questions swarmed around the mysterious singer like a tornado ready to destroy her at any false move. This unstable response to the singer should have been questioning her unorganized first album, when it it instead started questioning her talent. Lana Del Rey is a worldwide known name now because of her debut album Born to Die, and because that confusion was not only an impenetrable cloud, but intrigue and intrigue turns into popularity, which turns into record sales, seven million records sold worldwide. In all honesty Lana Del Rey is an acquired taste. One can critique Lana Del Rey, questioning her authenticity, but he or she would be jumping the gun, considering that people gravitate towards her like a magnet, she is overwhelmingly successful with only one technical release, and she is talented, which is arguable about many of the pop stars out today.
Ultraviolence is Rey’s second album release with twelve tracks and three bonus tracks that collide together in order to make a much better crafted vision of the bluesy vixen. The production is very cohesive that builds a signature sound for the singer: whiny electric guitars, subtle, numbing drumbeats, and faded orchestral effects in the background in order to add a bit of drama. Majority of the time much of the production sounds the same. It could be accused of being repetitive, until the realization hits that one is forgetting about the most important instrument of all: Lana’s seductive, lipstick-smudged voice. Lana is completely unique in modern day with vocals that conjure isolation, self-loathing, denial, sex, satirical reflection, and a range that is breathtaking. This fifteen track album can be a bit overkill with songs that seem to all sound the same after a while. But it’s not that they lack personality or individuality, but they have the same thematic emotional intensity. Lana’s vocals have an entire range of a sexual lethargic feel. Sometimes they sound childish, other times exhausted, and at times triumphant. There is no doubt that there is talent manifested within Lana Del Rey with her outstanding range with tracks like “Is This Happiness?” and “Cruel World.” The album stumbles along the line of sounding boring, stable, or just familiar. Ultraviolence allows Lana to explore her concept much more clearly and with a sound that fits perfectly. No tracks seem to be a nuisance as the themes seem to overlap, lustful revenge, denial of broken relationships, holding onto a nostalgia that in reaction strangles the present, and loneliness to a tee.
The tracks on Ultraviolence all consist of women characters either involved with a man in a melancholic relationship or about sexual power. “Black Beauty,” is a slow ballad about how this woman cannot help but want to rescue her man from the black depression he has fallen into without being able to understand the amazement of life. “Ultraviolence,” sings of a woman who is stuck in a relationship that brings comfort in the abuse. It is a paradoxical song that finds beauty and resurrection in the unnecessary violence. The theme of dominating men and hopeless women appear over and over again like a broken record with one wanting to ask, “what is this really about?” Is she painting a picture of poor women on purpose? In a recent interview by Fader magazine, the topic of feminism comes up as Lana brushes it aside stating that it is “not interesting” and that her “idea of a true feminist is a woman who feels free enough to do whatever they want.” Thus, do not be mistaken that this is a feminist album because it does not glorify women, nor the men. Lana’s album is a time machine that brings one back to the drug and lust fueled decade of the sixties, romanticizing a genre of life with her seductive tone and fantastical imagery. It gets exhausting after a while trying to figure out who Lizzy Grant is and what her implicit message is. It is better to just take it for what it is. Sex sells. And Lana Del Rey is a fantasy. A fantasy that uses its magic to create emotions individual for each listener. One gets what they want out of the album and out of Lana herself. If one takes away the mystery, there ends up being no reason to love her and no reason to hate her, which are two separate facets of the same passion.
Her content is perfect for the persona she has invested in. The lyrics falter between poetic and satire. “Brooklyn Baby,” is a track that pokes fun at the hipster phenomenon with words that force a laugh, “I’ve got feathers in my hair/ I get down to beat poetry/ And my jazz collection is pretty rare.” Or the track “Fucked My Way To The Top,” is exactly about what it sounds like, but it is a pure sarcastic gem. Lana is successful because of her controversial image, while people through knifes of accusation of inauthenticity her way. She failed as Lizzy Grant (her real name) and rose from the ashes as Lana Del Rey, a show name. Just like her lyrics, Lana could be perceived as a satirical plug, but that’s where authenticity does come into play. Of course Lana seems unreal, she’s like a dream, but where some may see her “falseness” as a flaw is where they stumble; it’s made her a star. Lana Del Rey is not supposed to be Lizzy Grant or else that is what we would call her. David Bowie has done this along with even Beyonce. Different artists make do with the cards they are given and Lana has been playing the game victoriously. Even behind the questionable personality, she radiates entertainment, a vision, and talent. What else are we looking for? Society today is built upon breaking everyone down, yet Ultraviolence has illustrated that we have yet to do that to Lana Del Rey.
Ultraviolence was produced by one half of The Black Keys, Dan Auerbach, and has more of a minimal rock feel. The album is dramatic and at times completely gorgeous. Her songs get in a limbo between reality and reverie as she sculpts a lugubrious world where time has slowed to a lull and romanticism flourishes. It is scary to think that Lana Del Rey might only be a one trick pony with her specific vision, but Lizzy Grant is certainly not. Ultraviolence is a trip of beautiful dismal imagery with a road paved by electric whines that will make one swoon, and even laugh, questioning one’s contentment.
“High up on Hollywood hills taking violet pills/ Writing all my songs about my cheap thrills”