Lana Del Rey’s third studio LP “Ultraviolence” was released June 13th, 2014. Only the second album released under her current stage name Lana Del Rey, the singer touches on classic glamourized themes like money, drugs, men, cigarettes, and cars. Recently accused by Kurt Cobain’s daughter, Frances Bean, of telling The Guardian that, “I wish I was dead already,” Lana Del Rey has been on the defense about “glamorizing death”. Her first album being titled “Born to Die” didn’t exactly help her argument, and “Ultraviolence” with its darker, more pop-noir style and pretty-girl-in-a-man’s-world theme might not convince critics she still isn’t romanticizing dying young. Though (thankfully) not in the “27 Club“, Lana Del Rey’s album has made the list for top summer albums this year. Check out the track-by-track review below.
“Cruel World”: “I shared my body and my mind with you,” Lana slurs with a bluesy, bourbon-induced haze, “but that’s all over now.” Not to be kept down, she’s proclaimed herself crazy, a mess and moving on, leaving behind a relationship that was disastrous.
“Ultraviolence”: Lana vacillates between physical love and physical abuse, akin to a theme of the book “A Clockwork Orange” where the term “ultraviolence” comes from. This lachrymose song has the potential to lend itself in the fight for domestic abuse awareness.
“Shades of Cool”: The California blue-eyed bad boy Lana is pining over in this song cannot be fixed, cannot be made good. As she softly keens over the fact that she can never ever mend this rogue, the guitar takes over the mournful track, wailing a grisly solo that takes on the persona of the bad boy.
“Brooklyn Baby”: Continuing her used and abused woman who’s carrying on strong theme, but with slightly less heavy implications, this is the closest thing to a song of summer on “Ultraviolence”. The lyrics have a retro connotation: “Well my boyfriend’s in a band,” she sings, “he plays guitar while I sing Lou Reed.” This love story is a little more enterprising compared to others on the album.
“West Coast”: Still with haunting overtones but sparser instrumentation, this hot California party-life, driving-slow track drops a sultry swing beat on the chorus that keeps Lana’s west coast observations flowing in an unexpected country-hip-hop way.
“Sad Girl”: Retro organ opens this R&B-type track, and Lana forlornly justifies the point of view of a two-timed girl. “Being a mistress on the side,” she sings, “might not appeal to fools like you,” but throughout the song it becomes clear she’s not entirely convinced she can stick with being a “bad bitch on the side”.
“Pretty When You Cry”: Adorability seeps into her baby-girlish voice, contrary to her typical hard sound on other tracks. Feeling helpless about a guy who never comes through and is always a disappointment, Lana tries to cheer herself up, but the best she can come up with is, “I’m pretty when you cry.” Probably true. Another guitar solo paired with her cries rips through the outro.
“Money Power Glory”: In power on this solid slow jam, Lana knows what she wants and is not afraid to say so. “Hallelujah, I wanna take you for all that you got,” she declares. Whether she’s forewarning her guy or the world of her inevitable takeover, Lana clearly has control of her destiny in this track.
“Fucked My Way Up to the Top”: Continuing on the warpath, Lana ironically taunts her feminist gossipers, confessing to using her feminine charms to get to the top, where “This is my show.” What else is a girl to do, in a world run by old rich men?
“Old Money”: This nostalgic ballad is carried along backing strings that lend a pleasing new vibe. Lana doubles down on status symbols, unlike in her previous album “Born To Die” in which she criticizes the upper-middle class. However, lyrics like, “If you call for me, you know I’ll run to you,” make it unclear what her message really is.
“The Other Woman”: An old-timey record plug-in and Lana’s trills gives this track a classic Edith Piaf feel to it, but in actuality it’s a cover of an old standard, made famous by Nina Simone in 1959. Lana concludes the “hurt other woman” theme of the “Ultraviolence” with the moral that it just isn’t worth it ‘cause you’ll end up alone.
Thanks to Dan Auerbach, the frontman of the Black Keys who produced the album, Lana Del Rey now has a strong image. In the words of Billboard’s Kenneth Partridge, Auerbach’s “back-to-basics rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic serves these tracks well… [offering] a more sedate take on the “Born to Die” template, lightening the orchestrations, ditching the hip-hop beats, and presenting Lana as a perpetually scorned pop-noir fugitive.” Let’s hope Lana continues on her songwriting path and finds more themes that fit her new identity.