Release Date: Jun 17, 2014
Record label: Interscope
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Ten years ago, I hung a poster on my wall that read, “Being the adventures of a young man whose principal interests are rape, ultraviolence and Beethoven.” It was a replica of a vintage ad for the film A Clockwork Orange, purchased in a plastic laminate from my local punk supply store. Kubrick’s adaptation of the Anthony Burgess novel goes like this: A 15-year-old serial robber and rapist named Alex murders a woman, then opts for psychological rehabilitation over prison time. The rehab accidentally conditions him to hate his favorite music, destroying even the innocent parts of his identity.
Review Summary: Oh it was gorgeousness and gorgeosity made fleshOn a surface level, Lana Del Rey may seem to many like a living musical contradiction. Her attempts to bring back the old-fashioned style of the old greats such as Nancy Sinatra or Leonard Cohen have been known to clash with overly melodramatic modern "bad girl" lyricism that many consider vapid. Also, there's the fact that she hasn't always delivered very solid live shows when compared to her studio performances, as well as the way her baroque pop stylings get mixed in with modern hip-hop-influenced beats.
Lana Del Rey's 2012 debut LP, Born To Die, was too unfocused to live up to the high expectations generated by the enigmatic power of songs like Video Games and Blue Jeans. Now Del Rey has answered those diminished hopes with a consistently strong album, proving her initial appeal was more than just the result of clever marketing. This time, her strangely aloof detachment works much better with her atmospheric ballads than it did on her debut.
The maelstrom of hype surrounding self-modeled Hollywood pop star Lana Del Rey's 2012 breakthrough album, Born to Die, found critics, listeners, and pop culture aficionados divided about her detached, hyper-stylized approach to every aspect of her music and public persona. What managed to get overlooked by many was that Born to Die made such a polarizing impression because it actually offered something that didn't sound like anything else. Del Rey's sultry, overstated orchestral pop recast her as some sort of vaguely imagined chanteuse for a generation raised on Adderall and the Internet, with heavy doses of Twin Peaks atmosphere adding a creepy sheen to intentionally vapid (and undeniably catchy) radio hits.
Daunting though it may be to perpetually remain the object of public scrutiny, there has to be something quite alluring about wearing a big letter C upon one’s chest. The word “Celebrity” is both encrusted in diamonds and saturated in poison. Revered by some and reviled by others, celebrities often voice their frustration with having their private lives placed on a thin sliver of glass underneath the lens of a tabloid microscope.
It’s hard to forget the mud-slinging, hype-stamping furore that met Lana Del Rey’s debut ‘Born to Die’. By that point, she was already writing songs about being famous, having to deal with zero privacy and fragile relationships - she knew where she was going. Everyone else did, too. Critics might have questioned her beginnings, her route to the top, but it’s all meaningless today.
There was a time, around the release of Lana Del Rey's last album, that the chances of Lana Del Rey releasing another album seemed very slim. It had something to do with the way that, apparently beaten down by the controversies surrounding her background and her ability or otherwise to actually sing, she kept implying that she was going to quit music. "I don't think I'll write another record," she told Vogue magazine, shortly after Born to Die's 2012 release.
Lana Del Rey, the creation of singer and songwriter Lizzy Grant, is all alone. She’s an utterly distinctive figure in popular music—not part of a scene, with no serious imitators—and befitting someone completely off on her own, she’s lonely. Where her last full-length, the frequently terrible Born to Die, tried on different moods and looked at her character from a few angles, Ultraviolence finds one feeling—a seedy, desperate, hyper-romanticized sense of isolation and loss—and blows it up to drive-in screen proportions, saturating the color riding the blue crest of sadness for the better part of an hour.
It's a bit of a thankless job being a music critic; in fact, it can barely even be referred to as a "job" these days. However, once in a while, a great bit of writing will turn up that reminds you of why criticism is still important, a piece that elucidates the otherwise ineffable qualities that make a good record great, or take a poor effort to task in a fair, or at least a fun way. And the response to Lana Del Rey's debut album was nothing of the sort.
Ultimately, after all the hype and the hate, the creation of the legend, the debunking of the legend, the rebunking of the legend, the debunking of the rebunking, Lana Del Rey has made an album which is… ok. Ultraviolence remains steadfastly in character. In case you were wondering, Elizabeth Grant is still playing the role she did on Born To Die.
You might have heard of so sad today, a twitter account that revels in laying bare subjects that we're not supposed to discuss in public: depression, desperation, loneliness. Tweets like "sad tonight," "slept with both of your sons" and "sext: nothing matters" would all seem pretty nihilistic if they weren't so crucial to social discourse. So while the account creator recently admitted she's not always necessarily sad, nobody questions the authenticity of the tweets — they fulfill a powerful social role.Enter Lana Del Rey, who was lambasted upon the breakout release of her album Born to Die in 2012 for the perceived shallowness of her lyrics and her lack of "authenticity" for having changed her name from Lizzy Grant years earlier.
Leading up to the release of her glorified music video “Tropico” last December, Lana Del Rey declared that the 27-minute short film would be a “farewell. ” To what exactly was unclear at the time: Some speculated that the singer was leaving the business, a naïve suggestion given her preoccupation, however ironic, with the insatiable allure of “money, power, glory,” or that she was simply retiring her stage moniker. Alas, it just marked the end of the Born to Die era, though returning to her birth name—Lizzie Grant, as she was credited in early releases—would have been an apt move, as Del Rey's third album, Ultraviolence, finds her stripping away much of the sonic, if not thematic, pretense…or at least substituting it with a new one.
Three years ago, Lana Del Rey seemed to hatch into existence as a fully formed provocateur: She has introduced previously untasted flavors to pop music (her slow, torchy genre of choice might best be described as "Calvin Klein Eternity commercial") and shaped herself into as crafty a video star as Lady Gaga, making her racy, mysterious clips a core part of her brand. Using vintage references like they were bargain-bin lipsticks, she's been called an idiot and a savant. The fact that nobody has been able to verify which camp she belongs to – added to her outsize influence on stars like Lorde and Miley Cyrus – makes her one of the most compelling performers of our time.
Like Morrissey, Lana Del Rey has mastered song titles that perpetuate her reputation with a knowing wink. The tracklisting of her second official album could form her manifesto: ‘Sad Girl’, ‘Pretty When You Cry’, ‘Money Power Glory’, ‘Fucked My Way Up To The Top’. Rather than the mea culpa that Authenticity Bores would like it to be, the latter is a territorial, if mournful, bitch-slap: “I’m a dragon, you’re a whore/Don’t even know what you’re good for/Mimicking me’s a fucking bore… to me”, she glowers.It’s hard to know who she means, especially because mimicking Lana Del Rey would be hard.
When navigating the shifting shallows that form the Lana Del Rey project, it helps to remember that all pop is a fiction. Lana Del Rey – as distinct from her alter ego, Elizabeth Grant – is a character, the socialite gone wrong. Blessed with moneyed roots and a good orthodontist, the "gangsta Nancy Sinatra" chooses the more dissolute path of bad men and great parties with detours to trailer parks.
Over the past half decade, there have been few singers more polarizing than Lana Del Rey. Her debut effort, 2012's Born to Die, was inconsistent and confusing, fueling her skeptics' fire. But it seems like she's learned from past mistakes. For her sophomore album, Del Rey enlisted the help of The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, who is quietly carving out a second career as a producer du jour.
Lana Del Rey sings in a voice of savored doom. Her nearly comatose vocals make it sound like she just slipped herself a roofie, saving whatever sicko she seeks the trouble. She extends the persona to her lyrics, which never miss a beautiful loser cliché. "I'm a mess/I'm crazy" she tells us in one track, while another finds her murmuring over and over "I'm a sad girl/bad girl." Elsewhere, Del Rey describes herself as "poison ivy," a girl "blessed with beauty and rage," as well as one who's "pretty when I cry." It's standard-issue Del Rey, a woman whose broken baby-doll character helped her hawk over a million copies of her last album, "Born to Die." The Hollywood hard-sell of that persona made her a legit star.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Elizabeth Woolridge Grant has come a long way. From the trailer park to stadiums, from a nervous, off-key SNL appearance to having her hits sung back to her by thousands, from plain old Lizzie to Lana Del Rey, global superstar and icon, all in a few short years.
If the interview she recently gave to The Guardian is anything to go by, Lana Del Rey’s capacity for the sharp division of opinion remains as keen as ever. The piece painted a deeply unhappy picture of her life post-‘Video Games’; it opens with her drawing unsettling comparisons between herself and two of the 27 Club’s most prominent members, and proclaiming that she often wishes she’d already joined their ranks (assuming she’s still with us past next Saturday - her twenty-eighth birthday - she’ll have avoided doing so). Whether or not this latest episode in a decidedly turbulent relationship with the media is indicative of somebody in a genuinely unhealthy psychological place, or simply the near-tasteless rumblings of an entertainer with a vested interest in presenting themselves as intriguingly as possible, is something that will doubtless be pored over in microscopic detail elsewhere.
Negative reviews are really fun to write. It isn’t often when someone with low status (yours truly) is free to draw a little blood from those with high status (a popular artist or band) and still retain an air of dignity. After all, the stakes are ridiculously low for the writer. I might anger some fans and suffer a beating on social media.
Now it all makes sense: She simply needed time to develop, time for the music to catch up with her vision. When Lana Del Rey catapulted to pop stardom in the summer of 2011 with the song “Video Games,” her debut, “Born to Die,” arrived six months later in a blaze of buzz, but ended up sounding rushed and unfocused. At least that was the criticism from those who loved the idea of Lana Del Rey (this critic included) but had higher hopes for her first full-length.
In the run-up to Ultraviolence, Lana Del Rey proclaimed her disinterest in feminism, advocated for “hardcore love,” and wished she was already dead. For some, it was time to fire up Blogger and churn out a think piece; for others, it was just another twist and turn on Lana Del Rey’s Wild Ride. With Ultraviolence, Lizzy Grant completes her metamorphosis into Lana Del Rey: a pop star ouroboros that forces the listener to question the artifice inherent in pop culture.
If there's a central message to "Ultraviolence," the highly anticipated new album by Lana Del Rey, it is this: Why mind Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg's advice that a modern woman "lean in" when she can get what's desired through reclining? Filled with the kind of echoed, distant seduction that has made the young chanteuse-instigator one of the most polarizing pop stars in recent memory, Del Rey's follow-up to her multi-platinum "Born to Die" is rife with incitements and further defines her philosophy, one that's as provocative in its own way as punk rock but without all that screaming. This is a modal window. This belief system on "Ultraviolence" preaches a cut-throat approach to finding and retaining bliss.
For every part "idiot" that her image projects – the put-on pout, that doubtful persona – Lana Del Rey's equal parts savant. The dichotomy makes songstress Elizabeth Grant hard to peg. Ultraviolence marks the Angeleno's third album in four years, produced by the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach into dark, lush gloom-pop. The heiress-turned-songwriter spins tragic tales that further an intrigue somehow only mounting, yet they're just dubious enough to keep any artistic credibility at a cautious arm's length and thus perpetuate her core polarity.
At the very least, Lana Del Rey’s debut record, Born To Die, had singles. Despite the chaotic mess of influences and halfhearted neo-noir aesthetic, the album boasted a handful of tunes that deftly explored the line between indie authenticity and mainstream pop gold. Songs like “Blue Jeans” and “Video Games” showed Del Rey had an ear for sad-sack melodies that perfectly complemented the malaise of its lyrical explorations of lust, self-pity, and regret.