Lana Del Rey - Ultraviolence - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Lana Del Rey - Ultraviolence

by Greg Spencer Rating:8 Release Date:2014-06-16

When listening to Lana Del Rey it’s easy to get completely drawn in by her utterly captivating sonic persona. It feels like every track you hear brings you closer to understanding one of the most dynamic yet complex characters in the music industry. Or at least Del Rey lets us believe that we’re getting some sort of grasp as to who she is. This false sense of security is the genius of Ultraviolence, the second album from the 28-year-old New Yorker in two-and-a-half years.

Del Rey’s previous album, Born to Die, was a wild concoction of hits and misses but delivered in that it introduced us to the singer’s dark and visceral sensibility. You have to admire this - not every female artist needs to aspire to be like Rihanna, right? Half of what we buy into with Lana Del Rey is the woman herself; she isn’t particularly inspiring in interviews and doesn’t always carry off a huge amount of stage presence at her live shows, but this is all part of the image we consume with her.

We can’t be surprised then that recently she gave an interview claiming “I wish I was dead already”, saying she found an early death glamorous. This makes her contribution to The Great Gatsby soundtrack even more fitting. Del Rey seems to slot perfectly into that F. Scott Fitzgerald world of surface, poison and false glamour.

Ultraviolence begins with the (trademark) downbeat and slow ‘Cruel World’ which, at over six-minutes-long, does feel a little indulgent and stodgy for an opening number, although what it shows is that Del Rey can do whatever she likes after the success of Born to Die. If she wants to open her latest record with a long and actually quite boring song then she will.

Things don’t get any snappier with the title song, although it definitely has more repeat value than its predecessor, even if the chorus is somewhat uninspired. Basically, don’t expect anything exciting to happen in the first 10 minutes of this record.     

‘Shades of Cool’, however, does deliver and offers up everything fans of Del Rey absolutely love about her. From her heartbreaking vocals which shift from a high semi-whisper to a cynical tone, to the simple instrumentation, this is a song which will probably feature on a handful of films over the next 20 years. There’s something compelling about the production; we all know Del Rey is mainstream but there’s darkness and a film noir style which follows her on every song she puts out. 

That’s why she’s such a breath of fresh air on the pop scene. Critics of Del Rey will say of Ultraviolence just what they said about her previous album: that many of the songs follow similar structures and the pacing is too slow - but this is her niche so there has to come a point in which people who don’t like her have to accept this is just what she does.

Admittedly, on some songs like ‘Sad Girl’ you may find yourself wondering where its leading and if the buzz about Lana Del Rey is a case of emperor’s new clothes. Just like on her previous record, there are songs which don’t quite hit the heights of her best work and fall short, even seeming somewhat monotonous.

However there is enough on this record to keep you engrossed until or if she brings out new material again. It feels like Lana Del Rey’s career is on a knife-edge. If what she said about dying is true, maybe cherishing the material she does bring out may be a good idea.

When you find yourself getting emotional while listening to a track like ‘Old Money’ simply because of Lana Del Rey’s voice and the track’s simple instrumentation, you know that this artist has really hit a chord. That’s why this singer is a genuinely special talent who stands in her own unique intersection of hybrid genres. She will hopefully continue to produce albums as interesting as this one, although the question of whether we know the real Lana or not still stands.        

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