Album review: Lana Del Rey’s Ultraviolence

Fri, Jun 13, 2014, 00:00



Lana Del Ray



There’s been none of the usual pre-album release online chatter for Lana Del Rey’s second album, her follow-up to 2012’s left-of-field but surprisingly, resolutely commercial debut, Born to Die. This means we’re approaching Ultraviolence with little or no preconceived notions, other than our own prejudices regarding Del Rey: her authenticity (or lack of), and her status as a kind of role model for bruised or damaged goods.

Ultraviolence (perhaps too typical and unironic a title for such a self-aware artist) sees Del Rey employ, with just a few extra frills, the if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it approach. Such a tactic might not satisfy those who don’t view the singer as the best thing since sliced bread. But for those of us who reckon she is the real deal, as well as the only female songwriter of recent times to put a mirror up to the queasy underbelly of what a smart woman has to put up with in trying to succeed in a male-dominated industry, then Ultraviolence is extremely impressive.

Of course, songs with titles such as Fucked My Way Up to the Top, Cruel World, Sad Girl, Pretty When You Cry, Money Power Glory and The Other Woman tell their own thematic tales. Little has changed stylistically. Bar some unnecessary (and frankly unseemly) squalls of rawk guitar on Shades of Cool and Money Power Glory, the mood rarely changes beyond uneasy Blue Velvet-type atmospherics and the kind of lonely and louche torch ballads that reference 1950s noir vocalists such as Julie London.

Do we learn anything about Lana Del Rey here? Is her worldview really so wrapped up in the stupid sleaze and the sticky sordid? Is it a schtick that she continues to beat us around the head with in the hope that we’ll submit? Maybe. Maybe not.

What seems certain is that whatever she really is, or whatever she does in her chosen milieu, Del Ray is the best at it.

Download: Cruel World, Sad Girl, Fucked My Way Up to the Top, Old Money