The “Summertime Sadness” may not be over. Lana fans rejoice, the twenty-seven year old American singer has released her second album Ultraviolence. With the success of her major-label debut album, Born to Die, Lana has become one of the biggest artists of this generation. With a cult following dressed in flower crowns, Lana has managed to speak to the dark angst hidden in the hearts of teenage girls. Ultraviolence, however, has taken Lana to a more metaphorical dark place full of ‘70s rock melodies and lyrics that make you feel high without actually taking a trip than what mainstream Del Rey fans are accustomed to.
Which is why it works.
Ultraviolence starts off with “Cruel World”, an over six minute track that immediately puts you in a psychedelic trance which will continue through most of the album. The music pulls the listener in with the change in tempo and sounds throughout as they format the instruments around the new version of Lizzy Grant.
The second track, which also doubles as the title track of the album, “Ultraviolence”, is the darkest track on the record. Dealing with the concept of a dark, wrongfully romanticized psychically violent relationship, the lyrics tell the skewed up point of view of how violence can be interpreted as love. “He hit me and it felt like a kiss, I can hear violins, violins” along with the slow rhythmic tempo make Del Rey’s voice penetrate your mind and you find yourself a part of this destructive relationship.
The ideas of toxic relationships continue into the third track, “Shades of Gold”. By this time it’s become clear, this songstress is queen at taking these topics and using her unique vocals to change the listeners thoughts on what would seem like a clear he-is-no-good-you-need-to-leave idea. Her vocals during the chorus of “Shades of Gold” rival any classical Disney princess and you can image Del Rey prancing through the enchanted forest while her emotionally troubled prince charming chases after her.
Ultraviolence continues to follow slightly trippy ‘70s rock sound. “Brooklyn Baby” plays homage to a style that seem to be fading from mainstream music that is until Lana took it into her hands to bring it back. With lyrics like “They think I don’t understand the freedom land of the seventies” and “I get down to beat poetry and my jazz collection’s rare, I can play almost anything” she is telling you who she is. Ultraviolence is composed of the signature sounds of the ‘70s and a ‘90s poetry club feel and makes you want to snap your fingers. This is especially felt during “Sad Girl” and “Pretty When You Cry”.
The first single off of Ultraviolence comes to us as a California anthem as well as a Lana style love song. The rhythmic drums move the verses along with lyrics about the “West Coast” but then transitions into a completely different rhythm and feel when the lyrics change into talking about her “crazy Cubano”. Del Rey nailed it with this song. As a first single it not only catches the audience’s attention but also gives listeners a preview of what the whole album is. It tells you that everything you thought you knew, everything you saw coming from Del Rey is changing. “West Coast” changes in the middle of what you thought was already a strong song, a strong career for Del Rey into something completely different, but it works. It meshes together musical worlds and inspirations that somehow only seem make sense when coming from the brain of Del Rey.
Taking a break from damaging relationships, Lana sings “Money Power Glory, a song about money, power and glory. Leave it to Lana to be able to make a song about greed sound acceptable and even beautiful. But while this song glorifies what many people are after, “Old Money” poetically showcases that not everything is greener on the other side. “My father’s love was always strong, my mother’s glamour lives on and on, Yet still inside I felt alone, for reasons unknown to me” may express how Del Rey felt growing up and offers a vocal vulnerability that tugs on heart strings. Slower pace than the rest of the songs on the album, “Old Money” is poetically the strongest written song on Ultraviolence and can offer a fresh perspective on Del Rey.
Not one to censor herself, Lana’s ninth track is “Fucked My Way Up To The Top” uses clever writing to play on the idea of someone sleeping their way up, well, to the top. Whether literally or figurative, this song is catchy and that’s all it really needs. The final track on Ultraviolence is “The Other Woman”. The lyrics paint a picture of a perfect woman who does everything right and even though she is married she always feels alone. While imagining a ‘50s housewife all dolled up and cleaning the house, Lana’s voice portrays a sadness that the lyrics eventually describe. This song is perfectly designed to be featured in a movie score, and I’ll look forward to it.
Lana Del Rey, the girl who burst into the mainstream scene with previous hits such as “Summertime Sadness” and “Video Games” has transitioned into a poetic vixen worthy of being called an artist. Ultraviolence will challenge the mainstream listeners but for the Lana Del Rey fans that understand the poetry, the feelings behind the lyrics and the music will embrace the ‘70s semi psychedelic rock sound. The transformations from Born to Die to Ultraviolence also transforms Lana from someone with quirky lyrics into an artist with full fledged soulful poetry. Ultraviolence gives listeners a new outlook on Del Rey as she takes you on an emotional trip, which is why it works.