Lana Del Rey. I’m sure everyone is sick of me talking about her but they shouldnt be. The ethereally sad glamour girl from our generation singing talk of unrequited love, careless distraction, Ultraviolence, lame hipster girls who smoke dro, and time out of mind in an America gone wrong. Ultraviolence is the simultaneous death and birth of our generations idea of American cool, the myth of the West Coast, and the deadly glamour of love affairs that are made of smoke and broken mirrors.
There’s a big difference between who Lana Del Rey IS and what she represents. She is speaking from the heart about heartbreak and knowing what its like to just want to disappear, but not being able too. All the while she brazenly faces the unknown as a fire walker who takes that last breath before stepping on the hot coals.
I hate to say this, but if you don’t get it, you don’t get it. If you’ve never been a broken hearted sad and well read girl from Upstate New York, the music probably isn’t going to ring THAT true to you. But if you ARE, (Chaya Pierson and Oriana Fine I’m looking at you….) then you REALLY get it. You’ve stood in her shoes, you’ve seen what she’s seen and you’ve felt what she’s felt. You know about the pain and loss of an America gone awry, you know what it’s like to wait for someone who never comes, you know what Ultraviolence means and you know how to stay graceful through all of it.
Lana’s new album is a departure from the hip hop backed Born To Die days of a few years ago. She’s burrowed down the rabbit hole of darkness just a little further, lending a more woozy California swing to her sad melodies and escalating minor chords. Her lyrics are also drenched in California references, painting a rich and vibrantly lit black and white landscape for Lana to tirelessly and languidly stroll through. From love affairs ending in “Cruel World”, “Ultraviolence” to new ones beginning (or never really getting off the ground,) with “Pretty When I Cry”) she takes us from the past to the present with unflinching honesty, sadness, and the psychedelic surrealness of someone who knows their way around the terrain of synchronstic experiences of loss and love. Someone like Lana couldn’t get hurt that hard without throwing herself into full throttle right? She not only sings the tales of experiences that she threw herself into, but also throws her voice, her range, her style full throttle into the album. We hear a Lana Del Rey who’s taken the trip, and found herself at the other end. She’s no longer Lolita lost in the hood, she’s the sarcastic ex freaknik who’s seen the dessert, drank the kool aid, bought the leather jacket and lived to tell the tale, American flag in tow.
The narcotic swing of the songs only further accentuates the death of the American dream, “Money Power and Glory” reads like a hypnotic psycho Funeral March of Generation Y….A Generation beat down by rap music, the hyper materialism of the 80’s and the true death of the American Dream. The surreal surf rock riffs of ” Shades of Cool” and “West Coast” serve to reinvent the genre, taking us out of the stale idea of Dick Dale and Pulp Fiction, and launching us straight into modern day Los Angeles. Seeing the world in black and white and seamlessly uniting the glamour of the mid 1960’s with the gritty glamorous uncertainty of today.
The boldest move on the album is “Fucked My Way Up to the Top”, which matches the fresh and witty sarcasm of “Brooklyn Baby” with an angry vengeance. An answer to all the people saying she has indeed fucked her way up to the top, she writes a song about it. Bringing back a super trill goth-hop beat and soaring vocals with a little twist of crazy, Lana sets the record straight, even saying she got tested and she passed (yes). Ballsy move Lana. Cheers.
The crowning jewel of the album though, is the title track, Ultraviolence. With its sad, bangy piano ad its soaring viola solos, and consistent but thrashing drums, Lana sings of being in love with an abusive cult leader named Jim, and feeling like abuse equals love. This is my favorite song on the album for clearly personal reasons. Ultraviolence was inspired by the Crystals 1963 song “He Hit me and if Felt Like a Kiss” and the song feels like it brings us not into 1963 but straight into the surreal and creepy terrain of 1969..(also another shout out to Upstate NY in Ultraviolence, Lana sings “we can go back to Woodstock, where they don’t know who we are”)
The album feels like a weathering a cool storm in a convertible. A magical summer thunder shower with rainbows, broken hearts and mirrors, that ends in a cleary, ultra starry sky. It both mourns and gives hope, it both inspires and at times, terrifies. It is both nostalgic and brand new, like walking off the edge of the past into the unknown. And I certainly know what that feels like <3