As an artist, you always try to catch people with your music. You want to invite the listeners into a world which is build up by the tunes you make, the lyrics you sing and, if you are also visually into your art, the videos you record. Sometimes this world is bright, full of colors, or dark and totally sallow. Then there are places which seem to be way more than just about that. It happens if the person behind the music is more of an art than the music itself. If the singer becomes more relevant and more interesting than the tunes. In case of LANA DEL REY, there was always an fascinatig mixture of both sides.
Since the New York native singer leaked her self-made vintage-clip to her single Video Games on the internet in summer 2011, she infected radio stations, bloggers and critics all over the world with her melancholic and almost depressive sound. In January 2012, LANA DEL REY‘s LP Born To Die reached number one in over ten countries, making her one of the most successful artists in the past few years. The later released add-on EP Paradise included eight more tracks and was used as the soundtrack for Grant’s first short film Tropico.
While her music and videos got more and more attention, there was always something mysterious about Elizabeth Grant, the girl who got sent to boarding school to deal with her alcohol addiction, who studied metaphysics later on and moved to a trailer park, playing music for her friends. Creating the persona LANA DEL REY just turned up the discussion how much of this woman could be real and what could just be a product of music industry.
Still, DEL REY created an own world around her with her music. Filled with melancholia, anti-feminism and nostalgia. With her follow-up Ultraviolence, the singer keeps the drama in her lyrics and the cinematic sound in her songs. And of course there is this one big theme again: men.
Before the release of the new full album, four pieces has been officially leaked on the net, with West Coast as its lead single. The mid-tempo track brings lots of guitars, a rhythmic change in the chorus and perhaps the coolest LANA DEL REY in words and voice by now. As a standout among the other songs, it was the perfect choise for an introduction to the artist’s new work. West Coast sounds different from Born To Die, but still fits perfectly into its messed up and dramatic concept.
Shades Of Cool and Brooklyn Baby return to the more cinematic sound we all know from the artist. Both come along with a chilling and mysterious atmosphere, while their highlights are hidden in the stylistic features of the tracks: Shades surprises with a brilliant bridge, Brooklyn Baby‘s backing male choir during the last chorus almost gives you goosebumps.
The album’s title track might be the hardest piece in LANA‘s collection of sad lovesongs. Ultraviolence tells the story of Jim, the singer’s brutal lover. ‘He hit me and it felt like a kiss’ is not only a repeating line on this dark anthem about domestic abuse, it is also the title of THE CRYSTALS’ controversal song from 1962. The girlgroup wrote it after one of its members got beaten by her boyfriend.
After such a foretaste, the demand for more is rising. Luckily, for those who feel comfortable in LANA‘s dark and self-destructive world, her new full-length album will be a complete satisfaction: Ultraviolence consists of good old DEL REY sadcore-pop, but this time with more guitars and even more despair.
The rocking sound of Pretty When You Cry or Money Power Glory fits perfectly to LANA DEL REY‘s devastated singing about failures in life or sacrificing herself to her man. You cannot overhear Dan Auerbach’s influence on the tracks. The guitarist/vocalist of american rock duo THE BLACK KEYS worked as one of the main producers and is responsible for the more edgier side of the album. Not the worst idea.
The almost seven minute long opener Cruel World or dreamy Sad Girl are typical soundtracks for a lonely evening with a bottle of red wine and many tears. The piano ballad Old Money should even destroy your last piece of self esteem then. That is just the intention the singer wants to achieve one more time: feeling desperate, unwanted and somehow still fine. Because in her music, there is no place for happiness at all. You may love it, or hate it, but like the artist sings in Fucked My Way Up To The Top, ‘this is [her] show’. Not ours.
But is there any increase in her newest show? While Born To Die and Paradise were still filled with a few different shades of darker colors, Ultraviolence seems more like an old black and white movie. It sounds rather like an tribute to the melancholic soul of the 60’s than an orchestral drama. Musically, it is calmer and more down to earth than its forerunners. Lyrically, LANA stays in her men-dominated, old school America, still looking for endless fulfillment. Without fighting for it.
LANA DEL REY welcomes us again to her self-constructed, imperfect world. We should join her, because there is nothing wrong with feeling lonely and weak. Especially when it sounds like ‘Ultraviolence’.
NBHAP Rating: 4,5/5