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The title of Lana Del Rey’s debut album – 2012’s Born To Die – was apt. Dear Lana was the sacrificial lamb of online “tastemakers” and music press alike. Whilst Vogue were happy to plaster her face on their cover and H&M willing to make her their spokesmodel, music communities were tearing her apart as fervently as they once extolled the virtues of mega underground hit ‘Video Games’.
Against the odds Lana Del Rey overcame the instant backlash that greeted her rebellious prom queen persona (please, let’s put that “gangster Nancy Sinatra” quote to bed – she probably regrets saying it as much as I hate repeating it). Not only did she survive the widespread obsession with her authenticity, she’s come out of it with an unanticipated aura of intrigue. For a star willing to contribute to Hollywood soundtracks and sing at the most celeb of celebrity wedding events, she has kept her autonomy and privacy admirably intact.
Could any of Lana’s contemporaries have met their chosen album producer (Black Keys’ Dan Auberbach) in a strip club and kept it to themselves? No, of course not – TMZ would have been alerted and Instagram furnished with a “check out how edgy I am” snapshot. Whilst Lana Del Rey holds as much sway as pop’s most A-list of lady artistes, she is in fact in a wholly different league. She adds so much more to pop culture’s conversation than, say, a Rihanna, Lorde, Beyonce or even a Lady Gaga. Her subversion is, well, more subversive. She quietly yet proudly poeticises darkness, seediness and self-destruction. She tells interviewers she wishes she was “dead already” and has opted out of music’s current obsession with forcing women into the feminist debate ring. “For me, the issue of feminism is just not an interesting concept...” she told Fader. At last! Someone had the guts to say it! Her aversion to fame seems to arise from her singular consciousness of how ridiculous it is. It’s this mix of reluctance and self-awareness that makes Lana Del Rey queen.
As a whole, Ultraviolence does indeed live up to the Lana’s cultivated level of intrigue even if its individual songs do not. Much of what she established about herself as an artist on Born To Die carries over onto Ultraviolence – she’s still captivated by beauty queens with death wishes and daddy issues, and she still manages to sound dead of eye and pouted of lip – yet opener ‘Cruel World’ establishes it is a very different record. The hip hop beats and capsule hooks have been replaced by heavy washes of guitar and wandering vocal lines. The overall pace is more measured, the attitude more resigned and personality more distinct. The gloss remains but there’s a definite level of refinement
As Lana works her way through her litany of doomed damsels and bad boy love interests, she luxuriates in this comfort zone without becoming complacent. She persists with her tropes and articulates her visions fearlessly. What Lana Del Rey does, she does so very, very well – the sweetest of vocals, the sourest of lyrics, making nightmares sound like fantasies and tragedies like romances.
Written for DISORDER