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Album Review

The maelstrom of hype surrounding self-modeled Hollywood pop star Lana Del Rey's 2012 breakthrough album, Born to Die, found critics, listeners, and pop culture aficionados divided about her detached, hyper-stylized approach to every aspect of her music and public persona. What managed to get overlooked by many was that Born to Die made such a polarizing impression because it actually offered something that didn't sound like anything else. Del Rey's sultry, overstated orchestral pop recast her as some sort of vaguely imagined chanteuse for a generation raised on Adderall and the Internet, with heavy doses of Twin Peaks atmosphere adding a creepy sheen to intentionally vapid (and undeniably catchy) radio hits. Follow-up album Ultraviolence shifts gears considerably, building a thick, slow-moving atmosphere with its languid songs and opulent arrangements. Gone are the big beats and glossy production that resulted in tracks like "Summertime Sadness." Instead, Ultraviolence begins with the protracted, rolling melancholia of "Cruel World," nearly seven minutes of what feels like a sad, reverb-drenched daydream. The song sets the stage for the rest of the album, which simmers with a haunted, yearning feeling but never boils over. Even the most pop-friendly moments here are steeped in patient, jazz-inflected moodiness, as with the sad-eyed longing of "Shades of Cool" or the unexpected tempo changes that connect the slinky verses of single "West Coast" to their syrupy, swaying choruses. Production from the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach might have something to do with the metered restraint that permeates the album, with songs like "Sad Girl" carrying some of the slow-burning touches of greasy blues-rock Auerbach is known for. A few puzzling moments break up the continuity of the album. The somewhat hooky elements of "Brooklyn Baby" can't quite rise above its disjointed song structure and cringeable lyrics that could be taken either as mockery of the hipster lifestyle or self-parody. "Money Power Glory" steps briefly out of the overall dreamscape of the album, sounding like a tossed-off outtake from the Born to Die sessions. Despite these mild missteps, Ultraviolence thrives for the most part in its density, meant clearly to be absorbed as an entire experience, with even its weaker pieces contributing to a mood that's consumptive, sexy, and as eerie as big-budget pop music gets. Del Rey's loudest detractors criticized her music as a hollow, cliché-ridden product designed by the music industry and lacking the type of substance that makes real pop stars pop. Ultraviolence asserts that as a songwriter, she has complete control of her craft, deciding on songs far less flashy or immediate but still uniquely captivating. As these songs shift her sound into more mature and nuanced places, it becomes clear that every deadpan affectation, lispy lyric, and overblown allusion to desperate living has been a knowing move in the creation of the strange, beguiling character — and sonic experience — we know as Lana Del Rey. [A Deluxe Version was also released.]

Customer Reviews

*Bows down*

The Ultraviolence era has begun, and it feels/ sounds amazing. Lana is on fire. Always has been. Always will be.


Simply the best 💝😘

Invaluable Artistry

Lana Del Rey is such an amazing artist. West Coast is my favorite song so far in 2014. I can't wait for her to release this album, I bet it will outdo Born to Die.


Born: June 21, 1986 in Lake Placid, NY

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '10s

Lana Del Rey envisioned a Southern Californian dream world constructed out of sad girls and bad boys, manufactured melancholy and genuine glamour, and then she came to embody this fantasy. At first, her stylized noir-pop garnered skeptical sneers — the rise of her 2012 debut Born to Die was impeded by a tentative live debut on Saturday Night Live — but Lana Del Rey proved to be tougher than her soft exterior suggested. Following a hit remix of her single "Summertime Sadness," she steadily...
Full Bio
Ultraviolence, Lana Del Rey
View In iTunes
  • $7.99
  • Genres: Alternative, Music, Rock, Adult Alternative
  • Released: Jun 16, 2014
  • Parental Advisory

Customer Ratings