Although she previously stated that she had no desire to create another record, Lana Del Rey is back with her highly-anticipated third studio album ‘Ultraviolence‘. Working alongside producer Dan Auernach of The Black Keys, Del Rey serves up arguably her best album to date.
The album opens with ‘Cruel World‘, a 6 and a half minute track, which starts quietly before the slow and heavy drums and strings envelope the track in a dark mist. Title song ‘Ultraviolence‘ follows, an atmospheric, dark track that makes references to domestic abuse. It’s unsurprising the song has become embroiled in controversy with lyrics such as ‘he hit me and it felt like a kiss’, but it is an enchanting listen nonetheless. For the third track, Lana’s echoey vocals glide over the Bond-esque ‘Shades Of Cool‘ which is wonderfully brought to life by the electric guitar riffs.
‘Brooklyn Baby‘ pays homage to her birthplace of New York City while arguably making a subtle attempt to mock hipsters. However, the track musically has less of an impact than its predecessors. As the lead single from the album, ‘West Coast‘ was the first track to be released from ‘Ultraviolence’ back in April. A mellow song, Lana’s smoky vocals make you feel almost as if you are being pulled into a state of hypnosis. Next track ‘Sad Girl‘ – as its title suggests – carries a similar essence of melancholy that can be heard across the album. The chorus is a little repetitive and doesn’t contain anything particularly original but the production is nevertheless compelling.
The simple layering of instruments and vocals on ‘Pretty When You Cry‘, beginning with only a guitar, encompasses the track in an eeriness. This is heightened with Lana’s voice reverberating as it soars throughout from a low to a high pitch, marvelouslly demonstrating her powerful vocal range. ‘Money Power Glory‘ is dark but punchy, with a strong drum beat throughout and a cutting electric guitar at its core. Here, the narrative also sees Lana take a dominant role: ‘I want money and all your power, and your glory’ contrasting with much of the album where she predominantly appears inferior to the men she sings about.
‘F*cked My Way Up To The Top‘ was written about an unnamed artist who slated Lana’s image before stealing it and achieving fame. Unfortunately, the lyrics are rather weak: ‘you got nothing, I got tested, and I’m best, yes’ sounds childlike and frankly, makes little sense. ‘Old Money‘ is some light relief from the rest of the album, with the addition of violins making for a stunning track. Concluding the record, ‘The Other Woman‘ – a cover of Nina Simone‘s 1959 single – ends the album in an air of elegance. Del Rey certainly makes it her own and if you were unfamiliar with Simone’s original, it would be hard to detect it was a cover at all.
Dripping in darkness, ‘Ultraviolence‘ proves that Lana Del Rey still holds her own as one of the most unique ‘pop’ artists in today’s charts. It’s true to say she writes very little of happiness in her songs but we are already overwhelmed with such material. Considering the whole album was nearly never made, it is certainly important to commend the hauntingly beautiful tracks that have been created from this Del Rey/Auernach partnership.