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Album Review: Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence

5 min read

Sophomore albums are fierce lil creatures aren’t they. They are the ‘stay and play or go home’ releases that will determine whether an artist is a one record wonder or whether they are in it for the long haul. While most second efforts fall by the wayside for the majority of artists who have basked in the glory of a successful debut, very few acts are able to retain the creative juices that once flowed so thick and deliver a masterful follow up. While Lana Del Rey’s major label debut Born To Die delivered to its full extent back in 2012, from the very first listen follow up beauty Ultraviolence seems determined to season itself with some of the praise that her former success story is still reaping 2 years after its release.

Lana Del Rey - UltraviolenceDel Rey’s climb up the ladder from obscurity to mainstream superstar has been a bit of a rocky one to say the least. While the sultry singer garnered very positive reviews for Born To Die, a handful of cynics seemed to hose the musician down with criticism following a couple of what they seemed to think were less than glowing performances on American night-time talk shows. Personally, I was never able to fully understand where these critics were coming from but there you go. This criticism seemed to overshadow the early days of the Born To Die era but thankfully the wind blew this early stigma away and a modern day icon emerged from the flames, equipped with mega-hits like the records haunting title track, Summertime Sadness and the cool Blue Jeans. A Paradise Edition of the album followed in 2013, led by the superb Ride and a pair of key film spots with Young and Beautiful being used as the theme song to The Great Gatsby and Once Upon A Dream being featured as the theme song to the new Angelina Jolie fairy-tale hit, Maleficent. Del Rey has also been busy putting the finishing touches on the new album which has recently been offered to fans.

Diving into the new record, I had high hopes. I adored Born To Die so my expectations were fairly high for this new collection. Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed. Opening gold nugget Cruel World is a delectable and haunting intro for the record and sets the bluesy scene nicely like only a Lana Del Rey release can. The slow burning opener boasts one of the most memorable chorus’ within the new set while the verses drip with echo steeliness and poignant lyrics.

The album’s title track is one of the key moments within the album and the hit finds a comfortable resting place in the opening section of the record for good reason.  It’s chillingly brilliant execution is matched only by Del Rey’s exquisite tones as they drape themselves over the melancholic strings that, at the very start, sound like they are about to erupt into a cover of Nelly Furtado’s I’m Like A Bird (or is that just me?). Thankfully she doesn’t and instead she takes us on a journey through an orchestral slow-jam with a touching yet slightly dangerous spoken word section and scandalous lyrics like “you hit me and it felt like a kiss” falling into the closing of the track.

With several tracks already bobbing around ahead of the release of the new album including the title track, the guitar driven Shades of Cool and Brooklyn Baby, West Coast was the first official single carved from the record. It took a couple of listens to find ourselves truly emerged in this first taste of Ultraviolence but is now one of our favourite Del Rey numbers with its smokey tones and almost Tori Amos style structure. It is also the perfect track for radio play and boasts a complimenting guitar riff that keeps us longing for more by the time the track comes to an end.

Further into the record, Fucked My Way Up To The Top is a frank penning with layers of maturity and scandal (“I fucked my way to the top, this is my show”) mixing with streaks of naivety and innocence (“Lay me down tonight in my linen and curls”) but the feminist, power-woman message is on show for the world to hear from start to end on this album centrepiece.

The following Old Money is just what we needed at this point in the record. Opening with a simple piano instrumentation with strings adding an increasing cinematic dressing to the track, Lana’s voice is on top form here as her vocals dominate and shine through this stunning ballad.

While the majority of Ultraviolence hums with melancholy and the usual haunting melodies and 60’s Americana tones that we fell deeply in love with over the singers Born To Die release, the closing Florida Kilos takes a different form from the rest of the tracks found here. The track is the token upbeat and almost island-life-esque and synth-pop penning than closes the album. While remixes of previous Del Rey hits have allowed the singers songs to take on a new pop-heavy life-form, the album version of Florida Kilos does the job by itself rather nicely and helps the record end of a boppy note.

While Ultraviolence may not be up there at the same heights as Born To Die, it isn’t far behind. The collection is every bit the follow up we were hoping for.

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