Lana Del Rey is by all accounts an anomaly, if put into the same category as her female contemporaries. Put simply, she is unlikely to announce that she has the eye of the tiger any time soon. This gets peoples’ backs up.
Her music is sombre, insecure and far from empowering which leaves her open to criticism from shiny happy people and feminists alike. Her latest release, ‘Ultraviolence’, is unlikely to mend fences with these critics.
What many of the naysayers forget is that it is her artistic right to craft songs that best exemplify her creativity, regardless of their thematic content. ‘Ultraviolence’ is a bold and uncompromising collection of songs chronicling tales ranging from self-objectification, toxic relationships and some of the darker shades of love.
Leaving behind some of the hip-hop dimensions that characterized her previous efforts, Lana Del Rey has relied more on the guitar to help craft the overall atmosphere of the album. This is done to great effect with the muffled and slightly distorted guitar tone most evident on tracks such as Shades of Cool and Money Power Glory.
Opening the album is Cruel World, a story of break up and disillusionment which slowly builds momentum until the chorus where the crescendo erupts to facilitate the intense lyrical direction of the piece.
Following this is the title track which is arguably the strongest song on the album. Comprising a seductive melody and instrumentation to match, Ultraviolence is a self-loathing tale of a woman unwilling to break free from a man who inflicts pain on her. “He hit me and it felt like a kiss” and “He hurt me but it felt like true love,” she sings.
This same uncompromising approach to melancholic writing is found elsewhere in songs including Pretty When I Cry where she declares that she “is stronger than all my men, except for you”. Her music and lyrics are telling the same story. Her sultry tone compliments her unparalleled ability to communicate the darker undercurrents of human nature.
‘Ultraviolence’ offers a refreshing break from the endless flow of carefully manufactured music coming from the marketing powers that be. There is something honest about Lana Del Rey, an honesty that is hard to find. Her music has never sounded more solid with arrangements seamlessly overlapping and flowing between each other. Songs including lead single West Coast and Sad Girl demonstrate just how smooth the production can get.
‘Ultraviolence’ is evidence of an artist really and truly finding her musical centre. Stripped of the excess hip-hop tendencies of earlier efforts, Lana Del Rey has discovered the purity of her art. Despite what the shiny happy people might say, this album is truly a triumph of creativity over commerce.