Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence (Album Review)
It’s been two years since Lana Del Rey released her successful début album Born To Die and became a household name within the music industry. She released a few EP’s to keep our appetite but now she’s back with a brand new record aptly titled Ultraviolence. Will this album sound as haunting and classic as its predecessor?
Cruel World instantly makes me feel as if I’m in a Clint Eastwood film with the reverb on the guitars and the country/rock feel. It’s definitely similar to her earlier work such as Ride. The song is about having to leave a wild lover because you know he’s a cheater and can’t be tamed. The lyrics are quite beautiful and paint a film I could imagine Jennifer Lawrence playing the main role in. I especially like the last quarter when it gradually slows in tempo as if it’s a live performance. Overall it’s a nice track and a great opener as it represents the album theme.
Ultraviolence is very haunting as it describes a woman in an abusive relationship from a man that tells her she’s poison but at the same time tells her he loves her. It’s always uneasy when a topic like domestic abuse is raised in a song as people can easily slam the song for glorifying violence. But I think Lana Del Rey does a great job at representing a victim of battered woman syndrome. This is when they think their abusive lover truly loves them and they don’t mean to be abusive. Ultraviolence’s composition is reminiscent of her successful single Summertime Sadness as they both offer beautiful catchy choruses. Overall, this song is definitely a stand-out on the album.
Shades Of Cool
This is the point where I notice the themes of women in a relationship with suave dudes that cannot be tamed and they’re the damsel in distress. It very much coincides with the 50’s style that Lana Del Rey emits, back when women were brought up to get married and have kids and had no say in the matter as they weren’t deemed as equal. Lana Del Rey’s vocals have become more powerful since the last album as she croons over the chorus of this song effortlessly. I do wonder if anyone can really relate to this type of song and makes me question if it matches her demographic? This album is a lot grittier than the last and features slightly less commercial compositions swapping catchy hooks for moody electric guitars. Overall, it’s a nice chilled out track.
This song is about a couple that people don’t think match, but the couple themselves think that their opposites are what attracts them so much more and they don’t care about people’s perceptions. I’ve now started to notice that most of these songs feature the same formula where they repeat the same sentence from verse one to verse two and repeat the last chorus twice at the end. However, you can’t deny the lyrics are great. For example “They judge me like a picture book, by the colours, like they forgot to read” is poignant and relatable. Yet again this style is similar to Ride but sonically more interesting.
When I first heard this single I said to myself “She didn’t pick the most radio friendly song as a lead single.” But after listening to the album, this is the closest to radio friendly! I wasn’t sure I liked it at first as the pace kept swaying from mid-tempo to down-tempo making the song sound dreary. But it kind of works after a few listens and you start to find yourself humming “down on the west coast, they’ve got a saying”. I’m not 100 percent sure what the song is about, but it’s not too different from the previous themes of being in love with a really cool guy (preferably whilst on the West Coast). I love the synth towards the end, it sounds like it belongs in a Hip Hop song but it works on this alternative track. (I actually think the synth originated from West Coast Hip Hop such as Snoop Dogg which is very smart)
The lyrics are definitely one of the highlights of the album as she talks about being the mistress on the side. The mistress tries to make out as if she’s fine being the side chick and just because it may not “appeal to fools like you” does not mean it’s wrong. But deep down she’s unhappy as he has his main woman by his side, whereas she is not allowed to be seen around him in public. It’s very depressing but an interesting topic to discuss. The lyrics remind me of Aaliyah’s ‘I Can Be’ from her album Aaliyah.
Pretty When You Cry
OK, who did Lana Del Rey wrong? There is definitely a trend here with males being represented as pigs and treating their other half’s like a second priority to drugs and partying. It’s a very heart-rending song of a woman knowing her man is worthless yet she still sticks around. It’s suggested it’s because when she does cry and talks of her unhappiness he makes it all better and says you’re so pretty when you cry and thus the cycle ensues. This song is probably relatable for a lot of people. Overall, it’s a great listen.
Money Power Glory
This song confuses me as it talks about being interested in becoming rich and powerful and waiting to drain her partner of his riches and his power. However in the first verse it suggests they can’t afford to move due to how they’re living? Maybe they’re rich but spending the money on drugs and aren’t saving enough to move? It’s the first track where the woman has a plan to use the guy as a second priority. However, I’m unsure if anyone can turn this track on and say “This is my song!” as it glorifies gold –diggers. Overall it’s OK but doesn’t strike me as much as the previous tracks. At this rate I’m somewhat ready for a mid-tempo track to wake me up.
**** My Way To The Top
My wish was well received as the album picks up pace with **** My Way To The Top. This song is as the title explains, sleeping your way to the top. It’s a jarring song which you wouldn’t expect someone to sing about. I almost wonder if this is a diss track towards someone within the industry as she mocks them. The chorus is one of the catchiest chorus’ on the album due to the repetitive expletive but overall it’s an interesting track that makes me ponder how it came to be created.
Old Money features violins that remind me of National Anthem. This also sounds like it could be a soundtrack for Maleficent even though Lana Del Rey already lent her vocals for the soundtrack. It’s a beautiful track which sounds as if it stems from Lana Del Rey’s personal life. It could be interpreted as although she’s changed from her small town girl beginnings she’ll still keep in contact with her old friends but she worries that if she does become famous will you still love her for how you knew her personally and not because she’s a celebrity. It also discusses how although she was brought up in a wealthy family with a loving father and a glamorous mother she always felt alone “for reasons unknown to me”. Overall, the lyrics are interesting to ponder.
The Other Woman
This track is basically a shortened version of Sad Girl. It almost romanticizes a secret relationship for the first half of the song but soon the reality of being the other woman is a lonesome life. I was going to say they could have just cut this song and kept Sad Girl but it’s a beautiful tragedy song and definitely sounds like it was recorded decades ago as it’s so short and sweet.
West Coast (Radio Mix)
This version is a lot more upbeat than the original version and gets rid of the change in pace which keeps the energy of the song. I prefer this version but it does seem different to the rest of the album which lacks kicks and an uptempo vibe.
This song is about how her lover is negative and doesn’t notice the beauty around him no matter how hard she tries to show him and please him. It’s an OK song and it’s understandable that it’s a bonus track. Overall, the topic is a little sparse and doesn’t really grip you as much as it should. It’s just a little too slow and dreary and could have been cut down by a minute.
Guns and Roses
This song from what I can tell is about a guy that was the best she ever had but she wasn’t the marrying type so let him go. It’s OK but alike to Black Beauty it doesn’t strike as hard as the other songs on the album which is probably why it was made as a bonus track. Overall it’s OK but I could have done without it.
This track immediately sounds different to the rest of the album as it lacks any reverb echo on the guitars which makes you pay attention. It’s basically the soundtrack for Breaking Bad as she discusses how she and her lover create drugs and they don’t care if they get caught because they’ll be together. It’s reminiscent of Blue Jeans lyrically but this song is surprisingly a stand-out for the album. It definitely has the catchiest chorus from the entire album and the production is sonically interesting. I don’t think it should have been a bonus track since it has single potential in comparison to the other tracks on the album. Overall, it’s a great track.
Overall, Ultraviolence is an album that is beautiful if you’re into meaningful lyrics that detract from the typical generic instances that Pop tends to discuss at any given moment. It delves into domestic abuse, depression, being the other woman and much more. It isn’t the most cheery album of the year but that shouldn’t take anything away from its quality. Another highlight of the album is Lana Del Rey’s improved vocals. She sounds more confident in her ad-libs and glides across the album like a ghost. Some of the best tracks on the album are Ultraviolence which luckily is a single, Florida Kilos and Sad Girl. A lowlight of the album is the lack of diversity within the production of the tracks. It’s understandable that Lana Del Rey has an ongoing theme, but that doesn’t mean the producers can’t switch it up a bit. It sometimes feels as if you can’t tell that a new song has started because they all feature the same instruments. Songs on Born To Die on the other hand had the same themes yet they all stood out equally. I also think it lacks a few uptempo/midtempo tracks to keep the general audience interested, it reaches a point where you check the track-list to see how many other songs are left. Not because you don’t like the songs, but because they’re quite slow. Overall, I would say this album is worth buying on iTunes (including the deluxe version). I know some people either love Lana Del Rey or they feel indifferent to her, but if you’re a fan of creative lyrics you’ll enjoy this album. It doesn’t have concrete hit singles like Born To Die but it’s an experience listening to this album and makes you feel relaxed. I definitely think this is a great effort for a sophomore album, it’s not as radio friendly but it sounds true to Lana Del Rey’s style and it’s great to see that she didn’t let the fame commercialize her work. I look forward to what she has next.
Rating: Buy it on iTunes
Highlights: Ultraviolence, Florida Kilos, Sad Girl, West Coast, Cruel World, Brooklyn Baby, The song-writing, Lana Del Rey’s vocals.
Lowlights: The production could have been more diverse; singles aren’t as strong as the first album.
Let me know what you thought of the album in the comments below! Did you love it, hate it or somewhere in between?
Also, let me know what album I should review in the future?
Tune in next week as I review Ed Sheeran’s sophomore album “Multiply”