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Posted on June 18th, 2014 (1:11 pm) by Arman Avasia

Lana Del Rey is the strangest of contradictions. Every reason to love her is also a reason to hate her. If you like her, you'll rave about the archetypal nature of everything she does. If you don't, you'll rant about the nonstop stream of clichés spewing from her mouth. There's a theatricality to her music that you could ascribe to either the influence of cinema on her worldview or the underlying artificiality lurking just behind everything she does. Regardless of how you feel, your feelings say as much about you as they do about her. In her own weird way, Del Rey is the ultimate litmus test. What you think about her is indicative about what you think about pop culture in general. One thing this opening paragraph should have made absolutely clear is that Lana Del Rey the idea has long eclipsed Lana Del Rey the artist. What it probably didn't indicate is how unfortunate that is. As a whole, Ultraviolence largely rehashes Del Rey's breakthrough, Born to Die. It's tighter but there aren’t as many unforgettable songs. It's closer to mediocrity than to greatness. But the best songs are tantalizing reminders that whatever else she might be, Del Rey remains one of the most distinctive and soulful artists in our musical landscape.

On the album's first track, "Cruel World," Del Rey sings, "you're young, you're wild, you're free / you're dancing circles around me / you're fucking crazy." It's an interesting thought experiment, imagining the sort of person who Del Rey considers "fucking crazy." It also hints at her somewhat morbid foresight. Just like on "Young and Beautiful," Del Rey acknowledges that she can't live at this pace forever. That she sees a similar but magnified immaturity in another person clues us into the fact that Del Rey has always been more self-aware than her harshest critics are willing to admit.

The first half of the album moves with a schizophrenic vigor between the best of Del Rey and the worst. After the excellent "Cruel World," the titular "Ultraviolence" seems especially lackluster. It has a tired, typical melody and the requisite dose of Del Rey's self-loathing. In sharp contrast, "Shades of Cool" is so damn cool that it should be a Bond song, while "Brooklyn Baby" will probably go down as the most controversial Lana song to date—at least in terms of artistic quality. The melody is brilliant and beautiful, and Del Rey's devastating croon is at its most convincing. But the sheer inanity of its lyrics—"I got feathers in my hair / get down to Beat poetry"—are enough to torpedo any potential for classic status.

After the lead single, "West Coast," a catchy but still lacking song in which Del Rey attempts to claim a west coast heritage despite growing up Lake Placid, New York, the second half of the album slides into an indistinguishable blur of forgettable mediocrity. None of the songs are terrible but none of them are particularly good either, until the closer, "The Other Woman." It's slow, slinky, and sexy and it absolutely will play during the closing credits of some award-winning movie or TV show. It's probably the best song Del Rey has recorded and it's a reminder that for all of her shortcomings, Del Rey's ability to set an evocative and unmistakable scene remains unrivaled.

Track List:

  1. Cruel World
  2. Ultraviolence
  3. Shades of Cool
  4. Brooklyn Baby
  5. West Coast
  6. Sad Girl
  7. Pretty When You Cry
  8. Money Power Glory
  9. Fucked My Way Up To the Top
  10. Old Money
  11. The Other Woman
Lana Del Rey: Ultraviolence
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

66 / 100
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