In 2012, Lana Del Rey shot to stardom (or maybe just infamy) off her first single, “Video Games”. From out of nowhere, everyone seemed to have an opinion on her. From Del Rey’s love it or hate it appearance on Saturday Night Live (I loved it), her much talked about past, a massive amount of remixes and a clutch of singles that eventually lead to very mixed reviews of her major label debut, Born To Die. Right from the start I loved the singles but stayed away from the debut after the reviews started to come out. I ended up buying Born To Die several months later and thought much of it was brilliant and as a whole, hung together quite well. Now Ms. Del Rey is back a sophomore effort, Ultraviolence.
There isn’t much variation throughout. The music is a bit 60s, a bit Portishead, a bit cinematic, etc. The vocals are all deadpan, played straight and without much feeling. The first third of the album, including the title track, all slip by without much notice. “Brooklyn Baby” doesn’t sound much different from what came before but what sets it apart is the lyrics and how they are sung – “you say I’m like the ice I freeze, I’m churning out novels like Beat poetry on amphetamines”, the one word Brooklyn accent in the second chorus, and the “da da da”s along to the guitar. Single “West Coast” follows and hits a bit harder both musically and vocally than anything else on the album before the beautifully lush chorus.
Lana Del Rey is not as good a singer as Adele and the music here isn’t anywhere near as classic sounding as say, Dusty in Memphis. Where Del Rey shines when her ultra-cool stories border on the ridiculous and are sung with a wink. It’s hard not to smile while listening to tracks like “Money Power and Glory”, “Fucked My Way To The Top” and especially bonus track “Florida Keys” where she’s slinging drugs in Miami. That’s the Del Rey that I like, far too cool and completely over the top, unfortunately there isn’t enough of that here. While Ultraviolence is ultimately not quite as consistent as Born To Die, there are still a handful of songs that shine and are ready made to be remixed over and over again.