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Lana Del Rey’s “Ultraviolence” meets expectations


From the mailman who’s staked his integrity on never missing another package to the esoteric street painter who has never shown his face, everyone markets themselves as a specific type or brand. This is especially true of artists and entertainers, whose massive followings are often built like hives around sensational personalities.

Few singer-songwriters, however, understand the art of performance better than Lana Del Rey. Since her 2010 debut, Del Rey has built a successful career of crippling nostalgia and has firmly established herself as the embodiment of anachronistic misery, shuffling lifelessly from day to day while locked in a dream of years never lived.

Between the perpetual photo pouting and the ever-broken heart, it’s clear that Lana Del Rey is completely committed to Lana Del Rey. Unfortunately, commitment isn’t the problem. Worse, despite the continual introspection on sex, love and power, Ultraviolence never rises above the shallowest of surface level exercises.

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It’s a shame, really, because there’s the faintest hint of a gripping narrative buried beneath the mounds of pedestrian lyricism. Take “Shades of Cool,” for instance, in which Lana opts for lines such as “he lives for love, for women too / I’m one of many, one is blue / and when he calls, he calls for me, and not for you / he prays for love, he prays for peace, and maybe someone new” which fail to make any affecting confessional statements in their story-book, sing-song delivery.

Elsewhere, Del Rey laments “all the pretty stars shine for you, my love / am I the girl that you dream of? / all those little times you said that I’m your girl / you make me feel like your whole world.” It’s easy to imagine the roots of an arresting, emotional drama that could have been in the hands of other, better artists, but the amateur poetry performs a ruthless, consistent sabotage, cutting the album off at the knees with every attempt at poignancy.

Of course, Lana Del Rey’s lack of lyrical artistry wouldn’t be such a crippling flaw if Ultraviolence could sustain itself on songwriting alone, but as the record limps on it becomes increasingly difficult to endure the monochromatic atmosphere conjured the never-ending stream of down-tempo ballads.

Here, the currency is melancholy, and inflation is through the roof. Case in point, the record reuses the same tricks ad-nauseum, bludgeoning the listener with tired groans and cavernous echoes track after track. Occasionally, bluesy guitar solos bubble up from beneath the mire, but these, too, serve as extensions of the meandering mood rather than desperately-needed reprieves.

A soaring hook, a screaming climax, an instrumental jam – anything at all could have salvaged even one of these songs. But help never arrives, and the listeners are left to drown in the lifeless wash of noise as they, too, feel the life sucked out of them.

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Despite its failures, however, Ultraviolence does claim one unquestionable success: over the course of eleven dreary songs, Lana Del Rey has once again cemented herself as Lana Del Rey, and much like the pace of the album, she isn’t changing any time soon. Ultraviolence is an undoubtedly miserable affair, and Lana Del Rey should be congratulated for her success in that endeavor. It’s just a shame that it’s miserable in so many ways she never intended.

Grade: F

3 Comments

  1. The deconstruction of a shade fest presented as a review:

    “Ultraviolence never rises above the shallowest of surface level exercises” – But it does! You failed to understand the narrative of the album which is a journey of a woman through life which is ending with the sublime rendition of The Other Woman

    “narrative buried beneath the mounds of pedestrian lyricism” – The album is surprisingly strong lyrically, even the examples that you gave aren’t suggesting bad lyricism. To show to any reader, who accidentally clicks on this inept review, that the reviewer is off base, I present the complete lyrics of the first song called Cruel World:
    Share my body and my mind with you,
    That’s all over now.
    Did what I had to do,
    ‘Cause it’s so far past me now.

    Share my body and my life with you,
    That’s way over now.
    There’s not more I can do,
    You’re so famous now.

    Got your bible, got your gun,
    And you like to party and have fun.
    And I like my candy and your women,
    I’m finally happy now that you’re gone.

    With my little red party dress on,
    Everybody knows that I’m the best, I’m crazy.
    Get a little bit of bourbon in ya,
    Get a little bit suburban and go crazy.

    ‘Cause you’re young, you’re wild, you’re free,
    You’re dancin’ circles around me,
    You’re fuckin’ crazy,
    Oh, you’re crazy for me.

    I shared my body and my mind with you,
    That’s all over now,
    I did what I had to do,
    I found another anyhow.

    Share my body and my mind with you,
    That’s all over now,
    I did what I had to do,
    I could see you leaving now.

    I got your bible and your gun,
    And you love to party and have fun.
    And I love your women and all of your heroin,
    And I’m so happy now that you’re gone.

    With my little red party dress on,
    Everybody knows that I’m a mess, I’m crazy, yeah.
    Get a little bit of bourbon in ya,
    Go a little bit suburban and go crazy.

    ‘Cause you’re young, you’re wild, you’re free,
    You’re dancin’ circles around me,
    You’re fuckin’ crazy,
    Oh, you’re crazy for me.
    If this is shallow lyrics than you can trash any legend in music history

    “it becomes increasingly difficult to endure the monochromatic atmosphere” – there are at least 4 genres present on album: psychedelic rock, blues, jazz and pop. I think that you are confusing a slow tempo with the lack o variety in sound (there is at least two faster songs (Brooklyn Baby and West Coast). Her vocals are incredible throughout the album which is a grower, you need a certain taste in music to enjoy it but It gets better with every listen.

    “Ultraviolence is an undoubtedly miserable affair” – as a personal standpoint is acceptable but from a critic perspective this sentence is meaningless. You imply that there aren’t people who like this type of sound. I hate dance music but as a critic I would never say that this has to be the attitude for everyone else towards the genre.

    I inform the casual viewer that Ultraviolence is favorably reviewed, has 75/100 on metacritic, the only bad reviews are on par with this one which is negatively twisting anything on the album:
    – the reviewer is saying that the lyrics are bad – the reality is that the lyrics are above average as I showed above
    – the reviewer is saying that the music is bad – the reality is that the album is sonically gorgeous for those who like this type of music, Lana has a superb voice
    – the reviewer is saying that the album is meaningless – the reality is that this a very coherent album sonically and conceptually

    and is a commercial success at this point it opened at nr.1 in the US and UK, apparently there are many who liked this “miserable” album

    I gave this review 0/10 because is a shamless try hard shade at the expense of an album that has clear artistic merits

  2. The deconstruction of a shade fest presented as a review:

    “Ultraviolence never rises above the shallowest of surface level exercises” – But it does! You failed to understand the narrative of the album which is a journey of a woman through life which is ending with the sublime rendition of The Other Woman

    “narrative buried beneath the mounds of pedestrian lyricism” – The album is surprisingly strong lyrically, even the examples that you gave aren’t suggesting bad lyricism. To show to any reader, who accidentally clicks on this inept review, that the reviewer is off base, I present the complete lyrics of the first song called Cruel World:
    Share my body and my mind with you,
    That’s all over now.
    Did what I had to do,
    ‘Cause it’s so far past me now.

    Share my body and my life with you,
    That’s way over now.
    There’s not more I can do,
    You’re so famous now.

    Got your bible, got your gun,
    And you like to party and have fun.
    And I like my candy and your women,
    I’m finally happy now that you’re gone.

    With my little red party dress on,
    Everybody knows that I’m the best, I’m crazy.
    Get a little bit of bourbon in ya,
    Get a little bit suburban and go crazy.

    ‘Cause you’re young, you’re wild, you’re free,
    You’re dancin’ circles around me,
    You’re f***in’ crazy,
    Oh, you’re crazy for me.

    I shared my body and my mind with you,
    That’s all over now,
    I did what I had to do,
    I found another anyhow.

    Share my body and my mind with you,
    That’s all over now,
    I did what I had to do,
    I could see you leaving now.

    I got your bible and your gun,
    And you love to party and have fun.
    And I love your women and all of your heroin,
    And I’m so happy now that you’re gone.

    With my little red party dress on,
    Everybody knows that I’m a mess, I’m crazy, yeah.
    Get a little bit of bourbon in ya,
    Go a little bit suburban and go crazy.

    ‘Cause you’re young, you’re wild, you’re free,
    You’re dancin’ circles around me,
    You’re f***in’ crazy,
    Oh, you’re crazy for me.
    If this is shallow lyricism than you can trash any legend in music history

    “it becomes increasingly difficult to endure the monochromatic atmosphere” – there are at least 4 genres present on album: psychedelic rock, blues, jazz and pop. I think that you are confusing a slow tempo with the lack o variety in sound (there is at least two faster songs (Brooklyn Baby and West Coast). Her vocals are incredible throughout the album which is a grower, you need a certain taste in music to enjoy it but It gets better with every listen.

    “Ultraviolence is an undoubtedly miserable affair” – as a personal standpoint is acceptable but from a critic perspective this sentence is meaningless. You imply that there aren’t people who like this type of sound. I hate dance music but as a critic I would never say that this has to be the attitude for everyone else towards the genre.

    I inform the casual viewer that Ultraviolence is favorably reviewed, has 75/100 on metacritic, the only bad reviews are on par with this one which is negatively twisting anything on the album:
    – the reviewer is saying that the lyrics are bad – the reality is that the lyrics are above average as I showed above
    – the reviewer is saying that the music is bad – the reality is that the album is sonically gorgeous for those who like this type of music, Lana has a superb voice
    – the reviewer is saying that the album is meaningless – the reality is that this is a very coherent album sonically and conceptually

    The reviewer gave an F to an album that is at least worth a B+ grade, the gap is to wide to not question his motives but the reviewer is not specialized in music so it’s understandable that he doesn’t understands very well the intricacies of music reviews.

    Ultraviolence is a commercial success at this point it opened at nr.1 in the US and UK, apparently there are many who liked this “miserable” album

    I gave this review 0/10 because it is a shameless try hard shade at the expense of an album that has clear artistic merits

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