Don’t ask me what it is, but I have a soft spot for Lana Del Rey. I remember hearing “Video Game” and “Summertime Sadness” when they first came out and thinking that nothing on the radio sounded remotely similar. She is a performer in the way of Marina Diamandis of Marina and the Diamonds: a talented singer able to put on a persona that makes fun of the music she’s making while selling it at the same time. She has a “good girl gone bad”/ “I-don’t-play-by-the-rules” vibe which has gained her both supporters and haters alike. When the track list for Ultraviolence was released articles and social media sites sprung up both criticizing her choices (Rolling Stone called them “absurd”) and praising her for her unique edge. I loved each title and have had the the single “West Coast” on repeat since it was released.
I have been looking forward to this album, Ultraviolence, which was released last week on June 13th, but I am only getting around to listening to in full now. If you don’t like Lana you probably never will, but for those of us who want to celebrate summer with an album that sounds like it comes out of a 1950’s soundtrack, this is just what we’ve been waiting for.
1. Cruel World
There’s no doubt Lana’s voice sounds good on this song in a haunting and faraway way, but I’m not sure if this is the strongest song to start the album off with. Then again, when it was over it still lingered in my head. I think all of Lana’s songs warrant more than one listen because they are so complex especially once you really take time to listen to the lyrics.
This song is one of those typical Lana songs that is much deeper than it appears on the surface, although the title does give it away a little more than usual. I love the way she drags out the singing of the word “Ultraviolence.” This song feels slick and dangerous which I think is appropriate considering the subject matter (“He hurt me but it felt like true love”/”He hit me and it felt like a kiss”).
Favorite line: He used to call me DN/That stood for deadly nightshade/Cause I was filled with poison/But blessed with beauty and rage
3. Shades of Cool
I can imagine girls in poodle skirts and guys in bowling shirts slow dancing to this song in a high school gymnasium straight out of the 1950’s. That’s what I love so much about Lana’s music, she paints a picture with each song that you can clearly visualize upon listening. The song may be slow, but there’s a good beat and an awesome section with an electric guitar. There may be a vulnerability in her voice in this song more than her others, but there is still that feeling that this girl is someone you don’t want to mess with.
4. Brooklyn Baby
This song sounds most like the Lana I know and love. It’s half ode, half mockery of Brooklyn, the place that has become synonymous with hipsters, $5 coffee, and microbreweries. I can tell that this will be one of the songs I listen to most frequently this summer besides “West Coast” and that’s mostly just because I live in California now.
Favorite lines: Yeah my boyfriend’s pretty cool/But he’s not as cool as me/Cause I’m a Brooklyn Baby
5. West Coast
I have been listening to this song since it was released and so far it is my favorite on the album. Maybe it’s because I’m a west coast girl now and this song fits so well with my image of driving around Los Angeles, especially on the way out of the city and heading to the beach. (Mostly Venice Beach that is.) It’s most definitely a sexy song and I enjoy the sprinkling of Spanish lyrics.
Favorite lines: Down on the West Coast, they got their icons/Their silver starlets, their Queens of Saigon/And you’ve got the music, you’ve got the music in you, don’t you?
6. Sad Girl
The way this track list is going so far these could be chapters in my autobiography.
After the high of “West Coast”, “Sad Girl” is a little bit of a let down. I am actually having trouble thinking of anything to say about it and when it ended I forgot it. It’s okay, most albums have one of these and who knows, maybe when I listen to the album through again (as soon as I’m done with this post) it may grow on me.
7. Pretty When You Cry
This song is an interesting look at a relationship. Rather than the typical “girl love boy, boy loves someone else” it’s “girl loves boy, boy loves drugs more.” And while the girl loves the boy, she also seems okay with knowing she’s weak and that the relationship is toxic. It’s a subject that could become un-relatable , but Lana takes it to that place of “girl, I’ve been there too.”
Favorite lines: I’m pretty when I cry/Don’t say you need me when/You leave and you leave again/I’m stronger than all my men/Except for you
8. Money Power Glory
A lot of people dislike Lana’s music because they feel she is untalented and only after fame. I like how she uses this song to acknowledge that she knows what people think and doesn’t care. She’s making a statement about the lifestyle she supposedly represents and what it says about our culture. I feel like this song could be a response to Lorde’s “Royals”; we may never be royals, but deep down we all want the same things.
9. Fucked My Way to the Top
Another self aware song, but this one is more in your face and fun. Love her or hate this is Lana’s show and we are all just a part of it. The opening line alone (which happens to be my favorite) shows that she knows it’s all a game. One she truly knows how to play. (She is famous after all.)
Favorite lines: Life is awesome, I confess/What I do, I do best/You got nothing, I got tested/And I’m best, yes
10. Old Money
I love the sound of this song, the piano, the stripped down layered vocals, the sadness. Compared to the last two songs which were all about recognizing and celebrating her persona, this song seems the most personal and real. Or as real as we can get with Lana. She is still painting a picture, but it is one we can related to much more closely than her world of “dope and diamonds” from “Money Power Glory.”
11. The Other Woman
I have seen it quoted that Lana describes herself as “gangsta Nancy Sinatra” and when I heard this song I understood why. I could see this being in a Tarantino film, even though I have a feeling he’s not a Lana fan (don’t ask me why). It’s the shortest of the songs on the album and a breath of fresh air.
Another swaying song. This sounds more commercial than the typical Lana, but that’s not a bad thing. This album has a lot of different sounds while still maintaining her overall vibe.
Favorite lines: Life is beautiful but you don’t have a clue/Sun and ocean blue/Their magnificence, it don’t make sense to you
13. Guns and Roses
Another good groovy song with a nice beat. The lyrics are not as complex as some of the other songs, but not every one of them has to be a master piece. Sometimes you just need a song celebrating guys who love guns and roses. (And maybe the band too.)
Favorite lines: I should’ve learned to let you play/I wasn’t the marryin’ kind/I should’ve done it anyway
14. Florida Kilos
I love the way this song starts out, it sounds so different from everything we’ve heard so far. It’s another song that paints a picture of the glamours fast life of drugs and money. I can almost picture what the video of this song might look like if it happens: awash in gold with lots of palm trees, convertibles, and Lana wearing killer shades and curls.
Note: There are 2 songs, one on the i-Tunes bonus version and one on the Japanese bonus version, that I have not listened to. I only listened to what is currently streaming on spotify.
Summer ’14, I’m ready for you.