Five Years On: Why I Believe Lana Del Rey’s Ultraviolence is the Epitome of Dreamy Sadcore.
Since her first album release in 2013, Lana not only became one of the most successful noir-pop singers of the generation, but put us through eras on each of her albums. We’ve been able to be introduced to her beautiful yet moody tragedies of Born to Die and she eventually broke through into a cherished and radiant version of herself in Lust for Life, all in the space of five years.
However in the light of her exciting new album announcement Norman Fucking Rockwell, I have decided that it was time to revisit what I believe to be one of her most memorable projects to date: Ultraviolence.
Ultraviolence is a slow burn from start to finish full of lush romanticised fatalism with vivid images of love, desire, neglect and sorrow. Still keeping that new wave of melodramatic pop, she continued to nurture her world of sad girls, bad boys and noir glamour for us through track after track of her melodic tribulations.
Del Rey did release two more projects after Ultraviolence and arguably some say they’re better than anything else she had released before. She did have her eras of being the heartbroken and melancholy woman to feeling totally in love with her man, life and everything else about the world, but Ultraviolence has a strong balanced set of having a neglected heart and the ecstasy of being in love.
Being a teenager when Born to Die and Paradise Edition was released, I took a great liking to it. It had all the elements I experienced, wanted to experience and it felt like no one else was able to successfully put into words how to feel nostalgic about things that haven’t even happened to you. She sung bout drugs, heartbreak and ultimately, death. All those things a grungy teenage girl would post about on her Tumblr page. She then initially stated after that she didn’t plan to release anything after that since she had "already said everything [she] wanted to say." and I was heartbroken. However a year later, a project was announced and Ultraviolence was released. We got to experience a new, raw and alternative side to Lana. Although she kept to her theme of doomed romance and sombre sounding tones, the album didn’t have a running narrative; it instead had individual tracks that each tells their own story. Alongside the production talent of Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys, she moves away from the Hip Hop beats and instead the album embraces psychedelic rock, dream pop and desert rock.
The first track Cruel World which is also the longest song on the album easily became one of her most cinematic ballads to date. She starts mellow and quiet in the intro but the chorus falls into being chaotic and intense, immersing it all with heavy reverb and finally an exuberant close. It instantly became a classic and could either be an incredible opening or triumphant finish when performed live. Another one of my favourites, Shades Of Cool starts with a forlorn riff that echoes dreamlike tones, like floating on a body of water or that moment after you wake up from a good dream, and believe just for a second it was all real. She creates a story and sings about one specific moment and everything feels like it’s in a play, but the characters and props feel all too real. She pulls them to her, tears them open and lets the themes of passion and abandonment all spill out in art deco style.
The track Brooklyn Baby seeps into being a nostalgic period of American history as she sings about jazz, beat poetry and hydroponic weed. The track is intoxicatingly blissful, a lot softer and probably one of the few songs that she has that doesn’t end in tragedy; much like West Coast, where she sings solely about being deeply in love and wanting to create music. The song which was also a single for the album and possibly one of my favourite Lana tracks ever, oozes with that dreamy Californian fantasy she retains with all her artistry. Alongside that, the video is shot almost entirely in black and white and including her typical palm tree beach settings and homemade style videos. The song has two sections that interchange throughout the track. Whereas the first and second verse are uptempo, the chorus considerably changes into more lethargic and bluesy sounding where we can let her lyrics and each individual instrument exude into the universe.
A track such as Pretty When You Cry continues to run through being gloomy but captivating at the same time. Lana's forte is consistently being able to produce tracks that feel like heartache to listen to, but you can't stop doing it. Pretty When You Cry shows us regular themes of being walked out on, eternal love but also being replaced with drug use, something she herself struggled with in her younger years. Black Beauty binds together the ideas of underlying emotional conflict and angst, which are big characteristics within Ultraviolence, as she sings of feeling helpless and trying to conform to her lovers sullen mood but with no positive outcome in the end. Although some may have wanted something a little more uplifting by this point, this is Lana Del Rey we’re talking about; to her, it was all too good to be true.
To me, this album is quintessentially her best work. Unlike Born to Die and any of her other projects after this, she successfully was able to be visually and audibly mesmerising through each music video and each track. And it‘s one of the few albums I have where I don't want to skip anything on it; each song is a work of art to be appreciated. She's now a realist. After falling for the same trick too many times, she is now reminding herself that nothing lasts forever, but there's always a small glimmer of hope that it'll all work out in the end.
Lana Del Rey's sixth studio album Norman Fucking Rockwell is out August 30th.