Review Summary: Disgustingly vapid
Compared to the intense media hype that preceded Lana del Rey's debut album, the foreshadowing of Ultraviolence was somehow conspicuously low-profile. Some would say that this was done to avoid a backlash or because Lana was already an established name and an extensive promotion wasn't needed. Or maybe, del Rey's ambition and drive (if they ever even existed) were withered by the merciless criticism of her debut and live performances. But now that the sophomore effort is out, it becomes apparent that there really wasn't that much to hype about anyway.
Like Born to Die, the theme at hand here is a rotten and corrupted core underneath a pretty exterior. This should come as no surprise; after all, that is the persona around which Lana has apparently decided to build her entire discography. However, where Born to Die was charming and relatable in the way it struggled for the preservation of a crippled soul, Ultraviolence is almost repulsive in the way it is beyond resigned, beyond weary and jaded, completely dead. If Born to Die managed to at least juggle between dreariness and reckless ambition, Ultraviolence is simply devoid of any spark. As of the writing of this review, Lana del Rey has about a week left to join the 27 Club, and it almost feels like this album is a suicide note -- that's how lifeless it is.
To cover up for her lack of lyrical wit, Lana's debut relied on dialling up strings of buzzwords related to mid-20th century America. And it actually worked. Ultraviolence however doesn't have the decency to do even that, and we get absolutely cringeworthy lines such as "He used to call me poison / Like I was poison ivy". Ughhh!!!
Musically, the compositions are extremely stripped down and repetitive. The lavish instrumentations and hooks that suffused her prefious effort are gone and replaced with something just above a monotonous drone. Save for the addition of a flangy guitar on a few tracks such as Shades of Cool and Money, Power, Glory, nothing is noteworthy.
At first, this album's failure may appear to have been the product of too many original ideas having been already used in the debut. I am a firm believer that songs such as Blue Jeans, Video Games and Born to Die are masterpieces that will go down in history. Perhaps all of Lana's creative potential was already used for the creation of these iconic tracks? I don't think so; from about fifty "unreleased" tracks that the singer has produced, I can handpick at least a half-dozen great numbers, if not more, that would have been excellent replacement for the disposable material on this album. Why did she not just dust them off, polish them a bit, and put them on this record? And just what is the "ultraviolent" thing about this album?