Lana Del Rey proved to be a talented songwriter and performer

Lana Del Rey proved to be a talented songwriter and performer

In 2012 Lana Del Rey he had amazed with his debut album “Born to die” (read the review here) but, although the huge number of copies sold did not allow for any replies, some doubts about the girl's qualities remained hanging over his head. To sweep the sky from the clouds and confirm his status as a new star in the pop constellation he thought of the second album, “Ultraviolence”released on 17 June 2014. Ten years later we celebrate the anniversary by proposing the reading of the review he wrote for us Pop Topoi.

It could have remained a meteor of the indie blogosphere, it could have remained there one-hit wonder of “Video games”, and instead became a pop star. Lana Del Rey is no longer the phenomenon that many believed to be fleeting: this is demonstrated by the tours, advertising contracts, awards and above all the copies sold of “Born to die” (7 million worldwide; 123 weeks spent in the top 100 Italian, the longest-running album for many months).

Excluding a few soundtracks and a forgettable short film (“Tropico”), we left her with “Paradise”, the EP that enriched the reissue of her debut and which, with a couple of more tracks, could easily have been an album real. But listening to “Ultraviolence” you understand the choice to combine “Paradise” with “Born to die”: the new work marks a clear separation from the previous chapters. Some of its most distinctive features have now disappeared: the hip hop influences, the sumptuous orchestral arrangements, the vocal samples.

They were characteristics that gave Lana Del Rey's products a unique albeit derivative flavor, but above all made them commercially attractive.

After being so criticized for her alleged lack of authenticity, with “Ultraviolence” the artist continues not to adapt to contemporary pop, but carries on her nostalgic mission with even greater obstinacy. If the beats of “Born to die” and “Paradise” often betrayed vintage aspirations, there is nothing here to suggest that we are listening to an album from 2014 – even the word “videogames”, in this context, would seem too modern. There are still string-centric tracks that recall the baroque pop of early hits (the prime example being “Old Money,” which follows a Nino Rota melody from Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet), but overall it's a more restrained record and, pretending the adjective still has a meaning, “alternatives.”

The voice drowns in infinite reverberations that make it even more distant, the percussions are slowed down and funereal, the psychedelic guitar solos replace the violins creating a sound that she herself defined as “narco-swing”. It is an album with a difficult impact, which at first strikes us only for the particularity of its exasperated anachronism, and then slowly welcomes us into a familiar world that many know only through photos and archive footage (and “Mad men”). Lana Del Rey finds in Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys the ideal collaborator to further explore the “Americana” imagery that inspired her alter-ego. The icons, the places (“West Coast”), the values ​​(“Money power glory”) are once again mixed and used expertly to recreate eras that, due to age issues, Lana cannot have lived.

But they are nothing more than details, sets and props: the focus is always on the damned and tormented characters he chooses to interpret (leaving the boundary between autobiography and fiction ambiguous). There is the woman who is the victim of a violent man, perhaps even the leader of a cult (“Ultraviolence”), the one who loves a drug addict (“Shades of cool”), the one who uses sex to achieve success (“Fucked my way up to the top”). And then it arrives the other woman: after many roles as a femme fatale, Lana takes on the role of his wife locked in a house full of “toys scattered everywhere” while he cheats on her – and he does it with the only cover of the collection.

“The other woman,” made famous by Nina Simone, is one of the best vocal performances of her career and is the pinnacle of confidence from an artist who is more aware and, hopefully, accustomed enough to unnecessary criticism to allow herself the luxury of ignoring it .

Despite such a cumbersome and set alter-ego, Elizabeth Grant took many liberties in this album and demonstrated that she can be at the same time the most fake and the most original on the pop scene. Too bad it's too late to convince detractors that a very talented singer-songwriter and performer is hiding behind the mask.