I am an absolute music nut, always have been. It was my Mother’s influence and growing up in a household that was never easy but always filled with music is something I will be eternally grateful for. Arguably music is my first passion ahead of film and it is the only medium that can consistently and genuinely move me. Yet it is something I struggle to write about. Film and television is easy because I will generally watch it once and depending on my mood it will have some effect on me and that to some degree will determine my analysis of it. Music however is different. To fully digest an album I need to listen to it 10 or 15 times. Each of those may elicit a different emotional reaction and what I want to write about is the personal experience I have attached to the music rather than the quality or mechanics of the album.
I am an open book. I have no qualms with sharing my feelings. But if music moves me it does in a way that nothing else can. It is a personal experience and as an atheist one that I can only imagine is of a religious kind.
After my 30th listen to Lana Del Rey’s album Ultraviolence I feel like I need to make an exception. It is remarkable. And one of the most atmospheric, cinematic pop albums I have heard in a decade. As far as follow ups to debut albums go (I class Born To Die as her mainstream debut) it is a triumph. Del Rey has a voice made for Shakespearean tragedies that shone through like a rough diamond on the standout tracks Video Games, Born to Die and Summertime Sadness from her debut album. The tone of which was akin to the haze of a California Percoset experience. Ultraviolence though is something different. Working with Black Keys frontman Daniel Aubach, Del Rey shows a heightened confidence in her own voice as she soars through a series of blues and soul infused melodies that are riddled to their core with sadness, self loathing, empowerment and love.
The album is never stronger than in it’s first 60% which contains the four digital release singles “Shades of Cool”, “West Coast”, “Brooklyn Baby” and “Ultraviolence” and two of the standout album tracks; “Sad Girl” a grimy Nashville blues ballad swimming in cigarette smoke about a woman trying to convince herself and the world that being a mistress is no bad thing, and “Pretty When You Cry” which plays out like a sharp key suicide note to the man that keeps her on the sidelines. For those that are firmly in the camp of thought that Del Rey doesn’t deserve credit because of questions surrounding the authenticity of her image, there is little on Ultraviolence that will convince them otherwise. Neither will it do anything but add fuel to the fire surrounding the argument as to whether she is anti-feminist in her self-aware and well managed portrayal of the needy slightly emotionally unstable girl. In fact the tracks on Ultraviolence play through in such a bipolar way, rollercoastering from Del Rey swooning over how troubled but beautiful her man is and how we don’t understand their love, to how she’s fine and we are all worrying for nothing, to suicidal and back to fine. The whole album feels like a bad day spent smoking and drinking Jack in a small, hot apartment in Memphis at the tail end of a terrible relationship.
For me, any arguments about Del Rey’s authenticity has no bearing on the music. The first question you should ask about music is; does it move me? And if the answer is yes then everything else is secondary. And in the case of Ultraviolence few pop albums have moved me in quite the same way. She just became a must see act at Glastonbury for me this week.
Categories: Random Thoughts