Premature Evaluation: Lana Del Rey Ultraviolence

By ajcolores

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There were plenty of good reasons not to like Born To Die, Lana Del Rey’s first album, and there were plenty of bad reasons, too. I hated the album, for reasons both good and bad. Good reasons: It was thin and underwritten and brittle and overproduced, its album tracks lacking the grand fucked-out majesty of early singles “Video Games” and “Blue Jeans,” and it felt like it was rushed to market once those early singles started to resonate. The bad: I was pissed at her for not being the second coming of Fiona Apple (who came back later that year anyway) and because her lyrics came off like “a drunk chick at the bar trying to convince someone to come home with her.” The Fiona Apple thing wasn’t fair; it was me trying to fit an existing artist into a preexisting mold. The “drunk chick” thing was worse, and not just for the slut-shaming sexism in the language I used. That drunk-chick thing — or a more glamorous variant on it, anyway — is the Lana Del Rey character. When LDR’s backstory first circulated, when people realized that she’d started out as a journeyman singer-songwriter named Lizzy Grant, internet malcontents held this up as evidence that LDR wasn’t authentic. But of course she wasn’t authentic. Inauthenticity was a a massively important part of her entire project, one of the engines that gave her entire persona its force. It’s like how Vampire Weekend started out satirizing Ivy League privilege while at the same time embodying its stereotypes. Lana Del Rey is a construction. And now that the former Lizzy Grant has had a longer time to develop and inhabit that construction, she’s made an album leagues beyond her debut. Ultraviolence is a gorgeous, shattering piece of work, and it’s just as euphorically fake as Born To Die was. It’s just that LDR fakes it realer now.

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