She wants to die alone.
Lizzie Grant has always had a bit of Greta Garbo to her, going so far as to create a mysterious Lana Del Rey persona to hide within (and to sell herself by). And now, in the days leading up to the release of her second full album, she has gone to great lengths to further enforce her guise as a doomed, reclusive figure by cancelling a Letterman appearance and telling anyone who will listen about her fatal desires. “I love the idea that it’ll all be over,” she told the New York Times, when asked about her tragically set videos. And, to the Guardian: “I wish I was dead already.”
Ultraviolence, out June 17, carries on where 2012’s Born To Die left off. Her misguided attempts at hip-hop – “the gangsta Nancy Sinatra” she has been called – have been dropped, allowing the swooning Del Rey to concentrate on her lush, 16-mm brand of rock-siren visions. She’s quite good at it, and producer Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys capably creates a sonic dreamscape through which Del Rey can drift. (Though a couple of blazing, rude guitar solos, perhaps his idea, don’t fit at all.)
Opening track Cruel World – part of a favourite cliché of suicide-note hacks – is as epic as can be, with Del Rey at her grand morose best. At first glance, it’s a post break-up anthem: “Share my body and my mind with you, that’s all over now.” But let’s interpret in another, more interesting, vein. “Cause you’re young, you’re wild, you’re free,” Del Rey croons, echoing Triumph’s Magic Power, “…oh, you’re crazy for me.” A message to her fans? That she “did what she had to do,” and now she will be on her Winehouse way?
It’s possible, one supposes. Critics bullied Del Rey after her disastrous Saturday Night Live appearance in 2012. There are two ultra-strong responses to that treatment: One is to ascend to pop-music queenery; the other involves self-pity and disappearance. For Del Rey, anything short of either would be so utterly disappointing.
If we see Del Rey as an actress, there are different roles she auditions for here. On the string-laden title track, she’s the enthusiastic victim: “He hit me and it felt like a kiss.” Feminists do not endorse.
When it comes to the shuddering, shimmering plodder Money Power Glory, Del Rey is the gold digger: “I’m going to take them for all that they got.”
Shades of Cool uses the The James Bond Theme chord progression and Del Rey’s most committed warble yet. Concerning a womanizer, the song recalls Winehouse’s You Know I’m No Good in so many ways, including Winehouse’s mention of Agent 007 actor Roger Moore.
Bond fans know that you only live twice. Del Rey, who is on her second life, knows you only die once. She seems to be ready for it, though her morbidity may be shtick. I believe history will judge her more kindly than the present, but she’ll have to leave for us to find that out.