The Hauntress

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She might be a superstar, but Lana Del Rey is a vulnerable girl.

During one interview, she tells the editor of a music magazine she often feels sick and doesn't know why. And this is while on tour, which for her, often spans continents.

Almost a decade ago during Elizabeth Woolridge Grant's last year at Fordham University, she earned $10,000 for a first album.

The money bought a home in a New Jersey trailer park. Elizabeth's present day recollections look upon this period with fondness. A late-teen’s bohemian rite of passage, of traveling and exploration, and penuriousness.

But that $10,000 album by singer Lizzie Grant was an indie dud. At the time, the early beginnings of Lana Del Rey were stirred.

Lizzie Grant and Lana Del Rey are the same person. Lizzie became Lana in 2010 for a self-titled debut (again) that led to the very unexpected YouTube sensation Video Games.

Light-hearted and misconstrued, the DIY-video Lana Del Rey made for a love song inspired by a current flame caught on and led to her present success.

When her second album Born To Die arrived in 2012, it had the full backing of pop music monopoly Interscope Records and Polydor, a powerful UK label.

An estimated 12 million copies sold later, Lana Del Rey is back in full force. This time her signature self-written ballads tinged with unfathomable sadness are collected in her third act Ultraviolence.

Simply put, the new album is Lana Del Rey to its very core. Everything a fan can expect from her glum imagination is here.

Vintage Charm

Often portrayed as the counterpoint to Lady Gaga, the actual similarities between both female artists are striking.

Raised comfortably, well-educated, and Roman Catholic, both Lana Del Rey and Lady Gaga use religious symbolism in their respective oeuvres. They each harbor nostalgic connections to Brooklyn, New York.

Young and full of heartache and yearning, Gaga and Lana have been hurt by ex-lovers. Lana Del Rey, ever enchanted by the physicality of the male sex, just split from boyfriend Barrie- James O'Neill last year.

The differences between the two, however, are stark. Where Gaga is a circus freak show, Lana admits to not being a natural performer, even with her sculpted looks and pouty lips.

Other sins include benign addictions to coffee and cigarettes.

Her style though, is the single most powerful force behind her success. As a TV presenter once described, she's a sultry voice matched with an Golden Age Hollywood look and music reminiscent of Old Standards and Nirvana.

On Ultraviolence, Lana Del Rey is serving the same brand of grim, hypnotic tunes she's famous for.

Equally haunting, uplifting, and strangely humorous. The last quality is best heard on F****d My Way Up To The Top and the quasi-homage Guns And Roses. A certified milestone, Ultraviolence's hour of fallen splendor can become tedious for the jaded listener wanting an easy pop jingle.

Unfortunately, Lana Del Rey isn't an easy musical companion.

She's a complicated fantasy girlfriend whose idea of romance is combining a twisted David Lynch movie with a hard boiled James Ellroy novel.

Shades of Cool makes you want to slit your wrists. Glamorous diversions like Old Money or West Coast are songs inspired by the Lolita-meets-hip hop ethos Lana hijacked a few years ago.

If third albums are masterpieces, fourth albums are proof of longevity. (Fifth albums are the turning point, where the artist either begins to grow stale or blossoms anew.) Ultraviolence
is a superb third album.

Lana Del Rey has carved a niche in the musical landscape of the future. It's a remarkable achievement for the 29-year-old, even if it came at a price. Take it from her: “This whole
experience has f****d me up.”

 

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