Recently a friend posted on Facebook that he is loving the new Lana Del Rey CD. Underneath, in the always regrettable comments section, some asshole responded with “barf.” I deleted him with a vengeance. You see, I hate anyone who hates Lana Del Rey. Oh sure, her image, all slutty languor, is not to everyone’s taste, and even I am turned off by those big Joker lips. But I have been listening to Ultraviolence for seven continuous weeks, and I’m still discovering new things. It’s the most I’ve loved a CD since . . . well, since the last Lana CD, Born to Die (which I agree is not the cheeriest name for a CD). Simply put, Lana Del Rey is the first artist of the new century I have any respect for. She stands alone on the pop charts, riddled as they are with crap artists like Katy Perry and Rhianna and such caterwaul.
Where do I begin? Ultraviolence was produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, a band I know nothing about. But his work, and that of the other producers, is amazing. I know most people use the word “amazing” to describe a Starbucks latte or a TTC ride with no delays, but Auerbach’s work really does cause me to feel actual amazement when I listen to it. Ultraviolence is a wash of dense, throbbing hums. Listening to these bluesy torch songs with distorted wah wahs, wonky guitar chords and smoky piano runs is like wading into a warm lagoon in the moonlight. Lana’s voice is ethereal, echoey and layered, but still distinct enough to enunciate. And what lyrics. Lana’s songs are usually about how much she loves men, in all their fucked-up-ness, but these aren’t simple love songs, they’re a weird combination of rage and sorrow. There are four songs in a row in the middle of Ultraviolence that form the most perfect, complete statement any songwriter has ever produced – “Sad Girl,” “Pretty When I Cry,” “Money Power Glory,” and “Fucked My Way to the Top.” After listening to them, I feel drained. Imagine if Bèyonce ever sang anything quite so honest.
Lana’s career got off to a rough start when she appeared on SNL. It was an okay performance, but the next day some arsehole went on TV and dissed it, saying she looked lazy and unrehearsed. Then they made fun of the fact that her real name is Lizzy Grant and that she made up her whole image. This is terrible. What a phony. Wait till I tell Pink, Prince, Bono, Elvis Costello, Lady Gaga, Elton John, Judy Garland and Shania Twain. Maybe there was just too much hype over Born to Die, another grand statement with terrific tunes. (Still not convinced? Check out Miley Cyrus’s cover of ”Summertime Sadness.”) Then there was the Twitter spat with Kurt Cobain’s daughter after Lana made one of those offhanded remarks that might work better as a lyric, something about pop stars dying young. It was a perfect opportunity for Frances Bean to express umbrage, and who could blame her, but still.
I realize many people will never appreciate Lana. The music just doesn’t speak to them, nor can they respond to the old star glamour in her videos. And it is possible that Lana is already over, her best work behind her. But I’m not in this to celebrate a pop star. I’m only interested in songs that I think can stand along the greatest pop songs of the last 50 years, and she’s contributed about 20 at last count. I realize that the day will come when I will stop listening to Ultraviolence on a daily basis and go back to being my boring old self. But until then, it’s a Lana Del Rey world, and I just love being in it.