Chris Schulz is the deputy head of entertainment for the New Zealand Herald.

Album review: Lana Del Rey, Ultraviolence

Album cover for Ultraviolence.
Album cover for Ultraviolence.

By now, Lizzie Grant has heard everything you have to say about her. There's been so much criticism aimed at Lana Del Rey, Grant's musical alter-ego, she must have skin as leathery as that which covers the seats in her favoured Cadillac.

It's made the build-up to the release of Ultraviolence particularly entertaining: Grant and her critics have been circling each other like two boxers in a ring, each line of negativity -- she can't sing, she can't write, she's an industry puppet -- being matched by a pithy Del Rey kiss-off line in a new interview or song.

At one point on Ultraviolence, Grant even sings the line, "I f***** my way up to the top". It's a sign Grant has finally grown into her Lana Del Rey creation, that arrived half-formed on 2012's Born To Die, and she's ready to have some fun with her.

Though that album's indecisive mish-mash of styles - from swooning ballads to throbbing dance-pop - didn't always gel, Ultraviolence is a brooding, menacing, sinister, complex and complete album, and it's all the better for it.

Produced by Black Key Dan Auerbach, it's full of woozy atmospheres, off-kilter orchestral arrangements and songs that last well past the four and five minute mark.

Mostly, it finds Del Rey playing the role of an unattainable Marilyn Monroe-esque chanteuse - check out her cracked melodrama The Other Woman, the swooning bar ballad Sad Girl or Black Beauty's bruising affair.

When, over the soothing strings of the title track Del Rey coos "I was filled with poison ... I can hear sirens ... he hit me and it felt like a kiss," she proves she's capable of loving someone to death.

The effect is equally chilling and thrilling, more Fiona Apple than Lady Gaga, and that's no bad thing.

But it's just one example of the many wonderfully knowing lyrics that populate Ultraviolence. They prove Grant's not only heard what her critics have to say, she's using their negativity as inspiration.

"Everyone knows I'm a mess" she sings on the deliciously druggy haze of opener Cruel World. "They judge me like a picture book," she coos on the soft acoustics of Brooklyn Baby. And on the soaring slow jam Money Power Glory: "I'm gonna take them for all that they got."

But the lyric that sums up Ultraviolence perfectly comes on that controversial song F***** My Way Up to the Top: "This is my show" sings Del Rey in a wolfy howl, owning the line and proving that no matter how harsh the reviews get, Grant is a much smarter cookie than anyone has given her credit for.

Your move, critics.

Verdict: New York singer aims Rey-gun at critics
Buy Ultraviolence by Lana Del Rey here.

- TimeOut

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