The title of Lana Del Rey’s new album is a portmanteau coined in Anthony Burgess’ bloody dystopian fantasy A Clockwork Orange, which Stanley Kubrick turned into one of his signature films in 1971. Kubrick would have loved Del Rey — a highly stylized vixen who romanticizes fatalism to near-pornographic levels, creating fantastically decadent moments of film-noir melodrama. It’s an aesthetic that demands total commitment from both artist and listener, and it would be difficult to buy into if she didn’t deliver such fully realized cinema. Ultraviolence masterfully melds those elements, and completes the redemption narrative of a singer whose breakout-to-backlash arc on 2012’s Born to Die made her a cautionary tale of music-industry hype.
The addition of producer Dan Auerbach enhances Ultra‘s air of everyday menace, and finds Del Rey digging deeper. The Black Keys frontman doesn’t push — he’d rather let her shape-shifting moan brush up against dusty drum loops and dead-eyed bass drones. The spacey, sinister groove of ”West Coast” proves that frequent Auerbach collaborator Danger Mouse’s style has rubbed off on him too, and ”Pretty When You Cry” evolves from a woozy mumble into a widescreen blast of guitar heroics. Del Rey’s dark urges — for love, for money, for pure pleasure — don’t evoke the Clockwork droogs as much as they do Tom Cruise’s Dr. Bill Harford from Kubrick’s final film, Eyes Wide Shut. Like Harford, Del Rey has spent countless hours stalking the night, searching for answers and trying on various guises — and Ultraviolence is the masked bacchanalia that finally unleashes the full potential lurking beneath the hype. A