Source Material: Lana Del Rey's 'Ultraviolence'
by Dan Weiss | June 20, 2014
The polarizing-yet-beloved Lana Del Rey draws on so much music to create her multidimensional (and hyper-referential) pastiches that it's hard to even know where to begin. So we'll start with the Eurythmics' doomy synth-pop standard "Sweet Dreams," the quintessential tune claiming everyone's a user or out to be used. Del Rey also shares the crawling trip-hop beats and paper-thin line between love and complete self-destruction with Portishead's "Only You" and Sneaker Pimps' hit "6 Underground." Meanwhile, Imperial Teen examined shallow culture with the same arch eye on "Yoo Hoo" and Fiona Apple brought a similar coy self-conviction on "Criminal."
Ultraviolence also draws on starker, guitar-based atmospherics reminiscent of P.J. Harvey's band-free turn on "The Desperate Kingdom of Love" and the iconic tremolo effect on Nancy Sinatra's "Bang Bang," while Afghan Whigs' "Be Sweet" provides a fitting male counterpart to her sleazy confessionals. Stereolab's analog odyssey "The Flower Called Nowhere" and Nouvelle Vague's creeping take on The Clash's "Guns of Brixton" were some of the first nostalgia-wave acts to mine the retro territory that Del Rey now spins so smoothly into pop, as her junior, Lorde, is now doing with equally stark songs such as "Tennis Court." First single "West Coast" changes tempos entirely for the chorus, à la Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra's acid-dripping "Some Velvet Morning," with raw, bluesy production from The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, a style he employed for his band's own "Your Touch." But Del Rey's hardly all nostalgia: Kanye's funereal, piano-based "Amazing" has the repetitive quality of her ballads, and even Beyoncé's "Halo" worships a man as religiously as many of Lana's protagonists -- it's a tradition that goes all the way back to The Shangri-Las' "Leader of the Pack." Here's a full unpacking of Del Rey's forebears, from Roy Orbison's "Crying" to Bjork's "Bachelorette."