Album Review: 'Ultraviolence'

NPR music critic Tom Moon reviews Lana Del Ray's latest album, Ultraviolence.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Hollywood sadcore is a term singer and songwriter Lana Del Rey came up with to describe her dark, moody pop songs. They're also full of old movie references. The 27-year-old returns this week with a follow-up to her 2012 breakthrough, "Born To Die." That album sold more than a million copies in the U.S. The new release is called "Ultraviolence." Reviewer Tom Moon says that the album is too long, but it shows Del Rey developing a new take on the torch song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CRUEL WORLD")

DEL REY: (Singing) And you like to party and have fun.

TOM MOON: There's a formula at work inside the stylized music of Lana Del Rey. And it goes like this - grand funeral dirge tempos, big anthemic chords and elaborate, hazy atmospheres, supporting a singer whose every phrase is delivered with maximum melodrama.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CRUEL WORLD")

DEL REY: (Singing) With my little red party dress on. Everybody knows that I'm the best. I'm crazy. Get a little bit of bourbon in you. Get a little bit suburban and go crazy.

MOON: Thing is, a little goes a long way. Lana Del Rey doesn't deviate much, and as a result, the album can seem like one marathon brooding session. The first time through, I completely missed the transfixing grace of this song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHADES OF COOL")

DEL REY: (Singing) But I can't help him. Can't make him better. And I can't do nothing about this strange weather 'cause you are invincible.

MOON: Lana Del Rey writes about the motivations and dissipations of vaguely sad, beautiful losers. Sometimes, she seems to be singing about herself, the fatalistic sad girl who's pretty when she cries. More often, she's concerned with the men in her orbit, damaged lovers were lost inside one addiction or another.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WEST COAST")

DEL REY: (Singing) Down on the West Coast, they love their movies, their golden gods and rock-and-roll groupies. And you've got the music. You've got the music in you, don't you? You push it hard. I pull away. I'm feeling hot and on fire. I guess that no one ever really made me feel that much higher. Te deseo, carino. Boy, it's you I desire. Your love, your love, your love. I can see my baby swinging. His Parliament's...

MOON: The album is too long by half, and the lyrics tell fairly generic stories. On just about every track, Lana Del Rey points out that she's on intimate terms with the lower rungs of despair. She needn't bother because the thick, exquisitely rendered music takes us there. All she has to do is what torch singers have done forever - locate some shred of poignance within the emotional wreckage.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SAD GIRL")

DEL REY: (Singing) It might not be something you would do.

SIEGEL: Lana Del Rey's latest is called "Ultraviolence." Our reviewer is Tom Moon.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SAD GIRL")

DEL REY: (Singing) You haven't seen my man. You haven't seen my man.

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