TEXT NATASHA STAGG
HOW’S A GIRL TO GET BY IN THIS ULTRAVIOLENT WORLD, ANYWAY?
July 30th, 2014. Whether you trust it or not, Lana de Rey has done well for herself based on an accute attention to positioning—and her newest video, for the title track off Ultraviolence, (knowingly?) reflects this very strategy. A genre most likely solidified as such in pornography, the “POV” video is popular because of its access-level veneer, gently and transparently breaking the fourth wall in order to provide even the most violent intentions a faux-willing subject. Like all things Lana, it’s intentionality is questionable.
“Ultraviolence” quotes other examples of complicated desire, like Carol King’s “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss),” recorded by The Crystals (and produced by ultra-violent Phil Spector) in 1962. In an outtake from last month’s Rolling Stone cover story, LDR says “Cat Power” meant (means?) a lot to her, seeing as she could relate to the singer’s stage fright. The video for “Ultraviolence,” in which LDR dresses up as a bride and leads a faceless man around a shadowy patio, whispering comforting words to his protestations, does remind of Cat Power’s video for “He War,” in which shy/not shy Chan Marshall follows a man around a shadowy beach, or the almost-“POV” video for “Manhattan.” More than that, though, Marshall’s and del Rey’s voices sound, in “He War” and in “Ultraviolence,” eerily similar, even if their lyrics—one set ultra-genuine and the other, pieced together from bits of pop-culture’s past—couldn’t differ more in tone.
The common thread here is vulnerability: a buzzword that lately gets left as explanation for just about any otherwise inexplicable rise to fame. Why do people care about the Kardashians? They put their lives on display 24/7. What gets the most follows/likes? #IWokeUpLikeThis-style selfies. When is Lana del Rey most discussed? When she says she’s “a sad girl.” Brilliantly (depending on who you ask), every time we have her pegged, del Rey turns around and tells us (while pouting, of course) we were wrong, and once again changes positions. We’re still not sure who ends up the victim of the ultraviolence, at the end of the day. For now, take her hand and watch del Rey place someone’s (the viewer’s?) fingers between her lips, while explaining what “felt like true love.” And hurry, before she changes her mind again.