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Coming of Age Soundtrack: How Lana Del Rey romanticised my early adolescence



Lana Del Rey played a huge part in my early teenage years. Since her first album release back in 2012, Lana not only became one of the most successful noir-pop singers of the generation, but she also brought us through eras in each of her albums.


We’ve been introduced to her beautiful yet emotional tragedies of Born to Die (2012) and she eventually broke through into a cherished and radiant version of herself in Lust For Life (2017), all in a space of five years.


One album that stood out to me is Ultraviolence (2014). The monochrome cover and her forlorn expression as she poses in a plain white tee, leaning on a vintage car door is an image engraved into my soul as I think about all the hours I spent listening to that album over and over on my Blackberry on my way to and from secondary school.


Even though I was in my budding teenage years when Born to Die and the Paradise Edition (2012) was released, I took a great liking to it. It had all the elements I wanted to experience and it felt like no-one else was able to successfully put into words how to feel nostalgic about things that hadn't even happened to me yet.


She sung about drugs, heartbreak and ultimately, death; all those things a grungy teenage girl would post about on her Tumblr page.



She then initially stated that she didn’t plan to release anything after since she had "already said everything she wanted to say", and I was heartbroken.


Two years later, Ultraviolence debuted and we got to experience a new, raw and alternative side to the singer/songwriter. Although she did release two more projects after Ultraviolence and arguably some say they’re better than anything else she had released before, she did have her eras of being the heartbroken and melancholy woman to feeling totally in love with her man, life and everything else about the world.


Contrastingly, Ultraviolence had a strong balanced set of having a neglected heart and the ecstasy of being in love. Although she kept true to her theme of doomed romance and sombre sounding tones, the album didn’t have a running narrative; it instead had individual tracks that each told their own story. Alongside the production talent of Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys, she moves away from the Hip-Hop beats and instead the album embraces psychedelic rock, dream pop and desert rock.


Ultraviolence is a slow burn from start to finish, full of lush romanticised fatalism with vivid images of love, desire, neglect and sorrow. Still keeping that new wave of melodramatic pop, she continues to nurture her world of sad girls, bad boys and noir glamour for us through track after track of her melodic tribulations.


Track 1: "Cruel World"

The first track, "Cruel World" which is also the longest song on the album, easily became one of her most cinematic ballads to date. She starts mellow and quiet in the intro but the chorus falls into being chaotic and intense, immersing it all with heavy reverb and finally an exuberant close. It instantly became a classic and could either be an incredible opening or triumphant finish when performed live.


Track 2: "Shades of Cool"


Another one of my favourites: "Shades Of Cool" starts with a forlorn riff that echoes dreamlike tones, like floating on a body of water or that moment after you wake up from a good dream and believe that just for a second it was all real. She creates a story and sings about one specific moment, and everything feels like it’s in a play but the characters and props feel all too real. She pulls them to her, tears them open and lets the themes of passion and abandonment all spill out in Art Deco style.


Track 3: "Brooklyn Baby"

The track "Brooklyn Baby" seeps into being a nostalgic period of American history as she sings about jazz, beat poetry and hydroponic weed. The track is intoxicatingly blissful, a lot softer and probably one of the few songs that she has that doesn’t end in tragedy; much like "West Coast", where she sings solely about being deeply in love and wanting to create music.


Track 4: "West Coast"


The song which was also a single for the album and possibly one of my favourite Lana tracks ever, oozes with that dreamy Californian fantasy she retains with all her artistry. Alongside that, the video is shot almost entirely in black and white, including her usual palm tree beach background and homemade style videos. The song has two sections that interchange throughout the track. Whereas the first and second verse are up-tempo, the chorus considerably changes into more lethargic and bluesy sounding where we can let her lyrics and each individual instrument exude into the atmosphere.


Track 5: "Pretty When You Cry"


A track such as "Pretty When You Cry" runs through to being gloomy but captivating at the same time. Lana's forte is being able to consistently produce tracks that feel like heartache to listen to, but you just can't stop doing it. "Pretty When You Cry" shows us regular themes of being walked out on, eternal love but also being replaced with drug use, something she herself struggled with in her younger years.


Track 6: "Black Beauty"


"Black Beauty" binds together the ideas of underlying emotional conflict and angst, which are big characteristics within Ultraviolence, as she sings of feeling helpless and trying to conform to her lover’s sullen mood but with no positive outcome in the end. Although some may have desired something a little more uplifting at this point, this is Lana Del Rey we’re talking about; to her, it was all too good to be true.

Lana Del Rey's influence still lives on in my day to day life though, such as my liking towards long and pointy crimson nails or choosing cherry coke over the regular. These days however, I feel like she has since not been able to capture that same Born To Die and Ultraviolence essence like she used to.


We've all grown up now and seen past the glamorisation of being with older men and being driven around in vintage Cadillacs. She did had a fantastic run in the beginning of her career, and ultimately created a whole aesthetic that took the internet (mostly Tumblr) by storm.


While revisiting "Ride" as I write this, a track I consider her greatest, I recite her introductory monologue and think about my reblogged images of her on the back of someone’s motorbike or pressed up against a stripper pole that are still floating around somewhere.


What are the artists that made an impact on your adolescence years? Share in the comments below!