April 14, 2014
“West Coast”: Lana Del Rey’s Psychedelic ‘Ultraviolence’ Evolution Begins
It’s finally here, you little bitch.
It’s been just over two years since the release of Born To Die — the best album of 2012, and one of the true standout records of the past five years — followed by the equally masterful Paradise re-edition later that year. In between records, Lana’s won new fans with her soundtrack contributions — first with The Great Gatsby‘s Oscar-worthy (yet rudely snubbed) “Young & Beautiful,” followed by her haunting Maleficent theme, “Once Upon A Dream.”
And now, Lana Del Rey has returned to cruise down the coast with us once again on “West Coast,” the hypnotic lead single off of Ultraviolence — a follow-up record still very much enshrouded in mystery.
“West Coast” sees Lana stepping away from the orchestral pop flair of the Born To Die era and wandering into much more experimental territory. Trading out the soaring, heaven-sent strings and Emile Haynie‘s hip-hop swagger that characterized her debut, the subversive track plays less like the opulence of The Great Gatsby and more like, well, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.
“Down on the west coast, they got a sayin’/If you’re not drinking, then you’re not playing/But you got the music in you, don’t you?” Lana seductively purrs.
Co-penned by longtime collaborator Rick Nowels, the track was produced in Nashville by The Black Keys‘ Dan Auerbach. There are still some familiar Lana Del Elements included — those plucks of surf guitar, the haunting background coos, the evocative lyrics (the Queen of Saigon gets another reference) — but for the most part, this is a fairly bold evolution in sound: The tempo shifts frequently, the instrumentation is jagged, and Lana’s voice skips between breathy franticness and slurred, drugged-out ecstasy. “On the balcony and I’m singing/Ooh baby ooh, I’m in love,” she sighs, conjuring just the slightest shade of Stevie Nicks‘s “Edge of Seventeen.”
If Lana wasn’t getting played on Top 40 format with Born To Die (aside from a few EDM remixes), she certainly won’t be played with this spooky, sparse summer jam session — the very antithesis of everything radio in 2014. But then, that’s never really been Lana’s mission, has it?
“West Coast” sounds entirely different from anything that’s being offered in pop music at the moment — it’s revolutionary, really.
Let the Ultraviolence era begin.
“West Coast” was released on April 14. (iTunes)