“West Coast”: Lana Del Rey’s Psychedelic ‘Ultraviolence’ Evolution Begins

by Bradley Stern


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 KeysDan 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)

  • Lucho Montecinos

    I loved the ‘unreleased demo’ feel the song evokes at first listen

  • Teo

    Good song. I was worried that she would stay with the same sound of her last record, this has her stamp like you said but it’s something different. Glad she didn’t stay in her safe zone.


    West Coast is amazing and is actually better than I expected. BTW is it just me or it (kinda) sounds like Sky Ferreira’s NTMT?

  • Joshua Pingley

    “Ride” and “Video Games” are much better lead singles. This isn’t a bad song by any means, but it lacks any wow factor for me.

  • http://www.muumuse.com Bradley Stern

    Totally get what you mean. Rock girls 4ever.

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  • Rifki

    Am i the only one that feel like it’s not entirely a new sound but kind of reminiscence of Lizzie Grant a.k.a. Lana Del Rey?

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  • Doon

    Wow. Completely unexpected and awesome.

  • http://instagram.com/blessed4lyfexo Greg M

    This song lacks the immediate charm of Video Games, Blue Jeans, Born To Die,etc. but I guess at this point Lana has such a devoted following she doesn’t need to rely on formula and catchy hooks to get her fans attention.

    That said, I like the rockier, rougher (unmixed, demo) vibe she’s got going here but I’ve personally been tired of Lana ever since she made it big; and I was completely done with her after the whole Paradise EP thing, so this is definitely not even to remind me why I fell in love with her in the first place and propel me to get back on the Lana bandwagon.

  • Tara

    Great review!

  • Evan

    Isn’t that kind of a hipster thing to not like an artist after they become big?

  • DListedVsPigez

    Sorry but whoeve edited the vocals and the production on this song needs to be fired on the spot. The production overshadows her voice throughout the entire song so much you can barely make out what she’s saying. Truly awful and its sad cause I was exoecting a great song.

  • Evan

    Yeah I like the song (although I don’t think it’s as immediate as some of her other ones), but I had trouble making out what she was singing as well.

  • dosomethin2nite

    Lana’s flawless. And nowadays, pop music sucks so bad that not getting airplay should actually be considered a compliment. There’s a reason why Katy Perry & other basics make it onto basic mainstream radio.

  • bluesatellite

    Exactly my thought upon first listen!

  • bluesatellite

    Sometimes you give too much credit, Bradley, but this is rightfully deserved. You know what it reminds me of? 90s trip-hop. This woud’ve slotted nicely with the likes of Massive Attacks, Sneaker Pimps and Everything But The Girl sometime in 1996. I really love it, it’s really quite brilliant. It’s fresh and thrilling yet dark and gloomy at the same time – in fact I much prefer this than most of BTD/Paradise stuff.

  • kom’ron

    sit down pls greg.

  • http://instagram.com/blessed4lyfexo Greg M

    Don’t worry boo, I’m already situated in a comfy arm chair listening to 100% sedative-free music

  • http://instagram.com/blessed4lyfexo Greg M

    Ding ding ding
    That it is
    But while I may have my “hipster” moments I’m a fan of many commercial artists. Take Lady GaGa for example. Liked her before she became famous and continued liking her music (I could do without the pretentious ramblings and hideous outfits) despite her huge success. As far as Lana goes Video Games as well as some of her initial offerings were fantastic and I personally feel she has yet to replicate the magic those tracks possessed moving forward with Paradise and now this.
    That’s all

  • Evan

    I think “American” and “Cola” are just as good as some of the best tracks on BTD though.

  • http://instagram.com/blessed4lyfexo Greg M

    Basically I think she was really onto something with Blue Jeans, Video Games and even the title track BTD so I had high expectations for her, I even wrote a Lana & sexuality that got me a full ride into a top 10 university back when her career was still getting off the ground. I thought she was going to go in one direction and she went a completely different way; a way that just didn’t gel with my personal musical taste…if that makes any sense

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  • Jeremy

    All the gays who like to look at her (face) took this Black Keys reject to #2 on iTunes. Hurrah. It’s a flop, though.

  • http://about.me/mozartherbert Mozart Herbert

    Yes, I feel the same, this song doesn’t impress me. There’s nothing strong like her other singles. But, for some reason, it’s #2 in iTunes.

  • Joshua Pingley

    The gays ride her dick so hard. That’s why it’s slaying right now.

  • Gunth

    ^So True

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  • Matt-27-Poland

    Can’t wait for Lana’s new CD!
    The song is dark, fresh, love it! love it!
    She reminds me my Brit Brit in that whispering parts, God i love it!
    I remember when I first listen to her song – seriously “Video Games” was NOT the track! It was “Born to Die” OMG, I felt in love with her!