Lana Del Rey’s 2012 debut, Born to Die, made her a weirdly controversial cult star. Last year’s one-two punch of “Young and Beautiful” and Cedric Gervais’s remix of the Born to Die track “Summertime Sadness” proved that she could hack it in the Top 40. Del Rey’s highly anticipated Ultraviolence, released this week, was supposed to prove that her popularity so far wasn’t just a fluke. So far it seems to be succeeding: Ultraviolence is a more coherent album than Born to Die; it also doesn’t have to work nearly as hard to prove how cool it is. In a review for this week’s EW, Kyle Anderson gives it an A.
For the debut installment of a new feature called The Breakdown, where we examine the inspirations behind the records that everyone’s talking about, we’ll take the album apart and see what makes it great.
30% Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazelwood
That Del Rey has lifted a great deal of her trademark sound from Nancy Sinatra (especially the landmark recordings she made in the ’60s with eccentric country musician Lee Hazlewood) is one of the worst-kept secrets in pop music. It’s such an obvious influence that Del Rey doesn’t even bother to try to hide it—last year she and her boyfriend Barrie-James O’Neil released a cover of Sinatra and Hazlewood’s heartache-drenched duet “Summer Wine.”
20% Black Keys
Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach produced most of the songs on Ultraviolence, and in the process found a fertile middle ground between the orchestral hip-hop that constituted much of Born to Die and the more nuanced rock sound that his band’s been making since they teamed up with Danger Mouse.
15% Lesley Gore
Lesley Gore is one of the all-time greats of making pop songs that are as heartbreaking as they are catchy, and Lana’s on her way to joining her.
15% The Black Heart Procession
This long-running, relatively obscure San Diego art-rock outfit specializes in the same kind of twangy, swoony retro-inspired romanticism that Del Rey indulges in on much of her new record. The fact that the band released an album called Amore Del Tropico and Del Rey later made a short film called Tropico may or may not be a coincidence.
Anyone juxtaposing chilly rap beats and torchy female vocals pretty much owes Portishead royalties.
5% Julee Cruise
Cruise, David Lynch’s former muse, was a retro revivalist with a weirdly dreamlike take on female-fronted golden-oldies artists like Lesley Gore that made her the perfect artist to provide the musical identity for Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet, and her hypnogogic style has been influencing singers ever since.
5% MC Lyte
Del Rey’s never been shy about showing her roots as a rap fan going way back, and when you mention old-school hip-hop and female artists, mentioning Brooklyn’s boundary-smashing MC Lyte is a must.