On Wednesday, Lana Del Rey revealed the cover for her upcoming album, “Ultraviolence,” and announced that it will be released on June 17. The Lake Placid native will hope to repeat the success she achieved on 2012’s “Born to Die,” which charted at number one in eleven countries and became the fifth best-selling album of the year. That type of blockbuster is difficult to duplicate, but the fan-base generated by “Born to Die” will undoubtedly create a ton of hype for Del Rey’s third album. It also won’t hurt that she hired the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach—and his freshly collected Grammy that certifies him as the Best Producer of 2013—to try his hand at manipulating her distinct brand of sultry chamber pop.
Del Rey will certainly benefit from Auerbach’s insight, and the collaboration between the blues-rock maestro and the enigmatic indie pop darling isn’t as unfounded as it seems; both could be considered music purists, as they cite innovative pioneers as their primary influences. Auerbach’s inspired cast of Robert Johnson, T-Model Ford and Hound Dog Taylor is even more roots-oriented than Del Rey’s list of Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Jeff Buckley and Leonard Cohen, but there is no question of the importance of all of these luminaries to their respective genres. Del Rey has perpetuated the unhurried approach of her musical models while appropriating various aspects of their techniques. She has adopted the sultry façade of Presley and the languid vocal-jazz style of Sinatra, while developing the rare ability to be simultaneously emotive—a talent mastered by both Buckley and Cohen.
Del Rey’s affecting contralto would be perfect for covering many of Cohen’s masterpieces, especially the poignant “Hallelujah”—which happens to have been popularized in the ‘90s by Buckley. Her contemporary, sophisticated MO might make her the best vehicle—especially considering her millennial fan-base—for breathing new life into a song that should be reinterpreted at least once per generation. (Coincidentally, it has been rumored that she has been collaborating with the most recent proprietor of the Cohen classic, Rufus Wainwright.)
Until she reads this article and begins toying with the notion to actualize my quixotic suggestion, we have “Ultraviolence” to look forward to. Del Rey released the single “West Coast” in April to further kindle the growing excitement. It’s as smoky as ever, and Auerbach’s character can be felt in the more prominent presence of guitar and drums, and in the attenuated role of the less nuanced pop orchestration that pervaded "Born to Die." “West Coast” paces well and comes off as a more refined realization of the “Blue Jeans” concept. Let’s hope there’s more like this on the rest of “Ultraviolence.”
Del Rey is currently touring to promote the new album; she’ll be in Detroit and Chicago this week before playing Red Rocks next Monday. Go out and enjoy.