Lana Del Rey’s self-proclaimed ‘gangsta Nancy Sinatra’ persona has long been an issue of contention among critiques. There is no denying, however, that the Del Rey debate has defined her in the stiffly competitive modern pop landscape. So who is Lana Del Rey (aka Elizabeth Woolridge Grant)? A contrived retro-nouveau ideal of ‘cool’ appropriated for mass culture? Or merely a misunderstood, much-needed revival of the past in the form of an electro-pop goddess? Regardless of one’s opinion of Lana Del Rey’s well-marketed alter ego, the recent release of her second album Ultraviolence has fans and critiques alike devotedly following the singer’s ascent to the top spot of the UK and US charts. Del Rey now comfortably remains at the coveted No.1 position across both continents, a feat she achieved first in 2011 with debut album Born To Die. From the opening riff of ‘Cruel World’, producer and Black Key Dan Auberbach directs us away from the overtly orchestral, heavily effected Born to Die, in favour of well-written melodies and magnetic beats that will stand the test of time. We are reminded electric guitar solos were not extinguished in the ‘90s, but can still thrive in the contemporary ballad. Del Rey, ever the vocal chameleon, transitions between her low, throaty registrar to flawless female falsetto – most evident in her hit ‘Shades of Cool’. The result is something simplistically sexy, granting the listener instant ‘cool’ by association. Co-written by Del Rey, the success of Ultraviolence hinges axiomatically on her established narrative capabilities. Her adherence to traditional song structure created by her revered pop antecedents (Bob Dylan, Nancy Sinatra and Nirvana) allows her to present highly credible characters. She unapologetically glorifies hotheaded relationships with brutal men who mutually sexualize and infantilize her – and yet she somehow remains their equal. Del Rey doesn’t hold back with hard-hitting lyrics that throw her morality into question in such songs as ‘F***ed My Way Up To The Top’ and ‘Florida Kilos’. She didn’t ask to be the poster girl for female equality, but Lana sure does redefine the modern relationship by evoking old-school values. She’s a heroine for the millennial generation. When seeking diversion from daily life, the hazy mystique of Ultraviolence does not disappoint. Del Rey’s gauzy Americana-esque vocals simultaneously gratify our perceived depth and pervasive self-pity - in so provocative a way that she warrants an ‘Explicit Content’ label. When next leaning your head against a rainy bus window wondering if you have lived up to your potential, Lana’s your gal. With the release of this latest intrigue-fuelled Lana installment, we ask once again who is the real Lana Del Rey? Whether industry puppet or marketing genius the authenticity of her musical talent is unquestionable. Perhaps the Ultraviolence experiencebrings us a little closer to finding out…but the one thing we are left certain of is Miss Del Rey will be laughing at our perplexity all the way from Chateau Marmot. Ultraviolence by Lana Del Rey is out now and available on iTunes. Words by Beatrice Hazlehurst.