Hyperreality in the Age of Ultraviolence A review of Lana Del Rey's sophomore major-label record, Ultraviolence, and a hyperrealist look at the modern world

Indeed, the presence of high art in everyday life has eroded with mainstream media taking its place. Media in the form of small-screen TV shows, celebrity culture, the paparazzi media, bestselling novelists, The Juliet Society, Dan Brown, etc. We are now connected by being disconnected. Facebook is taking the place of conversations, condos the place of nightclubs, everything is being replaced. These replacements are trivial to the main change: the trade of our reality for hyperreality, true existence for a simulacrum.

This album is a Harmony Korine film. This album is hyperrealist art. There is no way that titles like "Cruel World", "Money Power Glory" or lines like "I'm churning out novels like beat poetry on amphetamines" or "he plays guitar while I sing Lou Reed" are meant to be taken seriously. If anyone can listen to those lines, take them seriously and not cringe, there's something fundamentally off there. Just like Born to Die was an experiment and a sarcastic and half-cynical, half-earnest look at opulence as a part of the American dream, Ultraviolence is a similar Shaviroesque look at America. Per Woody Allen, “life does not imitate art, it imitates bad television”.

Indeed, the presence of high art in everyday life has eroded with mainstream media taking its place. Media in the form of small-screen TV shows, celebrity culture, the paparazzi media, bestselling novelists, The Juliet Society, Dan Brown, etc. We are now connected by being disconnected. Facebook is taking the place of conversations, condos the place of nightclubs, everything is being replaced. These replacements are trivial to the main change: the trade of our reality for hyperreality, true existence for a simulacrum.

Interestingly, this change is most obvious for those actively involved in it and is often discussed by these very same people taking part in the orchestration. Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers come to mind, Sasha Grey's interviews, and of course Lana Del Rey's own Born to Die. However, these artistic statements are themselves misinterpreted by the mass audience which has far and wide already chosen hyperreality. An outcry that says you have it all wrong always sounds disconcerting and so we choose to ignore it because the majority cannot be wrong, cannot be mad. Instead we single out the dissenters and destroy them with criticism - the weakest tool becoming the sharpest in the great replacement. Spring Breakers was a stupid film about nothing, Sasha Grey's a dumb cumslut and Born to Die is an embracement of the American Dream. The illusion is unbroken because we can simply choose to ignore anything that points to the truth. Of course, Spring Breakers was a great criticism of post-American culture, Sasha Grey's work and art is a statement levelled at our prevailing sexual monogamy, and Born to Die is the harshest criticism since The Great Gatsby. It is ironic that these ironic works become the unironic anthems of the very things they seek to criticize. National Anthem can be used as a rallying call for wealth, Jay Gatsby can be our role model. This is the very proof of our acceptance of hyperreality. Our stereotypes have become the basis for truth.

On the other hand, Lana Del Rey has never been afraid to challenge the archetypes, the definitions of our success, the fundamental cliches of modern society and here she goes after our depression. She exposes and highlights the aspects of our lives until they are deconstructed, sound profoundly ridiculous. We want want to feel that we are "pretty when [we] cry". We have our poseur obsessions with drugs and Parliaments and both of those are addressed extensively. And it is precisely by addressing them in this seemingly unwavering fashion that they can be disassembled. The best way to make someone do something is to encourage them not to. Here, the supports to our facade are being attacked because Lana Del Rey embraces them in this pretend-earnestness. One of hyperreality's defining features is that of unflinching emotional shallowness. Ironic then that Lana Del Rey pretends to wallow in darkness, sadness, to be pitied on Ultraviolence. This is done precisely to underscore the ridiculousness of this tepidness - lukewarm and illdefined sadness. Indeed, how can we be ultraconfident and self-loathing, sexually successful but intimately depressed. In the real world, that's clearly bullshit, but here in our favored hyperreality, paradoxes become the founding truths.

If our Founding Fathers loathed and feared the common man, what liberty can there be? If the American dream is for universal success and social upward mobility, how can it ever be universal? The single fact of our life is that for someone to win, someone must lose. For someone to move up in the rankings, someone must move down. Disneyland becomes reality, and then suddenly the fundamental motivating factors of our lives are lies. And slowly, adagio pianissimo, new generations grew wise to this fact. To the fact that the Baby Boomers built nothing but instead destroyed the key truths of human existence of past generations. And so we scream. "WHY? THIS IS SO UNFAIR." We are the children of the great, we are the sons and daughters of the Yuppies, this doesn't make sense. We are unhappy because happiness is meant to be reality less expectations. In systematically repressing reality and replacing it with hyperreality, we threw off this formula. We have great ambition and a competitive spirit but we are terribly lazy because we are entitled, because we've been taught that we are anything but ordinary. The fact is that by the definition of the word, all of us cannot possibly be extraordinary. For one person to be outstanding, 100 must be completely ordinary, average. This statement is aversive to the point of rage for us because it goes against the grain of what we embraced as the truth because it was comfortable, it was enticing. If someone tells you you are amazing your whole life, slowly you begin to believe it yourself. If you tell everyone that you are a golden god, you start to believe it yourself. Our generation is self-destructive because we are so unhappy. We are disillusioned, we are cynical and we seek out, no desperately need excess to survive. It is no coincidence that "Do you believe me, I don't believe in anything" became a rallying cry along with "Kill people, burn shit, fuck school."

Lana Del Rey is herself the champion of exaggeration, of false patriotism and false materialism because the transience of our society's symbol lends itself to the greater picture. She recreated herself, created a new identity, an identity that is creationism instead of evolutionary. Her identity and by extension, our entire society, is fed by celebrity culture, by rampant consumerism. We steal for the rush, to get caught and to get that elusive media exposure. "Prison don't mean nothing to me."

And so what's the point? What do we live for if everything is fake because we as a society, have selected hyperreality in place of the decrepit truth? Well think back to The Matrix. Forget Neo because there are no Neos in the real world. No, The Matrix has one character that makes a realistic choice, a choice that we have all embraced. Cypher is our role model, not Neo because the realization of the falsehood of that what we choose need not diminish our joy from making that choice. And so I work for a meaningless piece of paper, studying shit that I don't care about, to get more experience and more qualifications so that I can do more shit that I don't care about and it can make sense because these choices drive us forward. They bring us a career which brings us money which allows us to purchase things like $500 lamps. But these lamps are no longer lamps, they are literally shining symbols, validation both to ourselves and to others that that person is doing something right if he can afford to buy a Maserati convertible. We make choices that seem wrong because we want to impress others so that we can impress ourselves. We want to establish dynastys, teach our kids how to play American football, sail and send them to the top schools of the world. We want to do blow, and get blown, and blow others away because we live in fear. We are scared that one fine morning, the illusion will somehow break and we will find ourselves caught pantsless looking out onto our bright green endless rolling lawn into the bay and see. See that post-modern-self-awareness will not save us. And we will ask ourselves was all this worth it? Isn't it the same as it ever was? And we might despair or we might not but even if we do, whatever, we have neatly wrapped that into a concept as well and we called it a midlife crisis. We'll buy another convertible, we'll be alright. Money, power, glory. Full stop. Poverty, feebleness, nursing homes, death.

Cruel World.

0616140558ed4wire