Coachella served as a launching pad for siren Lana Del Rey Sunday night. Amid other cuts and crowd favorites from previous albums, the singer debuted West Coast, which is the first single from her forthcoming album Ultraviolence. The singer describes the new album’s sound as “low-key and cool,” “so dark it’s almost unlistenable,” and “so wrong and exquisite.” Pop music’s somber pin-up seems to have always evoked a fondness for irreverence, and although West Coast at times feels like a straight-forward pop tribute, her slinky-smooth, dare-not kitten-ness comes through in waves of tenderness and entitlement–a dichotomy Del Rel likes to toy with often.
According to Twitter, during the music festival’s first weekend, Del Rey was the most anticipated performer. Below is a choppy and smoke-filled recording of West Coast’s debut on the windy stage in Indio last night. Despite the limitations of this recording, the singer’s signature coolness and low-key delivery can be easily detected.
Del Rey, 27, describes the new songs on her soon to released album as stripped back and totally low-key, all inspired by some aspect of the West Coast. The singer also released the studio version and corresponding video of West Coast today, which has a much better example of the breathy tribute than the footage above. The ode harkens to some tortuous longing for an old flame and the western seaboard simultaneously. At times, the distinction between the two is barely discernible. Despite the song’s, at times, haunting qualities, it is not exactly what one might call “so dark it’s almost unlistenable.” In fact, it seems to register as a straight-forward pop song, and more up-tempo than Del Rey’s usual foray. If “dark” means “soft” and “unlistenable” means “pretty catchy,” than one could potentially presume the song is “so dark it is unlistenable.”
Perhaps Del Rey’s casual misdirection regarding her follow-up album to 2012′s Born to Die came as a result of her hardships within the last year. After her hard drive was stolen, which led to an onslaught of leaks, it would make sense for the performer to be a bit with-holding and ambiguous. In a Twitter Q&A with MTV UK, Del Rey regarded the new work as “beautiful.” She tweeted that the album was absolutely gorgeous, although darker than before, claiming that she was in love with it.
With the aide of Born to Die producer Emile Haynie and Dan Auerbauch of the Black Keys, Ultraviolence was recorded in Nashville. Del Rey also mentioned working on the album with Daniel Heath, who helped co-write Blue Jeans, and her boyfriend, Barrie-James O’Neill, who recently left the Glasgow folk-rock band Kassidy to shack up with Del Rey.
West Coast is the first release from the prolific song-writer since she released her rendition of Once Upon a Dream, from the 1959 Disney film, Sleeping Beauty. Once Upon a Dream is the featured song in the Maleficent trailer, which is Disney’s retelling of Sleeping Beauty slotted for release on May 30.
Coachella seems a perfect location for Del Rey to break out her new material, paying tribute to the land on which the music event stands. Lana Del Rey’s cool brooding, milky-smooth melodies, and low-key melodic hooks seem to have found another home in West Coast.
Opinion by Stacy Feder