“Cruel World” is the opening song on Lana Del Rey’s third studio album, Ultraviolence. Overall, Ultraviolence is a beautiful yet melancholic album. “Cruel World” sets the tone of Ultraviolence, which is an album full of juxtapositions, of opposite themes and meanings both in conflict with one another. Specifically, “Cruel World” intertwines both love and abuse to depict the conflicting feelings of getting out of an unhealthy relationship.
In the first verse, Lana sings:
Shared my body and my mind with you
That’s all over now
Did what I had to do
‘Cause you’re so far past me now
In this verse, Lana says goodbye to what’s been hurting her. She recognizes that she gave her entire self to this person and realized that she has to move on from the relationship.
In the pre-chorus, Lana explores the hypocritical nature of her partner:
Got your Bible, got your gun
And you like to party and have fun
And I like my candy and your women
I’m finally happy now that you’re gone
Lana has decided to leave this person because things have gotten way out of control and she finally realizes how unhealthy the relationship is. Lana conveys the conflicting sides of her partner through the line “got your Bible, got your gun.” The Bible is considered to be a holy and pure text while guns represent violence and crime. The Bible and gun also represent spiritual and physical protection, even though Lana’s boyfriend consciously indulges in harmful activities.
Because you’re young, you’re wild, you’re free
You dance in circles around me
You’re crazy for me
The chorus is taking us back in time, to a party where they’re both dancing and drinking, and she envies how “young, wild, and free” he is. He dances circles around her, she can barely keep up with this person and his lifestyle, but she loves it at the same time. Lana is drawn to the darkness of his world. She knows he’s crazy, but she doesn’t care, because he’s crazy for her, and that makes her want to give all of herself to him.
Overall, I would consider “Cruel World” poetry. I think that the song conveys the conflicting feelings of wanting to stay in a relationship but at the same time recognizing how toxic it is. Lana might just be trying to convince herself that she’s happier after moving on, but overall has contradicting feelings about the relationship. In the song, the repetition of the chorus serves as a message that the longing for her past relationship is still present, there’s always going to be some part of her that wants to go back into the darkness.