Lana del Reys second album, Ultraviolence, shocked people after its release due to its surprisingly melancholic tone and slow pace. One of the most significant songs in the album is arguably the song “Ultraviolence”. The song uses repetition, symbolism, and double meanings in order to convey an abuser’s manipulation. In an interview, Lana del Rey explained that the song was about a past abusive relationship with a cult leader. The song opens up with,
He used to call me DN/That stands for deadly Nightshade/Cause I was filled with poison/But blessed with beauty and rage
The mention of deadly nightshade introduces the motif of alcoholism and drug abuse. Deadly nightshade, also known as Bella Donna, is known for its controversial theories surrounding its effects on alcoholism, with some believing that it cures alcoholism. The lyrics after, about being filled with poison, can be interpreted as being filled with alcohol.
He hit me and it felt like a kiss/Jim brought me back, reminded me of when we were kids
The violence inflicted on Lana feels like a kiss and the combined unbalanced power dynamics convey that the man is idolized so much that his violence is seen as affection. The abuser is manipulating the victim to the point where they end up believing that love is shown through violence.
I can hear sirens sirens/he hit me and it felt like a kiss
Sirens refer to both police sirens and mythological sirens. In mythology, sirens would lure their victims into the water with their alluring voices and then kill them. The metaphor and double meaning of sirens show that while she hears sirens, the siren-like allure of the cult leader solidifies the control he has on her, which is further shown through the lyric about his violence being like a kiss being repeated throughout the song.
I can hear violins, violins/Give me all that ultraviolence
Violins are sung in a way that makes the word sound very similar to violence. Violence and violins are also near homophones. The second lyric saying violence further shows the hidden yet obvious double meaning. This lyrical choice seems like a portrayal of a cry for help, with the indirect wording of violence under the guise of talking about a violin.