Jim Jones and Jonestown have been portrayed throughout popular culture, including music. One of Lana Del Rey’s songs might have some allusions to Jones and the Jonestown massacre. Regardless, Del Rey was in a dark mindset when she wrote it. 

The title song of Lana Del Rey’s ‘Ultraviolence’ seems like it’s about Jim Jones and Jonestown

Del Rey introduced herself to millions with her glossy baroque album Born to Die. Her follow-up, Ultraviolence, went in a completely different direction, with a guitar-heavy classic rock vibe. However, Del Rey’s focus on disturbing themes remained unchanged.

The title track of “Ultraviolence” describes Del Rey’s relationship with a man named Jim. She calls Jim her “cult leader.” The tune also has multiple references to poison. Considering Del Rey littered her songs with references to the past, it wouldn’t be a big surprise. For example, she mentioned another cult leader, Charles Manson, in the lyrics of her track “13 Beaches” from Lust for Life.

Why the song might not be about Jim Jones and Jonestown

On the other hand, “Ultraviolence” could be about someone else named Jim. The song mentions Jim being from Woodstock, New York. Britannica says Jones was from Indiana before he moved to California and then to Guyana where he set up his deadly commune. The reference to Woodstock, New York is likely an allusion to the Woodstock Rock Festival, which had nothing to do with Jones.

Del Rey also mentioned someone named “Jimmy” in her tune “A&W.” Is Jimmy the same character from “Ultraviolence?” If he is, he can’t be Jones, because Jimmy is clearly alive in the tune.  Of course, it’s possible that Del Rey is using her music to portray a version of Jones that is not historically accurate. Perhaps someday, Del Rey will explain the meaning of “Ultraviolence” but, for now, we can only speculate.

What Lana Del Rey said about that era of her career

If Del Rey did write a love ballad about Jones, that would arguably be insensitive to his victims. During a 2014 interview with The Guardian, Del Rey was asked if she felt sexism caused people to see her as controversial. “People ask me this all the time,” she said. “I think they think there’s an element of sexism going on, but I feel that it’s more personal. I don’t see where the female part comes into it. I just can’t catch that feminist angle.”

A reporter told Del Rey that some of the other artists who were controversial at the time were Lorde, Lily Allen, Lady Gaga, and Sinéad O’Connor. “Well, maybe those people are true provocateurs,” she said. “But I’m really not and never have been. I don’t think there’s any shock value in my stuff – well, maybe the odd disconcerting lyric – but I think other people probably deserve the criticism because they’re eliciting it.”

Del Rey gave fans insight into her mindset when she wrote the album Ultraviolence. “A lot of my songs are not just simple verse-chorus pop songs – they’re more psychological,” she said. “Family members will come on the road with me and say: ‘Wow, your life is just like a movie!’ And I’m like: ‘Yeah, a really f*****-up movie.’”

Whether or not “Ultraviolence” is about Jones, it’s fascinating.

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