A mature record, that loses none of the fun of her earlier work.
Lana Del Rey has recently admitted that she hexed Donald Trump and, honestly, that’s all you need to know when entering the world of Lust For Life; all of the drama and magic of the album can be summed up in that action. Having first risen to fame with the 2011 single, ‘Videogames’, few artists can claim such innovative consistency and popularity as Del Rey herself. Her unique take on pop music, and commitment to a vintage and highly romantic aesthetic, make her one of the most exciting pop icons of the 2010s. Lana’s fifth studio album, Lust For Life can be seen as the singer songwriter’s subtle Lemonade moment, her entry into political commentary.
It isn’t often that an artist successfully manages to show such a clear growth and development of sound whilst also making clear links to their debut album. Lust For Life is just as dark and brooding as Honeymoon and Ultraviolence, yet has all the pop-ish catchiness of Born To Die. ‘In My Feelings’ offers, even more, theatricality, while in the climactic chorus of ‘13 Beaches’ Lana sings “I’ve been dying for something real” proving she hasn’t lost any of the emotion from her previous albums.
Showing a very serious shift in tone, the singer songwriter leaves behind bad boys and guns. In ‘Get Free’ she discusses her craft “This is my commitment/My modern manifesto/I’m doing it for all of us.” The album is intended as a one of hope and consolidation in a recently shaken up America. In a time when even uttering such a phrase has (for many) all the wrong connotations of an oppressive and regressing government, ‘God Bless America’ is reclaimed in a gun-shot accented ballad to the cinematic beauty of America, women and love. Similarly, ‘When The World Was At War We Just Kept Dancing’ asks “Is this the end of America?/ No, it’s only the beginning.” In these tracks, Lana’s touching voice transcends the backing track. Where before the topic of her sorrows would be a lost love, in Lust For Life she sings about her country. This effect is mostly inspiring and comforting, even in the execution of lyrics such as “What about all the children? /And what about all their parents?” (in ‘Coachella – Woodstock In My Mind’), which for a 5th album seem a bit too cheesy and sloppy.
Where the album is strong in creating a distinctive atmosphere, it also risks generating repetitiveness. ‘White Mustang’ and ‘Heroin’- while both charming songs – add nothing new that the other hasn’t already offered; whilst Stevie Nicks perhaps guests ‘Beautiful People with Beautiful Problems’, more because Lust For Life is exactly the place where he should be conceptually, rather than because the duet they share is good.
Having established a unique and widely popular sound, the album is genius in exploring the extents of that sound and proving that it is still fresh, ripe and with a lot more to offer. Rather than necessarily standing on its own, each song builds the album and perpetuates its image. If the singles released so far have not been to your taste (as was the case with me) then rest assuredly will, as they are only a teaser of what the album has to offer. The title track, as well as ‘Love’ and ‘Coachella-Woodstock’ sound much better when wedged between Lana’s more tear-jerking songs, the positive contrast to the darkness the album has to offer.
All of Lana’s albums build a world, rather than serving as a collection of simple tunes. It is perhaps for this reason that so many pop culture references have made their way into the album. Some sweet and clever- Neil Young’s ‘My My, Hey Hey’ in ‘Get Free’- but many too obvious to be smart – Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ in ‘Coachella-Woodstock’. Nonetheless, they all work for a greater purpose, placing Lana in an Americana setting which the album serenades, and by large, this is successful. Lana Del Rey’s aims have long been to transport the listener to her world. Lust For Life does this sharper than any of her previous albums.
The evolution of Lana has proved seamless, moving from love song to political statement to personal reflection. Even if the songs do sound similar, each one is infused with the perfect mix of emotion and production to make the experience of listening to it enchanting, reflecting a semi-real, semi-dreamt up world of the American star.
Lust For Life is out now via Polydor