Out of all of the vintage acts to have come out in recent times, Lana Del Rey is one of the few artists that has pulled it off to some degree. Her music has baffled people ever since her famous SNL performance, all the way to her newest album Lust For Life. With a total track number of sixteen, Lana Del Rey's newest release is a lot to take in.
At first listen, the album kind of reminds me of Father John Misty's Pure Comedy, if not only for its aesthetic value. After reviewing a couple of new pop/rock records recently, something I noticed was the comeback of strings, which I'm guessing is the way modern artists are adding a touch of class and sophistication to their songwriting. Just like with Oh Wonder's new record (you can find my review of that album here) and HAIM's Something To Tell You (find my review of this release here), the presence of piano/string arrangements gives each song a newness that is unique to releases starting half-way through 2017. Even Tyler, The Creator's new album Flower Boy has string arrangements that sound like they are ushering in a new era of music that has something more to offer the listener. Hopefully this trend continues into the future, because I feel that it does add a layer that has never been added before, whether it is because of the current pop-culture climate or natural evolution of modern music. The actual string/piano music that is being created is also unique in the way that it sounds like it was just as influenced by classical as it was hip-hop. My opinion is that this trend will continue into the future and bridge the gap between modern R'n'B and pop, which is already pretty similar.
The lyrics, at least the ones that stood out to me after the first couple listens, describe an alternate reality of Lana Del Rey's imagination, full of vintage cars, white sandy beaches, Hollywood daydreaming, and the tragedy of being a 20-something millennial living a glamorous lifestyle. There seems to be a lot of meeting with friends and drug/sex innuendos characteristic of Lana Del Rey's music. Other than the first two hit tracks "Love" and "Lust For Life", the three songs that stood out to me on the first half were "Summer Bummer", "Groupie Love", and "In My Feelings", each for a different reason. "Summer Bummer" is Lana Del Rey's way of commenting and capitalizing on the theme that worked so well on her mega-hit "Summertime Sadness", which is what a lot of people in the general population know her for. "Groupie Love" is a song that hit me at first for being incredibly well written, whether it's the interesting chord progression/melody, the lyrical irony of talking about groupies, or the feature from A$AP Rocky. "In My Feelings" reminded me so much of BØRNS' song "Electric Love" probably because I just reviewed his album Dopamine, which you can find here. "Coachella – Woodstock In My Mind" is no doubt the most humorous song, poking fun at the modern music festival phenomenon, while at the same time staying within the theme of 1960's California through the yearning of wanting something that was never really there in the first place, in this song the consumer-friendly Coachella contrasted with the "real" and "organic" Woodstock.
Starting with "Coachella – Woodstock In My Mind", the second half of the album seems to be asking a question rather than being a yearning for something, that question being: Is the world we live in really what we want for ourselves? How I think she pulls this off is by using patriotism in a nostalgic sense, almost as if showing that the way we love America today is actually harmful for our futures. It's an interesting take, and I think Lana Del Rey's answer to her own question is found somewhere in her lyrics, if not all of them. In "When The World Was At War We Kept Dancing", Lana Del Rey asks a rhetorical question, "Is it the end of America?", to which she replies with a declaration of dancing through the constant worrying of what's next. I can't help but to agree with her optimism, especially because she even pulls it off with a double meaning, comparing the attitude America had during the wars of the 1900's to now, as well as referencing the early Stanley Kubrick movie Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.
The features on this album seem specially picked to add to the overall atmosphere, including The Weeknd, A$AP Rocky, Playboi Carti, Stevie Nicks, and Sean Ono Lennon. Out of all of them, The Weeknd is obviously the most important and popular being on the leading single "Lust For Life", but my favorite feature was probably Sean Ono Lennon on the song "Tomorrow Never Came", with a play on the classic Beatles' song "Tomorrow Never Knows", suggesting possibly the tomorrow without John Lennon himself. The song "Heroin", not to be confused with heroine, a female protagonist, is, I'm guessing, about either someone she knows struggling with a drug addiction or the overall trend of famous musicians overdosing on heroin and similar drugs. If anything, it shows the hypocrisy of worshipping people that are obviously struggling with real problems like addiction. The true problem, which never seems to be solved, is the way that people just ignore the obvious cries for help just because they are blinded by their love for that person's music. I talked about this in my post on the 27 Club, called "The 27 Club: Forever 27", and you can find that here.
At the end of the day, to truly understand the intricacies of this album and its many levels or irony, you first have to understand where Lana Del Rey is coming from. She has released five full albums, and has a huge fan base, but at the same time, she has never been able to really achieve the mainstream success she probably deserves at this point. I don't think it bothers her much; you can tell that in her aesthetic and confidence that ties together all of her albums and live performances. Probably what people see more than her ability to create good albums is the fact that her live performances seem to not bring the same level of magic. Whether or not this is true, I can't say, but I would give this album a solid fresh. I wouldn't give it the Nacho Libre stamp of approval, but I do think it's a good album. I would suggest listening to it if you liked any of her previous material. Thanks for reading, and as always, God Bless America.