Cherries and peaches. Dancing on the Hollywood sign. Coachella and the North Korean threat. Trapping lovers with daisy chains. Mix it all together with a dash of moody melodrama, and you’ve got yourself the next iconic Lana Del Rey record. But this time, replacing the usual seductive scowl on her album covers, she’s back with a glowing smile.
Does a happier Lana mean happier songs? A change from her cinematic, melancholic aesthetic? Well, to some extent yes, there are definitely some new tricks she’s played a hand at. With diverse collaborations from the likes of A$AP Rocky to Sean Lennon, Lust For Life immediately sets itself apart from her previous albums, the latter of which would normally give the feeling that Del Rey was in a beautifully tragic world of her own. However, even with the introduction of musical collabs, 2017 sees her firmly asserting how this isn’t a signal for a need for other musical artists to enhance her sound, but rather, a chance for other artists to enhance their own by getting a taste of the Del Rey experience, then artfully meld their form to match with her own elegantly established style. The title track itself is a prime example, with The Weeknd’s glossy falsettos teemed up with Del Rey’s breathy vocals creating a stunningly ethereal vibe, with the seductive approach to embracing life being a far cry from lyrics such as “we were born to die” from the haunting older classic Born To Die.
On the other hand, the album itself is still very Lana, but an arguably more down-to-earth version of her usually dreamy and distanced persona. Addressing more current political fears than ever before and directing lyrics at her millennial audience, it’s evident that she’s realised it’s time to sing about more than just tortured love. Obviously there’s a lot of that too - leaving behind her recurring roots of tragic romance and stylized ‘50s and ‘60s pop culture references just wouldn’t be right. Still, the bigger picture shows a transition into a more worldly artist embodying everything she feels strongly about through poignant lyrics and lush harmonies, whilst still remaining true to the image she’s carved for herself over the years.
If you could describe Lana Del Rey in a nutshell, it would be track twelve, Beautiful People, Beautiful Problems, featuring Stevie Nicks. With nostalgia being a theme prevalent in most of her music, this one gracefully takes us back to 2012, with lyrics like “it’s more than just a video game” quite obviously tapping at the well-loved Video Games that first brought her to our attention. Some songs tend to remain less memorable, such as White Mustang and When The World Was At War We Kept Dancing, even with tender falsettos and promisingly vintage titles, but even then they fit well into the album which probably just feels extensive because of its sixteen tracks. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing when the beautifully confusing poetic metaphors and sophisticated execution of her songs is rarely lacking in quality. The orchestral stylization and hypnotic vocals in every track enhances the very essence of her, and this album is no exception.
The first single, Love, is a mesmerizingly nostalgic song directed at the fans that kept her going so long: “Look at you kids, you know you’re the coolest / The world is yours and you can’t refuse it”, going on to sing about the novelty of being young and in love. The real talent here, then, is jumping from this to singing of the worry of war, with a slick musical leap and about just as much poetry in either song. Because if you hadn’t noticed by now, Del Rey finds a way to make almost anything seem poetic. Of course she’d somehow poetically link dancing at Coachella to tensions mounting with North Korea, in Coachella – Woodstock In My Mind. However, the raw honesty and thoughtfulness of the message, including the lyrical tribute to Stairway to Heaven, somehow just seems to work.
Other highlights include 13 Beaches, which encompasses that “I don’t belong in the world, that’s what it is / Something separates me from other people” feeling, and expresses angst at paparazzi stealing simple luxuries such as finding an empty beach. Summer Bummer with A$AP Rocky is either a love-it-or-hate-it kind of tune, with eerie trills and a monotonous tone throughout – the more depressing version of Summertime Sadness, really – whilst Tomorrow Never Came almost feels like a tribute to The Beatles whilst collaborating with Sean Lennon and tastefully name-dropping his parents John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
With Get Free ending the album on a pleasantly optimistic and open-ended outlook of the direction she’s taking, “I wanna move out of the black / Into the blue”, we can only guess this isn’t the last we’ll be seeing of her transition to adding sprinkles of real life into her fantastical universe of faded Hollywood glamour. Lust For Life shows that she’s somewhat changed to fit in with a more fast-paced world around her, but simultaneously, her music remains nothing short of being a tool for escapism. If anything, after giving this album a listen, there’s nothing more you’ll want to do than to dance with your lover on the H of the Hollywood sign.