By Tara Fitzpatrick
Lana Del Rey returns with her fourth studio album full of her staple brand of bluesy, sultry melodies with a topical and often lighter twist.
The most continuously striking thing about Lana Del Rey is how little her music, since her critically-acclaimed debut Born To Die in 2012, sounds like anything else in the industry. The languid tones and slow-rhythmic choruses coupled with her low, ethereal vocals are difficult to compare with the her contemporaries.
It is a testament to Del Rey’s own artistic vision, therefore, that Lust For Life, having more musical collaborations than any of its three predecessors, still sounds very much and very distinctly like a Lana Del Rey record.
The title track, released with a video in May, is a duo with Canadian star The Weeknd. While the euphoric lyrics and catchy chorus make for a decent single, this collaboration is by no means the album’s stand out.
A$AP Rocky, Playboi Carti and Sean Ono Lennon also make appearances throughout and, while their contributions add a fun R&B dynamic to tracks such as Summer Bummer and Groupie Love, their presence is ultimately overshadowed by the vocals and distinctive genre of Del Rey herself.
The stand out collaboration is undoubtedly with Stevie Nicks on the track Beautiful People Beautiful Problems. This enchanting blend leaves the listener questioning why a Del Rey-Nicks partnership wasn’t founded sooner; it is evident how Del Rey’s vocal style has been inspired by the distinctive flare of Nicks’.
Lust For Life, was teased by a kooky, black-and-white trailer in which Del Rey, who lives “right inside the H of the Hollywood sign… perched high above the chaos which swirls within the City of Angels below”, dwells upon the “transition” under which America is going and considers what her contribution to the world should be “in these dark times”. The irony that America’s poster girl for fatalism has found optimism at a time when her country is on the brink of despair is not lost on Del Rey, whose lyrics are uncharacteristically embedded with references to this tumultuous period of US politics.
She worries about the children, “and their children’s children” while looking around a festival crowd in Coachella – Woodstock in My Mind. The tenth track, God Bless America – And All The Beautiful Women In It, is another example of the topical influences which filter through. The chorus, punctuated by the sound of gunshots, plays like an anthem to January’s Womens’ March on Washington. The song is followed by When The War Was Over We Kept Dancing which opens with a simple, gentle guitar rhythm leading onto a chorus which asks “Is It The End of America?”
Del Rey’s message is ultimately hopeful however, as she answers her question with: “It’s only the Beginning”. Indeed, Lust For Life feels lighter than the gloomy tones of past work. The cover art shows Del Rey beaming with a smile and flowers in her hair – a significant departure from the forlorn expressions worn on the covers of albums Ultraviolence and Born To Die. Lust For Life sees Del Rey fantasise about hazy, early 1970s summers, search for peace from fame on California beaches and dance on the H of the Hollywood sign. It seems her contribution to these dark times is a fun, beautiful love note to life.