Review Summary: It's better than I ever even knew
Del Rey’s vintage look and feel has always seemed like a gimmick. She wants us to imagine flower-haired children running barefoot through the grass, protesters brandishing acoustic guitars while passing a joint around, and pin-up models helping an entire gender break free from repression. Basically, she's one of the best 1960s pop stars to be born in 1985, now playing the part of hipster fodder at age thirty two. Aside from the obvious fact that her approach has been extremely successful, Lana still finds herself inexplicably fading away – a product of Honeymoon
’s relative flatness and diminishing overall returns on a sound that hasn’t changed since she first broke through with 2011’s ‘Video Games.’ On an album where it would have been sensible to expect some sort of observable departure, Lust For Life
ends up bringing us even more of the absolute same stuff
…and somehow it ends up being her best record to date. I’d offer some insight into why this makes sense, but it doesn’t. That’s the odd thing about music, and especially Elizabeth Grant’s stubbornly antiquated style: you never know how, when, or why it will all come together and suddenly make sense – it just does
. For Lana Del Rey, Lust For Life
seems to be that moment.
Del Rey’s music has seen very few shifts over the years, so there’s no denying that this record’s appeal comes from something other than a Weeknd feature. Personally, I think that this album feels more vital and fresh not because of what resides inside of it – although there are statements to be made to that point – but rather due to the circumstances surrounding it. Context has a lot of power in music, and Lana’s motifs never fully resonated when progressive ideas and liberal movements seemed to be at an all-time high. In the current political climate, however, many people are looking for their version of a protest; some sort of generational push equivalent to the flower movement of the late 60s and early 70s. With references to Woodstock, gun violence, the president, and much more, Lust For Life
finally sees Lana Del Rey’s message coming into its own. Her throwback image feels ironic in the age of “making America great again”, while her forlorn voice and potent free-spirit imagery now seems more contextual than gimmicky. It’s like the past
came to her
, and the vibe that spreads across Lust For Life
feels like an aligning of the stars.
“You’re part of the past, but now you’re the future”, Del Rey dreamily sings as the curtain opens on ‘Love’, a song that bolsters her trademark cynicism with the faint sound of a gunshot as she lithely breathes out the words, “to be young and in love.” It’s hard to discern whether Lana has become a better lyricist capable of more subtle irony in her music, or if the external climate of the music has people like me digging for additional meaning. Either way, it’s little moments like this that etch a slight separation between Lust For Life
and its predecessors. Whereas many of the loosely political or social metaphors of the past have felt artificially constructed, here they sound genuine. On ‘Change’, when she sings “There's a change gonna come, I don't know where or when / But whenever it does, we'll be here for it”, there’s an underlying bitterness that almost feels confrontational. When ‘God Bless America – And All the Beautiful Women In It’ rolls around, the “God bless America
” is followed quickly by two loud gunshots. On ‘When The World Was At War We Kept Dancing’, she ponders, “Is it the end of an era? Is it the end of America?” I don’t want to over-politicize the album (it’s probably too late), but it’s clear that these words that Lana Del Rey has been singing – this image
she’s been peddling – now means something to her, even if it started as little more than a marketing ploy. She finds herself front-and-center in a dream-laden, flowery protest album that sounds as though it was transposed from the precise era that she’s always desperately sought to emulate.
Lust For Life
brings a lot to the table outside of its political elements, although it’s nothing we haven’t heard from her before. She romanticizes just about everything – even toxic relationships – and keeps the pace of the entire experience somewhere between a dream and a slow walk along the California coastline. The experience runs seventy-two minutes long, which is usually a death sentence for a pop record, but Lust For Life
gets away with it in part because it is so easy to get lost in. The starkest differences between this record and her others – even her biggest success to date, Born to Die
– is the overall consistency from start to end. Lana Del Rey has historically been a mixed-bag artist, where it’s oftentimes more beneficial to the listener to stash away the gems within a playlist than it is to subject her or himself to an hour of dreary nostalgia. The stylings that compose her musical approach have not been drastically altered, and Lust For Life
may still at times present a challenge to get through in its entirety, but it’s the most listenable and gradually shifting piece in her catalogue. Considering that she may never totally shake up her sound, this is the most significant development of her six year career.
Chalk Lust For Life
up as a pleasant surprise. Given the trajectory of the albums leading up to this, it seemed like Lana Del Rey was on a gradual but undeniable collision course with irrelevance. Each release felt like a slightly more diluted version of an experience that hit us hard and fast on Born to Die
. This is an undeniable resurgence, and it comes without Ms. Grant having to change much at all. Call it the political/social context, or perhaps consistent songwriting – but the only thing I can be sure of is that this rivals her best work. On top of that, it has about fifty percent less “clunkers” to boot. If you had plans to skip over this release (just as I did), then I advise that you reconsider. Even if Lust For Life
isn’t a game changer, it fulfills the potential of a sound that she has been slowly perfecting since she first entered the scene. The album, like Lana Del Rey, has earned the right not to be overlooked.