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REVIEW: Lana Del Rey – ‘Lust For Life’ (Polydor / Interscope)

  • 8/10
    - 8/10


Lana Del Rey is in a defiant and, dare we say, tentatively happy mood on her fourth album, ‘Lust For Life’.

Looking at her smiling face on the album artwork of her fourth album Lust For Life, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Lana Del Rey has undergone either a radical rebrand or plastic surgery. The absence of her trademark pout and troubled stare is almost… unnerving. Although this might be judging an album by its cover, for an artist so heavily defined by the vintage Hollywood sad-girl image she has carefully crafted for herself, it’s hard not to read into it. That said, this is by no means a ‘transformation’ à la Miley Cyrus or Katy Perry. There’s no shaven heads or weird dancing to be had here. As we know, Lana Del Rey is far more subtle, clever and tasteful than all that.

Opening track ‘Love’ immediately confirms that Del Rey hasn’t strayed far at all from her trademark cinematic, whimsical nostalgia. It’s an almost direct address to an image-obsessed youth who take still pleasure in getting “all dressed up” to go “nowhere in particular”, despite all the madness going on in the Trump-era world. It’s hopeful narrative that’s a far cry from her usual indulgent documentation of tempestuous relationships with the ‘bad guys’ and her deepest, darkest thoughts. Yet here she seems to have a new-found perspective and, dare we say it, positivity.

It’s a theme that continues into the equally upbeat title track. Although the lyrically empty hook, “take off, take off, take off all of your clothes” and choice of The Weeknd smells a bit like a bid for chart success, it’s noteworthy if only for the fact that it’s the first time a Lana Del Rey album has featured vocals other than her own. With a total of five collaborative tracks on the album, it’s surely another sign that she’s reaching out of her isolated comfort zone; albeit to varying degrees of success. The Weeknd’s delicate, airy falsetto seems to get lost amongst Del Rey’s own dulcet tones, resulting in a fairly washed-out track.

The same can be said for Stevie Nicks’ appearance on ‘Beautiful People Beautiful Problems’, which winds up as a mediocre country song rather than the dreamy duet it should’ve been. The hippy vibes are instead delivered by Sean Ono Lennon, who both provides vocals and plays all of the instruments on ‘Tomorrow Never Came’, resulting in a starstruck Lana (“isn’t life crazy?”) It’s an undeniably catchy, warming ballad and is a gig that’s sure to thrust Mr Lennon out of his parents’ shadows.

Yet one of the most unexpectedly good collaborations of Lust For Life (and potentially of the year?) is A$AP Rocky’s appearance. It may seem an unusual match, but is one that actually had its roots back in 2012, when the rapper starred as Lana’s husband in the ‘National Anthem’ video. Hip-hop has always been an undercurrent of Del Rey’s music even as far back as her debut, yet here it comes to the forefront. The eerie, addictive trap beats and rap from A$AP and his latest prodigy Playboi Carti on ‘Summer Bummer’ strays far from the typical Del Rey blueprint. Yet somehow it’s one of the best and most compelling moments of the album, and it’s more than refreshing to hear her dabble in another genre.

That’s not to say Lana’s not compelling on her solo tracks. Amongst the optimism and nostalgia is the usual tales of heartbreak, lust and inner turmoil, and this is where her grittiest material lies. ‘In My Feelings’ is an urgent, sassy middle-finger to an ex-lover, whilst ‘Heroin’ sees her “flying to the moon again dreaming about marzipan” in a haunting, image-rich number. The seductive ‘Cherry’ carries a heavy drum beat and almost futuristic sounds reminiscent of ‘West Coast’ into ‘White Mustang’ where she fully embraces the woe-stricken California girl persona.

After a few lulls such as the uninspiring ‘Change’, passionate final track ‘Get Free’ presents Lana’s ‘manifesto’, in which she commits to leaving her moody ways behind her, moving “out of the black, into the blue”. You’d be a fool to think that all that sadness wasn’t at least partly an image that she sold to us (and which we all we lapped up), but it is something to hear an artist reveal the struggles behind maintaining their reputation, and a desire to be free of it. And frankness and honesty seems to be a theme throughout Lust For Life.

Where Born To Die and Ultraviolence painted a romantic picture of an America full of mystery, allure and riding round the desert on her lovers’ motorbikes, Lust For Life is her realisation of the current state her beloved country is in, and the importance of love and positivity to stay sane. But whilst there may a new spring in her step and a smile on her face, there will always be unfaithful boys and Californian beaches for her to sing about. Don’t worry kids, Lana Del Rey isn’t resigning as the melancholic queen of Hollywood just yet. (8/10) (Alice Williams)

Listen to Lust For Life here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!

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