A while ago, around when Donald Trump was elected, someone on social media made a joke saying something like “Lana Del Rey is an Obama-era luxury we can’t afford anymore.” At first I scoffed, because I don’t think all art needs to directly address the issues currently plaguing society, that sometimes it’s okay to just listen to a pop record about breaking hearts and missing people and getting high on the beach. But I also kind of agreed: does the world really need another LP of torch holding anthems when our rights are up for grabs?
I wonder if somehow this message got through to Lana Del Rey, because her new album Lust For Life seems like a concerted effort was made to incorporate ideas about politics and recent events. The album as a whole is less internally gravitating than her previous albums, which I could equate to relationship-driven short story collections. Lust For Life has Lana looking outwardly, asking questions about the state of the world, and kind of shaking her head at what she’s seeing.
Let me just say really quick: I had no idea this album was coming out the same week my Born To Die by Lana Del Rey inspired poetry collection (My Posey Taste Like: The Paradise Lost Edition) became available for pre-sale from Bottlecap Press. It feels like kismet and I’m cool with that. Lol plug done, let me talk about this album.
Lust For Life is a very summery album, it sounds like summer and everything you associate with that: fleeting romance, vague longing, warmth that wraps you. The sounds engulf you in an atmosphere you slowly and carefully move heavily through, as if in a dream or underwater. I’m imagining wading in a swimming pool, dunking my head under the surface and listening to the soft muffling of being completely surrounded but not swallowed up, as if by sunshine, as if by salty ocean air.
Lust For Life has 17 tracks and I don’t think they all belong. Some of the tracks just don’t fit as well as the others, so I made a playlist and only included the songs from the album that I thought really thematically worked together. This is my mood album:
- Lust For Life (feat. the Weeknd)
- 13 Beaches
- White Mustang
- Summer Bummer (feat. ASAP Rocky)
- Groupie Love (feat. ASAP Rocky)
- In My Feelings
- When The World Was At War We Kept Dancing
- Get Free
Track 9: “Coachella- Woodstock In My Mind” gahh, corny song about thinking about all the children and poor people in the world while watching Father John Misty, probably, swing his hips on stage at an overpriced outdoor music festival *skip* Though I must admit I’ve caught myself humming the melody while riding my bike. The melody is good.
Track 10: “God Bless America- And All The Beautiful Women In It” another corny-trying-too-hard-to-be-socially-conscious song. Like I get what she’s saying, I guess, but I don’t think it’s that good and I don’t even like the beat. But like give me a week or two and this might end up being my favorite song. But maybe not. I can’t really tell right now. I’m listening to it now and I’m enjoying the vocals underneath the main vocals, the ad libs. I used to hate the song “West Coast” off Ultraviolence but now it’s one of my favorites. I’m too judgmental maybe.
Track 12: the Stevie Nicks feature “Beautiful People, Beautiful Problems” isn’t too horrible, and I think it’s actually growing on me, but it breaks my soft-drown vibe so it’s off my playlist.
Track 13: “Tomorrow Never Came” the Sean Ono Lennon filler. FILLER. Okay, good that you got John and Yoko’s kid on your record but does anyone listen to his music or give a shit about his artistic career? I don’t think so. And this song just isn’t very good. Who waits for someone on a park bench in the pouring rain besides sadass Phil Collins?
The ASAP Rocky features are my favorite features on the album. The title track with The Weeknd is good, and it makes sense that they are still working together and I am happy that they are, but I really love LDR and AR together, ever since the “National Anthem” music video. “Summer Bummer” makes me want to ride around with a friend in their car smoking blunts with the windows rolled down and trying to find a house party to crash. “Groupie Love” is also really cute, like ASAP Rocky just loves seeing ” my bae” stand in the front row reciting all the lyrics to his songs “like a hype man.”
Okay, let me talk about “White Mustang” for a moment. The song is only two minutes and 44 seconds long and according to my computer I’ve already listened to it 43 times. We’ve got all the elements of an LDR widow’s walk classic: sad piano minor chords, spooky percussion, expressions of regret and gloominess despite the season, haunting whistling at the end. The whistling, I could listen to just the whistling section on loop for a few hours and totally love it.
I’ve said it once, I’ll say it some more: I can’t think of anyone who is able to encapsulate nostalgia and this very specific somber and sultry aesthetic into a song the way that Lana Del Rey does. She is a master at crafting this artificial longing, unreal except in the world you create while you’re listening to her.
Songs like “White Mustang” leave me missing a person or thing I’ve never known or experienced, and honestly that is one of my favorite things that music can do to me.
Lust For Life marks a transition for Lana Del Rey, a kind of growing up, an evolution of worldview. The sound and content are dynamic, but as a collection it doesn’t quite feel as cohesive as her third studio album, Ultraviolence. However, I think the playlist of 12 tracks I slimmed down from the original 17 does a pretty good job of maintaining a fluid narrative and emotional arc.
As for the Obama-era luxury remark, I think Lana Del Rey is here to surprise us. Performing witchcraft against Donald Trump and writing songs like “When The World Was At War We Kept Dancing” which asks the question “Is it the end of an era? Is it the end of America?” and imparts a message of resistance despite the negative forces against us. There is an apparent growth in the content of her material. She’s trying things. She’s shaking it up.
Take a look at the cover of Lust For Life and compare it to her previous album covers. Notice something different? She’s smiling, she looks happy, she looks relaxed and ready, “like smiling when the firing squad’s against you.”