Lana Del Rey’s fifth studio album, Lust for Life, is exactly what we would expect from the melancholic pop songstress. She follows her usual formula, crooning over string arrangements and trap beats, while exploring notions of war and peace in a troubled nation. Her inspirations delve into the current political climate and draws references from the Vietnam era, reminding the listener that love and music may ease the path in darkness.
Sonically, the record’s predictability makes it difficult to get past all 16 tracks in one listen and can do without cuts like “13 Beaches,” “White Mustang,” and “Heroin.” Despite this, it is the first time we see Del Rey include collaborations with other artists. A$AP Rocky and Playboi Carti add dimension to the heavily trap influenced “Summer Bummer,” acting as a suitable extension for her hip-hop elements. Meanwhile, The Weeknd and Del Rey demonstrate they can successfully work together in the romantically brooding “Lust for Life,” which serves as one of the best tracks on the record.
The highly anticipated duet with Stevie Nicks, “Beautiful People, Beautiful Problems,” allows us to look at ourselves from the outside. Their sultry voices complement each other well and make for a solid track.
“God Bless America—And All the Beautiful Women in It” is Del Rey’s ode to women’s rights. The subtle hints of Spanish guitar, lush instrumentation, and electronic drum patterns lay the foundation for her voice to carry the feminist mantra. The final chorus is repeatedly layered over a counterpoint melody, transforming the track into a victorious march.
The highlight of the album, “Tomorrow Never Came,” features Sean Ono Lennon and is reminiscent of 60s folk, evoking sadness while retaining a glimmer of hope. Although the context is romantic, it alludes greatly to a major theme of the album: a longing for peace in a time of war. This theme is also evident in “Coachella—Woodstock in My Mind,” with Del Rey singing of living in the moment even when the country is in turmoil. She paints imagery of children’s dreams in an uncertain future, as she remembers “all the love [she] saw that night.” Del Rey also questions the fate of our nation with “When the World Was at War We Kept Dancing” as she sings “Is it the end of an era? Is it the end of America?” This track is the realization that “it’s only the beginning” and all we can do is to keep dancing. With all these tracks, it is clear she was aiming for a hippie-era revolutionary perspective on the record; however, this may have been better achieved if other cuts shared this sound.
The album appropriately closes with “Get Free,” a positive, up-tempo track. The melody is strikingly similar to Radiohead’s “Creep” and in the chorus we can almost hear the iconic bass line from Angelo Badalamenti’s “Twin Peaks Theme.” The outro is hazy and ethereal, our exhale in finally making it “out of the black and into the blue.”
Overall, Lust for Life is forgettable as an album with several filler tracks that seem like recycled versions of each other. However, the record does harbor a few gems that are without a doubt carefully crafted. Lana Del Rey has managed to refine her retro aesthetic while creating a record that is socially conscious of the times we live in.
By Emily Afre