Album Review: Lana Del Rey’s ‘Lust For Life’ is honest and hopeful
By Alexandra Bouras
Lana Del Rey has been enchanting the music scene since 2011; ever since the hauntingly bittersweet “Video Games” and it’s transfixing homemade music video hit the internet. Del Rey has established herself as the quintessential sad girl and the 2010’s embodiment of Old Hollywood glamour. Her vintage 60’s sound and style, combined with her melancholic lyrics and distinct crooning voice have set her apart from the rest of the music scene, and has garnered her a large following.
As someone who has been following Del Rey’s journey since the release of Born To Die in 2012, it’s clear to see the lyrical and musical differences showcased in this particular album, and connecting that to Del Rey’s growth as an artist. While her past albums dwelled in themes of sadness, rebellion, and rage, Lust For Life comes from a different place.
For starters, the album art is beautiful. It stands out from what we’ve seen from her before; no more pouty faces or looking off into the distance with serious stares. Lust For Life’s cover features Del Rey front and center, standing in front of an old green truck, with flowers in her hair and a big smile on her face. It seems in this case, we can judge a book (album) by it’s cover, as the music within is just as refreshing.
Although the first track, “Love”, initially sounds like something you would find off Born To Die, the lyrics reveal that this is a soft, joyful ballad, simply about the wonders of being in love- a far cry from Del Rey’s previous songs discussing heartbreak, toxic relationships, and abuse. Del Rey stays true to her vintage indie sound, but evolves to make it compliment her new inspiration. “Lust For Life” is another wonderful example of her musical development. Featuring an entrancing collaboration with The Weeknd, it and brings the listener to the conclusion that Del Rey no longer wishes she were “dead already” (as she told The Guardian during a controversial 2014 interview). This song is the perfect title track, as it emcompasses the entire feel of the album: Del Rey is back, she’s cooler than ever, and she has a brand new outlook on life, which translates into some spellbinding music.
Moving away from her lighter tracks, “When the World Was at War We Kept Dancing” is a surprisingly poignant discussion about the problems our country is facing today. Although things are uncertain, Del Rey assures us that hope will pull us through, as it has always done in the past. “Coachella – Woodstock in My Mind” feels like a follow up, with an important political message disguised under Del Rey’s velvety voice. She makes allusions between notable music festivals, reminiscing on their freedom and joy, and contrasting it with the fear of our world today. It feels like an indie pop nod to John Lennon’s “Imagine”- of course, Del Rey’s track lacks the power and worldwide acclaim of the original, but she does a wonderful job of delivering a thought-provoking and beautiful message.
Speaking of John Lennon, “Tomorrow Never Came”, Del Rey’s folky duet with his son, is a prime example of the superb vocal collaborations on Lust For Life. Along with the Weeknd and Sean Ono Lennon, A$AP Rocky appears on two tracks, “Summer Bummer” and “Groupie Love”, bringing out Del Rey’s hip hop roots. Stevie Nicks joins in as well on “Beautiful People, Beautiful Problems”, and their two voices blend together beautifully. Lust For Life absolutely knocks it out of the park with the guest singers.
Although Lust For Life is very refreshing, some tracks off the album are a miss. “Cherry” and “White Mustang”, despite already being fan favorites, sound more like they should be on one of Del Rey’s older albums, and they don’t feel as new or exciting. A few other songs, for example, “13 Beaches” and “In My Feelings” seem to get lost in the mix, not being notable enough to stand out from the other great songs on the album.
By no means is Lust For Life perfect, but it’s good that way. The album itself is bright and hopeful, despite it facing challenges along the way. Del Rey’s newest album is closed by “Get Free”, her personal manifesto with an upbeat tempo and optimistic lyrics: “I never really noticed that I had to decide/To play someone’s game or live my own life/And now I do/I wanna move/Out of the black/Into the blue”. No one can be completely sure of where “the blue” is, or what it means, but Lust For Life is Lana Del Rey’s first step there, and it’s wonderful.