Like any of Lana Del Rey’s albums, it takes a few listens for “Lust for Life” to grow on you. No topic is too taboo for Del Rey on her fifth album: drugs, groupies and the state of the union are all fair game.
Arguably the most reminiscent of her “Born To Die” days than any of her other albums, “Lust For Life’s” sound takes us back to Del Rey’s 2012 debut. While overall, it has more of a drowsy feel, tracks like “Love” and “13 Beaches” remind fans why they fell in love with Del Rey in the first place. Both songs are dreamy, beautiful and not too heavy, as if to prepare for what’s to come.
But the album still features some unique twists of its own. While Del Rey’s affinity for hip-hop can be heard in almost all of her previous work, “Lust For Life” marks the artist’s first foray into trap with “Summer Bummer” featuring A$AP Rocky and Playboi Carti. Despite its catchiness, the song an underwhelming attempt at the genre.
Rocky and Carti are among Del Rey’s first ever featured artists, as “Lust For Life” is her only album to include collaborations. The Weeknd, Stevie Nicks and Sean Ono Lennon also share the spotlight with Del Rey on “Lust For Life,” “Beautiful People Beautiful Problems” and “Tomorrow Never Came,” respectively. Rocky also has a verse in “Groupie Love.”
The album’s title track is classic Del Rey with its 60s-inspired beats and echoey sound. The haunting musical stylings of The Weeknd only further add to the song’s charm. The track is successful in that its composition sounds as much like Del Rey as it does The Weeknd. However, the 2015 collaboration between the duo in “Prisoner,” featured on The Weeknd’s “Beauty Behind the Madness,” is slightly stronger.
Cheesy lyrics are expected from Del Rey, but they cheapen tracks that could’ve had much greater potential. The direct mention of John Lennon and Yoko Ono in “Tomorrow Never Came” comes off as tacky, considering Sean Ono Lennon is featured on the song. Del Rey continues, “‘Isn’t life crazy?’ I said/Now that I’m singing with Sean,” breaking the fourth wall even further, and not in an artful way. While tacky, they can be forgiven in that they’re undoubtably self-aware.
“Heroin” also lingers into this territory with the lyric “Life rocked me like Mötley,” which doesn’t fit within a song that otherwise references the late 60s. “Topanga’s hot today, and Manson’s in the air” and “Oh, writin’ in blood on my walls and shit” clearly allude upon Charles Manson’s “Family” and the gruesome Tate-La Bianca murders they committed in 1969. The ballad is saved by its gorgeously gloomy melody and clever comparison between drugs and stardom.
Previously, Del Rey wasn’t an artist known for openly expressing her political views, but she does so in multiple songs on “Lust for Life.” In an Instagram caption, Del Rey wrote that the idea for “Coachella – Woodstock In My Mind” came from the guilt she felt while dancing at the Coachella Festival in the midst of rising US tensions with North Korea.
While the message of the song is admirable, it isn’t nearly as well executed as “God Bless America – And All the Beautiful Women In It,” another politically minded track on the album. According to Del Rey, the song is about the fight for women’s rights, and also touches upon the artist’s appreciation for her own personal relationships with the women in her life.
“When the World Was at War We Kept Dancing” is stronger still. Del Rey mourns our current state, “Is it the end of an era?/Is it the end of America?” She urges young people to “throw [their] hands up and get loose,” and stand up for what they believe in. Del Rey goes on to say that, “If we hold on to hope/We’ll have a happy ending,” but warns that the fight will never be over, “And we’ll do it again.”
Both songs share beautiful compositions and smart lyrics, and don’t stray from Del Rey’s classic sound.
Despite a few weak links, “Lust for Life” maintains a more mature feel than any of Del Rey’s previous work. What should be focused on is her ability to create a 16-song album that remains cohesive, and features what Del Rey is best at: mixing whimsy with just the right amount of realism.
Must-listens: “Cherry,” “Heroin”
Skip: “Coachella – Woodstock In My Mind,” “In My Feelings”