Music

Lana Del Rey: Lust for Life

Photo: Neil Krug

Lust for Life postures itself above all as Lana Del Rey's most optimistic, political, and globally conscious record to date.


Lana Del Rey

Lust for Life

Label: Interscope
US Release Date: 2017-07-21
UK Release Date: 2017-07-21
Amazon
iTunes

Lana Del Rey will likely go down as one of the most iconic pop stars of the 2010s, not least because of the questions she raises (and the anxieties she provokes) about authenticity, irony, and nostalgia. Throughout her already storied career, it has been ambiguous which aspects of her persona are "genuine", and which, if any, are presented with a sly, knowing wink. At first, critics did not quite know what to make of this facile conundrum, and early readings of Del Rey's 2012 debut Born to Die tore into the album for its apparent artifice.

Though Del Rey has courted such controversy and speculation about her persona, she has also on occasion broken the fourth wall to demand proper recognition for her artistry. "They judge me like a picture book / By the colors, like they forgot to read," she lamented on "Brooklyn Baby", from her sophomore album Ultraviolence. On her latest release and fourth LP, Lust for Life, she once again seeks to escape from the warped prism of public perception, beseeching, "Take me as I am, don't see me for what I'm not" on "God Bless America - and All the Beautiful Women in It".

Indeed, though little has fundamentally changed in Del Rey's aesthetic philosophy over her four studio albums, she has carved out a space for herself in the universe of music criticism through sheer resilience. It has become somewhat old hat to litigate Del Rey's (in)authenticity, and instead more pertinent to theorize the statements she makes in weaving her musical maze of images, icons, and collective pop cultural memories.

Lust for Life arrives at the most established and stable point in her career thus far, then. The familiar tropes are all here: she overtly pays homage to pop music from the 1960s and '70s, naming the album itself after Iggy Pop's 1977 record of the same name and offering to be "your tiny dancer" on "Tomorrow Never Came", to name just a few. And yet, the first half of the record is also as hip-hop-infused as Del Rey's music has been since Born to Die. She seamlessly weaves features from A$AP Rocky and Playboi Carti into her aesthetic on "Summer Bummer", the slow, bass-heavy beats mitigating the glacial plodding that characterized so much of her previous album, Honeymoon.

The album becomes more pensive and emotive toward its second half, particularly in its final third or so. With song titles like "Beautiful People Beautiful Problems" and "Heroin", there are several warning signs of Del Rey's unfortunate vice of romanticizing pain and tragedy. In actuality, though, she tackles the subject matter with grace and empathy. The latter track, allusions to the Charles Manson murders notwithstanding, ranks with previous Del Rey triumphs like Ultraviolence's "Old Money" in its somber, melodic poignancy.

Lust for Life postures itself above all as Lana Del Rey's most optimistic, political, and globally conscious record to date. Much in the same way that Katy Perry has begun making so-called "purposeful pop", here Del Rey questions her role as a musician in ushering in a better world. These moments are most effective when tempered with personal nuance, as on "Change", an expressive, evocative piano number that reverberates with pain as much as it yearns for peacefulness. "There's something in the wind, I can feel it blowing in / It's coming in softly on the wings of a song," she sings, clearly positing a role for musicians in crafting utopia. Less effective, though, is the inane "Coachella – Woodstock in my Mind", which for some reason uses the titular music festival as a symbol for all that's good and in need of preservation in the world.

At 16 tracks, Lust for Life is overlong and sometimes unfocused, with inevitable dips in quality here and there. The album's poppiest moments, like "Love" and "Lust for Life", shimmer with Del Rey's newfound optimism, but even these can ring somewhat hollow compared with the smoky menace of her past work, or the incisive pathos of this record's deep cuts. On the gorgeous closer "Get Free", she maintains an ambivalent hopefulness for the future, at first despairing over the elusiveness of progress ("There's no more chasing rainbows / And hoping for an end to them / Their arches are illusions"), while still maintaining, "I want to move out of the black / Into the blue". It is in achieving this tension between holding and releasing the pain that Lust for Life feels most poignant and, indeed, most purposeful, charting a compelling and believable map for the future.

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.

Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

‘The Avengers’ Offer a Lesson for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Music

How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.

Music

Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.