Lana Del Rey 'Lust For Life' Review
‘Is Lana Del Rey the American Morrisey’?
Pitchfork asking all the killer questions, and hitting the nail on the head when it comes to my personal apathy for Lana Del Rey. The thought of an ‘American Morrisey’ is totally nauseating to me, but so is tuna pasta bake and the smell of roses, so maybe I’m the fool here.
I wish I cared enough to labour the point on Lana and Steven’s shared blend of hyperbolic nostalgia, but if you love Morrisey in all his moody pretensions, Lust For Life is gonna nestle real nice in your record collection. If you don’t, take the A$AP Rocky collabs and leave the rest.
In the era of the dextrous pop-star, Del Rey is refusing to deviate from the breathless melancholia that made her name in 2011. Her fourth major-label album, Del Rey has emerged from the difficulties of navigating her first offerings… with exactly the same sound she’s always had. Produced by Rick Nowels, Del Rey argued she wanted nothing but ‘yes men’ producing this record, and her refusal to adapt or be challenged shows. Clear effort has been made to ‘mix up’ the sound on Lust For Life, but I don’t buy her smiling face on the cover and lazy Weeknd collab as a seismic mix up.
The current trend for collaborative work is a tricky balance to get right. Executed well – see Drake’s More Life – the result can be a diverse body of work, exploring different styles with a coherent theme. Sampha, Skepta and 2 Chainz are juicy embellishments to *Drake* songs. In Lust For Life, Lana is eclipsed by her partners.
It’s a brave woman who duets with Stevie Nicks on 'Beautiful People Beautiful Problems'. When questioned, she gushed about Stevie describing her undeniably weaker voice on the track as ‘her little echo’, but I’m not sure being described as an ‘echo’ on your own record is much to shout about.
Not content to let the nostalgia lie with Stevie Nicks, Sean Ono Lennon crops up on ‘Tomorrow Never Came’, The Beatles homage literally no one wanted. Trying to keep up with the giants is commendable, but comparisons to Fleetwood Mac and The Beatles leave the record exposed, and this weird power struggle is worst on A$AP Rocky and Playboi Carti’s ‘Summer Bummer’. A hazy trap bop, it’s a standout on Lust For Life, but the credit lies with A$AP and Playboi. They bring a legitimately fresh sound, and whilst Del Rey tries to keep up lyrically, I can’t let ‘Hip-hop for the summer / don’t be a bummer, babe’ escape unscathed.
On her solo tracks, Lust For Life is unmemorable, but I don’t mean that in an entirely negative way. The album is totally listenable, but it’s background music. Forgettable music. ‘I need something on while I stir a risotto for 2 hours’ music. Without sharp interruptions from Stevie or A$AP, it’s genuinely hard to tell one track from the other, as Del Rey’s inarguably dreamy voice drips from ballad to yet another ballad.
Thematically, I respect her attempts to drag Lust For Life deep into the zeitgeist of 2017, and there are some genuinely insightful lyrics. ‘God Bless America – And All The Beautiful Women In It’ is a refreshing take on women’s rights in the Trump era, and ‘Coachella – Woodstock In My Mind’ (gross title aside) is a remarkable commentary on recent pop tragedy. Reflecting on large, vulnerable crowds at Coachella, ‘What about all these children? / And what about their parents?’ hits home after Manchester in a way Del Rey can’t have predicted, and erased much of my cynicism for Lust For Life.
Lust For Life is stuck in a much bigger debate on reinvention and predictability. This album IS predictable, but in the best way. Del Rey has delivered a record every part as vocally luscious and richly melancholic as Ultraviolence and Honeymoon, and it’s a solid album. For the unconverted, however, Lust For Life won’t stir much new devotion, and I can’t see myself listening to it in August. Maybe summer in London is just way too much of a bummer for any accompanying misery.
Follow Sarah on Twitter @sarah_margetson
Album artwork property of Polydor and Interscope records.