Lana Del Rey
Lust for Life
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
More than half a decade has passed since “Video Games” made Lana Del Rey an instant success story and prompted social media conspiracy theories about her identity as being manufactured by record-industry marketing. Given that she was briefly known as Lizzy Grant beforehand, it’s easy to see how people drew such conclusions, though Del Rey has since proven herself more than a one-viral-hit fluke.
Lust For Life has all the hallmarks of a Lana Del Rey album: Moody torch-song ballads, dark moods, frequent nods to American pop culture and melancholy glamour. And yet, she’s smiling on the cover, with a flower crown in her hair, almost as if she’s sending intentionally mixed signals, like Leonard Cohen’s grin on the cover of Songs Of Love And Hate. This album isn’t as bleak as Cohen’s — few albums are — but it’s also far from the day in the park that its cover art suggests. If anything, it’s an album of stark contrasts, most blatantly apparent when Del Rey sings the title phrase of “God Bless America — And All The Beautiful Women In It” against a gunfire-percussion backdrop.
In the title track, Del Rey quotes “Invictus” and romanticizes the Hollywood sign before trading the lines “take off, take off … take off all your clothes” with The Weeknd, and though the bewilderment and desperation of past songs is still present, it feels hopeful. And in spite of what seems like a premise worthy of cynicism, “Coachella—Woodstock in My Mind” takes a scene of watching Father John Misty at a festival and makes it sound unexpectedly earnest.
The optimism of Lust For Life is a pleasant surprise, though the album is still painted in the same shades as Del Rey’s previous releases. At times it’s some of her best material, but it seems like a record best experienced in pieces than as a proper whole.