After a two year hiatus, Elizabeth Woolridge Grant, aka Lana Del Rey, released “Lust For Life,” a glittering new addition to her repertoire of albums. When she announced her new album in a short YouTube video depicting her as a magical figure who lives on the H of the Hollywood sign, linking back to her references to the faded glamour of the 1950s in her other albums such as “Honeymoon,” her fans couldn’t contain themselves in their excitement. But does this album live up to Lana Del Rey’s musical aesthetic, and most of all, is it any good?
At first listen, one cannot ignore the glitzy optimism of the first track, entitled “Love.” There is the use of the minor chords and the slow tempo, which at first makes it seem like many of her other works, but when you listen closely to the lyrics, it contains a shimmer of optimism which is absent in many of her other albums. The middle eight of the song in particular shows the artist’s new-found vivaciousness, as it is simply Grant almost whispering the phrase “Don’t worry baby,” which can almost be interpreted as her comforting the listener, and perhaps even herself, that things will get better. The next track, “Lust For Life,” has very much the same hopeful atmosphere to it. The male vocals in the song, provided by Canadian singer and rapper The Weeknd, are smooth and almost songbird-like, almost calling in the new sun of the morning, a new beginning literally and metaphorically for Grant.
Grant expresses her new-found love of life through a smile gifted to us in music video for “Love”
However, Grant’s hopefulness for the future and optimism seem to disappear from “13 Beaches,” “Cherry,” “White Mustang” and to an extent “In My Feelings.” It is almost as if she returns to her wistful, almost lethargic self, ignoring the fact that she ever did have a “lust for life.” The songs in my opinion seem rushed, almost as if she didn’t have enough songs for an album so she wrote them at the very last minute. However, all albums seem to have “filler songs” in them in order to balance out the more successful ones and to give a different feel to the album, and for me this is what Grant was attempting to do. With “God Bless America (And The Beautiful Women Who Live In It),” Grant links back to songs such as “American” and “National Anthem” from her earlier album “Born To Die” through it’s patriotic, anthem-like atmosphere. This could indicate that Grant is not only optimistic and continues to be enthusiastic for her own career, but for her country too.
However, the thing I find the most interesting about this album is that Grant has begun to introduce a political slant into her music which she has never before. With “Coachella- Woodstock In My Mind,” Grant explores the idea of having fun when the world around her is in such a dire situation, and how she wants to escape that. This becomes obvious when she at first sings, “I was at Coachella, leaning on your shoulder”, which at first sounds optimistic, but she then adds later on, “And what about all their children? And what about their children’s children?”, almost lamenting the struggles of others. She also adds a historical slant on her work in “When The World Was At War We Kept Dancing,” which is a link to the US’s position in World War 2, since whilst the Allies of Britain and France fought the Axis Powers of Germany, Italy and Japan, the US’ film industry boomed, along with it’s culture and fashion. She may not know that’s what she has done, but like everything in this review, it’s just my interpretation. I think this is one of the great successes of this album, since 1) Grant has never done this before in any of her previous albums and 2) it’s a fascinating idea that I personally haven’t really heard any other songwriters in the modern pop industry do.
Even though Grant has changed the way she writes her songs immensely, there are some elements I have noticed that she has kept as a part of her personal style, such as adding her signature siren-like sensuality. “Groupie Love” is a sultry account of a band’s female superfan (a groupie) having a sexual relationship with one of the band members, and I think this is very faithful to the flirtatious femme fatale persona that Grant has created for herself. The “edgy” aspect of her style is something she has also carried on into the “Lust For Life” era, and “Summer Bummer” is one of the prime examples of this. In this song heavily influenced by 90s hip hop, Grant almost raps the lyrics, and the addition of A$AP Rocky’s harsh style of rapping in the middle eight of the song almost makes it appeal to a wider market other than just her faithful fans, who could be dubbed her “groupies” in reference to “Groupie Love.” “Beautiful People, Beautiful Problems” and “Heroin” both follow suit, with Stevie Nicks’ nasal vocals adding a certain “edge” to the former, and the theme of drugs for the latter. I also think that “Heroin” is similar to many of the songs in her previous album “Ultraviolence”, since the song of the same name seems to glamourise power imbalances, and perhaps even violence, in relationships (“he hit me and it felt like a kiss”), and for me this is a reason why I dislike that particular song. However I did like the next song in the track, entitled “Tomorrow Never Came,” because it was an almost humorous mix of major chords and sad lyrics, and its pessimistic mood contrasts from the earlier songs. For me, “Change” and “Get Free” were saved for last because together they are a match made in heaven. They are both very similar in atmosphere, and perhaps could even be considered non-identical twins musically, since they sound very much alike, but in the best way possible. “Get Free” is perhaps the more joyful sounding one, whereas “Change” sounds sadder because of the amount of flat notes, but both are united in their dream-like atmosphere.
In conclusion, I believe some aspects of “Lust For Life” are clearly stronger than others. Grant explored parts of songwriting she had never attempted to before, such as adding her own viewpoint on politics and history through songs like “Beautiful People, Beautiful Problems” and “Coachella- Woodstock In My Mind,” and the fact she has done this makes this album more successful than it would have been otherwise. The notes alternate from major to minor chords, which is different from the other albums she has written which I find all have one distinct “mood” to them, and her style has changed somewhat to cater to a wider audience, such as adding more “modern” aspects, such as rapping, to her songs.
Some may dislike the fact she has introduced these influences to her songs, but I believe the fact that she continues to experiment with different harmonies and techniques is a good sign that she and her work will continue to be successful in the future.
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