Lana Del Rey’s still got summer blues, but lusts for life
Lana Del Rey emerged on the music scene as a haunting figure. She was Born to Die, in the words of her breakthrough album, and darkness permeated her sound and worldview.
Five years after Born to Die, the prolific singer on Friday put out her fourth major-label album, whose title - Lust for Life - would appear to show the inverse mindset.
Yet for the 32 year old singer, sorrow and joy are intricately interconnected. On Lust for Life, she enjoys the world’s pleasures all the while feeling cursed by their ephemerality.
Lana carries the album through her quickly recognisable voice, breathy and coquettish yet sauntering with echoes of Nancy Sinatra. Lust for Life builds on Lana’s signature cinematic style, melancholic with an aura of classic Hollywood, yet the album also shows touches of hip-hop swagger - most apparent in seamless appearances by rapper A$AP Rocky.
The title track - no relation to punk icon Iggy Pop’s classic Lust for Life - brings in emerging R&B superstar The Weeknd, who in his mellifluous falsetto at times reaches a higher range than Lana.
Even if the song celebrates life, it opens with a dark allusion to a Hollywood suicide before finding joy in the here and now.
Take off / Take off all your clothes, Del Rey intones, as The Weeknd sings, They say only the good die young / That just ain't right.
Lana teams up with other major names on the album. Stevie Nicks, her sandy voice smoothly complementing Lana’s, joins for Beautiful People, Beautiful Problems, while Sean Lennon brings a gentle beauty to Tomorrow Never Came.
If Lust for Life largely stays true to the sound honed by Lana, the New York-born singer reaches into new territory as she speaks out, in her own way, on politics.
Lana has hardly become a protest singer. But she becomes a uniquely effective voice in turning her forlorn sound into a reflection on the America of Donald Trump.
On God Bless America - And All Beautiful Women In It, Lana’s gloominess gives way to uplift as she finds solidarity in the masses of women who took to the streets after the shock of Trump’s election.
May you stand proud and strong / Like Lady Liberty, shining all night long, Lana sings.
The often dour Lana is again startling optimistic as she reaches into history on When the World Was at War We Kept Dancing.
“Is it the end of an era? Is it the end of America? No, it's only the beginning. If we hold on to hope, we will have a happy ending,” she sings.
In a recent interview with Elle UK, Lana said it was impossible in the current moment to escape politics: “It would be weird to be making a record during the past 18 months and not comment."
Yet her lyricism more often takes up loneliness than community. The singer who scored an early hit with Summertime Sadness returns to similar territory on Summer Bummer.
Lana Del Rey