Following a two year break from releasing music, our beloved maiden of melancholy, Lana Del Rey, has returned with a 16-track soundtrack to the summer, titled Lust For Life. It might well be a highly anticipated addition to Del Rey’s catalogue, but is this new record capable of making any listener lust over a second listen?
This is Del Rey’s fifth release (or fourth if you’re discounting Lizzy Grant… AKA Lana Del Ray), and it hosts a high-profile roster of guest artists such as Stevie Nicks, The Weeknd, and ASAP Rocky – a striking first for the baroque-pop songstress.
If you’re familiar with Lana Del Rey’s work, then you may have the standard expectation of hearing drawn-out, ethereal vocals against orchestral strings; and on the opening track and lead single (‘Love’), these expectations are met.
‘Love’ is a somewhat first for casual listeners of Lana Del Rey, as the track primarily features optimistic lyrics of empowerment. Discussing this generation (a theme previously explored on leaked demos such as ‘Children of the Bad Revolution’), Del Rey admires the youth of today, their culture, and the nostalgia their behaviour brings her.
Whilst holding a status as one of the stronger singles in Del Rey’s discography, ‘Love’ would have been far more impressive had it not sounded like it had been lifted from Ultraviolence (2014) or Honeymoon (2015). Backed by a crescendo of uplifting strings and a flamenco-inspired drum beat, ‘Love’, whilst being a great opening track, equally doesn’t quite prepare you for the surprises a Lana Del Rey fan would have listening to Lust For Life.
Listening through the title track, ‘Lust For Life’, as well as ’13 Beaches’, ‘Cherry’, and ‘White Mustang’, I personally questioned if I was just listening to a bonus track edition of Honeymoon – every track could be placed on an album precursor to the LP. Then, I reached track 6; the highlight of the album, the track that dissuaded my doubts, the crème de la crème of Lust For Life had been discovered in the form of ‘Summer Bummer’.
‘Summer Bummer’ is a hyper-moody, trip-hop inspired anthem, featuring ASAP Rocky, which is lyrically suitable for anyone seeking an illustrious summer romance. The track opens with a melancholic, distant piano, reminiscent of classical music from the Romance era. Futuristic R&B beats open the chorus, layered with lines such as, “hip-hop in the summer, don’t be a bummer babe, be my undercover lover babe”; words that illustrate a dystopian, dejected modern romance laced with the idiosyncratic vocals of Del Rey.
From ‘Summer Bummer’ onwards, Lust For Life begins to become, in places, a collection of songs interjected with hip-hop influences, particularly on tracks such as ‘Groupie Love’, where dream-like melodies and guitars singed with reverb collide with trap-like drum beats. With a change in tempo at the chorus, much similar to ‘West Coast’ (from Ultraviolence), ‘Groupie Love’ settles as the optimistic, hip-hop inspired track that arguably could have been both the lead single and opening track of the album.
The remainder of Lust For Life sees Del Rey experimenting with her signature sound, whilst still sticking to her traditional baroque-pop aesthetic. With tracks such as ‘Get Free’ sounding like an amalgamation of psychedelia and modern pop music, Del Rey quenches the thirst any listener may have for a variation in her sound.
The 1960s-inspired themes are still persistent, especially throughout the Beatles-circa-Yellow-Submarine-esque, ‘Tomorrow Never Came’, which features vintage sounding vocals courtesy of Sean Ono Lennon – the son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
This is the standard Lana Del Rey record of forward-thinking-yet-retrospective pop, tinged with innovative trap and trip-hop beats. Whilst tracks such as the ever-explicit ‘Cherry’ sonically offer nothing new, Del Rey’s collaborative works with rappers such as ASAP Rocky and Playboi Carter offer both new and returning Del Rey listeners a pioneering experience of juxtaposing 1960’s baroque-pop against modern hip-hop.
Ultimately, Lust For Life is an excellent addition to Del Rey’s discography, and will provide listeners with enough wonder as to what she will experiment with next – enough to perhaps lust after a sixth album.
Honourable Mentions: ‘Summer Bummer’, ‘Groupie Love’, ‘Tomorrow Never Came’
● Lust For Life is out now