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Album Review
Lust For Life

Lust For Life
by Lana Del Rey


Review Date
28th July 2017
Reviewed by
Louisa Kasza

Listening to Lust for Life, the new album from elusive chanteuse Lana Del Rey, involves a little patience. Like mining, it can feel like it’s mainly dirt, but the gold makes it worth the effort. There are three or four absolutely brilliant tracks, and the rest are varyingly good-if-you-hadn’t-heard-Lana-Del-Rey-before, just okay, or straight-up garbage. So what are we to do with Lana Del Rey? In 2017, has the flower crown fallen from her head? Is there room for her particular brand of romantic pastiche?

The answer is of course yes, with some major caveats.

"Vintage everything" nostalgia for its own sake has lost its appeal over the years, and today’s listeners will have less tolerance than ever for songs like the offensive travesty that is ‘Tomorrow Never Came’ (featuring Sean Ono Lennon). A soulless, mechanical parody of a seventies folk duet, Del Rey and Lennon throw out cliché after Bob Dylan reference on their respective verses only to come together in awful sentimental harmony on the chorus. The tracks featuring guest vocalists are weaker in general; respect for Stevie Nicks precludes going into detail on the dirge-like ‘Beautiful People Beautiful Problems’; let’s just say Del Rey and Nicks’ voices clash.

Such disappointments contrast nicely with the better tracks, the best of which show a real progression in Del Rey’s songwriting that’s exciting to see, along with the usual deft switching between female archetypes. That’s the certainly the case with ‘13 Beaches’ and ‘In My Feelings’. The former confidently draws together Del Rey’s gift for tragic melodrama, unexpected turns of phrase and sly humour to deliver her unrivalled fallen "forsaken starlet" shtick against a stark background of cinematic strings and piano and lonely, distorted ‘telecommunications’-style bleeping and whirring. Then there’s the unexpected twist in the movie: Lana Del Rey looking outside her niche and towards the wider world, more specifically to post-Trump anxiety. It makes sense in a way: Del Rey herself must have pondered what it means to sell nostalgic Americana in today’s political climate. On ‘God Bless America – And All The Beautiful Women In It’ Del Rey is up for the challenge, serving up an elegiac tribute to America in a return to the pseudo-patriotism of 2012’s hit ‘National Anthem’ that manages to be both stirring and moving. Meanwhile the cringe-makingly earnest ‘Coachella’, lacking any of the winking insubordination of ‘GBAAATBWIT’, chokes on its own self-seriousness.

To be fair, the album’s patchiness is fairly on-brand for Del Rey, who has always managed to disappoint and astound, to fly or fall, all in the space of one album. This dualism, along with an evolving, shaggy, DIY aesthetic, not to mention a healthy dose of DGAF-ness, is part of her charm. Even the duds are worth a listen for their sheer gall and intensity. And with Lust for Life, Del Rey has demanded our attention and shown once more that she has the ability to surprise us to keep it.


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