In recent years, the music industry has changed drastically. Streaming has taken over sales, and genres have blended. One such blend is the combo of alternative and pop. I’m not talking the alternative music of a prior era that just happened to be popular because that was a whole different animal. Ushered in by artists like The 1975 and this review’s subject Lana Del Rey, this genre blend has taken music fans, and occasionally the charts, by storm with a foot firmly in each genre that it stems from. Since its introduction, artists such as Halsey and Lorde have added to the almost feverish fan following of this genre. However it is Del Rey who has remained at the top, queen of the genre she helped bring into the mainstream. After the masterpieces that were ‘Born To Die’ and ‘Ultraviolence’, Del Rey seemed to lose her footing on 2015’s ‘Honeymoon’. A lacklustre and uninteresting mix of what she had done before, it was a surprising misstep for such a prolific artist in what should be her prime.
However, on ‘Lust For Life’, Del Rey regains her footing, and although not as strong as her early material, she is slowly fighting back. Her sweeping cinematic lyrics and production are front and centre on the album as she discusses themes of love, lust and Americana that have made her the artist she is today. However, her usual combination of toxic love and romanticising of the star spangled banner is flipped on its head. Here, she croons of love in a positive light while adopting a realistic approach to her discussion of America, ultimately creating a very timely record. Del Rey is worried. She is worried for the future and what is to come in an Trump-age America that is so different to the one she has lovingly sang about since her beginning.
Another change in her formula, ‘Lust For Life’ sees Del Rey dive into the world of features, to varying degrees of success. Collaborations with Stevie Nicks and Steve Ono Lennon (entitled ‘Beautiful People Beautiful Problems’ and ‘Tomorrow Never Came’) mark some of Del Rey’s most gorgeous and brilliant work to date. The album’s title track sees her work with long-time collaborator The Weeknd that is satisfactory but lacks the brilliance that one would expect of two of music’s brightest stars, especially when combined with the magic of Max Martin. However, it is the Playboi Carter and A$AP Rocky features (the latter of which appears twice in succession) where Del Rey shows chinks in her armour. ‘Groupie Love’ is the stronger of the two but fails to really amount to anything more than filler which is odd for a song with a feature. ‘Summer Bummer’ is just that, a bummer. In fact, it is these two tracks and those that surround it that give the record its slump. Following the brilliant ‘13 Beaches’ and ‘Cherry’, the trap infused production on the two A$AP Rocky tracks, ‘White Mustang’ and ‘In My Feelings’ just completely misses the mark that the same production on the former two hit so perfectly.
The album’s second half is where Del Rey hits her stride. The vintage production and lyricism is some of her best and it is where she embraces her worries about the Americana she loves so dearly both explicitly on two of the album’s highlights ‘God Bless America – and All the Beautiful Women in It’ and ‘When the World Was at War We Kept Dancing’, and implicitly with tracks such as ‘Change’ and ‘Get Free’, the latter of which fabulously harkens back to the overwhelming vintage and Americana of Del Rey’s own ‘Ride’ and ‘American’, the former of which gets a direct reference in the chorus.
Ultimately, Del Rey produces some of her best and some of her worst tracks to date here. However, ‘Lust for Life’ is home to more hits than misses and when the majority of those hits come in the album’s latter half, It leaves the album with a wonderful taste of what is to come and the potential that Del Rey possesses and sometimes puts to use.