Lana Del Rey's Lust for Life: Ardent, Apocalyptic, American

Lana Del Rey's Lust for Life: Ardent, Apocalyptic, American

Our V108 cover star's fourth major-label release sees her slow-dancing on the charred remains of the country she loved––but she tinges the slow-burning melancholy with a hope for the future.

Our V108 cover star's fourth major-label release sees her slow-dancing on the charred remains of the country she loved––but she tinges the slow-burning melancholy with a hope for the future.

Text: E.R. Pulgar

Lana Del Rey has always been one for bold statements. When she called her first record Born to Die, she immediately conjured the air that would come to define the space she now occupies in the public consciousness: tragic, nostalgic, and endlessly romantic. Since the outset, her music has been tinged with cigarette smoke, with lovers who don't treat her the way she deserves, with the highest kind of ethereal romance always ending with Del Rey alone, overlooking whatever city she happens to be brooding in, reminiscing on the America that was and the loves that could have been. How refreshing it must be for longtime listeners to see her completely change her tune without sacrificing any of her sepia-toned smolder on Lust for Life.

Del Rey's fifth effort stands alone compared to her previous discography largely due to the fact that it's no longer a solitary affair. Boasting six collaborations that bridge any existing gap between classic rock and hip-hopthere's probably no other artist today that could pull off having Stevie Nicks on the same record as Playboi Carti. Longtime fans rejoiced at the fact that she now has not one, but two official collaborations with A$AP Rocky, and nobody was surprised that the title track, which featured The Weeknd, was a match made in gloomy pop heaven. Songs like the trap-tinged "Summer Bummer" and the sleek Rocky duet "Groupie Love" stand in contrast with Bob Dylan-sampling, Beatles-esque "Tomorrow Never Came" with Sean Ono Lennon and mystifying Nicks duet "Beautiful People Beautiful Problems."

It's a testament to the all-encompassing power of the haunting world Del Rey has created for herself and her collaborators to inhabit that each song is immediately recognizable as her own, all painted with the dark blue hue of melancholic nostalgia for a world well lost. In her most political record, the America Del Rey used to know is gone, and she's become an unwilling messenger of the apocalypse to come. Even amidst the chaos, she leaves room for an intense hope that's never before permeated her sound. "Coachella-Woodstock in My Mind", was written against the backdrop of the namesake music festival days after North Korea threatened to send missiles to the U.S., with Del Rey thinking of the children, and "their wishes, wrapped up like garland roses." On "God Bless America - And All the Beautiful Women In It", she crafts a feminist anthem using the imagery of Lady Liberty.

Even when she gets directly political, she never loses the emotional edge that makes her so cutting: piano ballad "Change", her most emotional song since Ultraviolence's "Old Money", is an ode to personal change and growth, the ability to hold someone in your arms when you're not beautiful or stable. The song is so remarkable, and so appropriate as a penultimate track, because it can be read as both a song of change and a song of resilience in the face challenges that are looming over us all in the years to come. The world might be ashes, but Del Rey has changed her tune about how to approach it. Where before she would have mourned, she now looks toward the horizon. Even in the current climate, there's time for cherries, wine, rosemary, thyme. Even in the current climate, there's time to find that one perfect beach. Even in the current climate, there's time to be young and in love.

Whether you've been cheering Del Rey on from afar as she languished in her specific brand of heartbreak or criticized her for embodying the trope of the woman in need of a man, listening to her find her independence on this record is as cathartic as it is a pleasure to watch unfold. Gone are the days of her pining after bikers she calls "Daddy." Instead, we see her tossing aside an old lover on "In My Feelings" , bemoaning aloud how it's possible that she could fall for "another loser." Finally, after so long, she has the strength to stand alone.

In our Americana Issue cover story, which saw Nicks interviewing Del Rey, the rock legend was quick to ask Del Rey about how one goes from being born to die to having a lust for life. In the new Americana Del Rey is pioneering, there's as much light as there is fear and apprehension. Maybe she's begun to smile to keep from crying. Maybe she got tired of the brooding. Either way, Lust for Life is the soundtrack of what's coming, a trumpet of the apocalypse that simmers slow, an assault on the senses that rejects the current America while remaining hopeful in its future, and, above all, a bracingly powerful comfort in this most trying of times.

Revisit Lana Del Rey's most recent V cover story here.


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