Smack dab in the middle of Hollyweird, the self-proclaimed ‘Queen of Coney Island’ has concocted a potion for artistic escapism. Beyond the social conscience and purposefulness of her lyrics, there is something so ineffable about the entire album’s atmosphere. Each and every song has a different message and story. In some, her tone and lyricism is potent with sensuality, seduction and love- “I said real love.” In others, it is explicitly suggestive, inviting and significantly less soft.
In the words of the angel Abel himself, “I still remember the day I heard ‘Video Games’”. It struck me as a masterpiece of mood, orientation and a captivating sorrow that verges on magic. The track conjured Americana images to say a lot more than meets the eye beneath the white-washed surface. Her records have one thing in common: they discuss a fascination with love, death, sex, drugs and America.
But Del Rey has now done a 360 and is no longer “Born to Die”. The taste of “Ultraviolence” no longer feels like a kiss. She hasn’t completely disowned her nihilism because we are transported to the ballrooms of our minds and some songs leave us mourning some kind of tragedy that has yet to happen to us.
But the darkness has been diluted. She wrote this album for her fans rather than for herself in order to reflect her changing sense of self. Now, she refuses to glamorise difficult relationships, the only ones she claims to have known in the past. There are songs fit for a sandy shore, a dimly lit room and even perhaps a party as the heavy beats allude to the hip hop tones that have coloured singles such as ‘Blue Jeans’.
Her original albums are painted as records ahead of their time despite the retro stylisation: “There’s been a major sonic shift culturally… I hear a lot of music that sounds like those early records.” (Think back to lil uzi vert’s lyric “push me to the edge/All my friends are dead”.)
“I remember seven years ago I was trying to get a record deal, and people were like, “Are you kidding? These tunes? There’s zero market for this.” There was just such a long time where people had to fit into that pop box.”
Despite the state of art production pulsing at the heart of each crooning echo, it is beneath her to succumb to any vapid pop banality. Pioneering the alternative, she practically inhabits a genre of her own.
She will always remind us of the allure of the golden days, of vintage everything and anything- the clothes, the syrupy fluid of her voice, the coo of her spoken word. These all embrace the elegance of some long gone era now left behind but never forgotten (when Lana gets her way, which is always).
Yet, unlike “Honeymoon”, there is no seventies-esque theme. In contrast to “Paradise”, or her earlier unreleased songs, it is not clear exactly what era generates “Lust For Life’s” aesthetic. The record is simply dreamlike as it hurtles you away from reality into a parallel consciousness while simultaneously anaesthetising you with peace, war, salacity and a love that builds up and surprises you often. It then bubbles to the surface.
The entire album folds around her signature narrative lyrics and iconic lines (“dripping peaches” et al). The language is nothing short of poetry. Her voice is a kind of liquid gold that I can only imagine is how pre-lapsarian birds in Paradise would sigh. Flowery melodies collide with a whisper of dissatisfaction and disaster. Her voice resonates from deep and blue to high, ringing, fast and sharp.
No longer in a claustrophobic relationship with the war in her mind or the disillusioned generation, her eyes are finally open to a world with less destruction. And it is iconic.
1. Lust For Life (ft. The Weeknd)
Their vocals are harmonious. They synchronise as they woe us into “taking off our clothes” with the instruments of their allure. The falsettos are flawless in a video which matches up to the daydream the listener is likely to envision. Time is transcended amidst their caresses. As he himself admits, the Weeknd is the guy in her songs (disturbed, dangerous, broken) while she is the girl he sings about (a tragic romantic). They have “crafted their own myth” (The Independent).
The soft hues of her voice caress our minds. Young romance has the power to transform into a time machine as Lana uses American pastiche to embrace and conquer one’s ability to truly feel.
We were sold dreams on this one- only at first of course. The release date was supposed to be around the 21st or so and our thirst was not quenched. We were left wondering what time it was on the H of the Hollywood sign when the sun dropped but the track had not. I felt personally victimised; drip fed white lies along with the promised black beaches and blood red sangrias. But my salt didn’t last long, especially when I heard all 4/20 minutes of pure eargasm. It is the ultimate song for both the indie and R&B crowd because it is hazy yet pregnant with an uneasy and sensual beat. There’s a humidness amidst the crystal clarity of her voice.Lana’s breathy sighs accompany her rhyming of ‘summer’ with ‘bummer’ 200 times. But who can blame her, she’s catering to the main-stream and no one’s complaining. My only objection – Carti was just ad-libbing in the background. But Flacko’s verse more than makes up for that.
Lana has no trouble carrying a track on her own- that is fact and also the understatement of the century. Yet, her and A$AP are such an iconic duo that we can only yearn for more collabs. His verse and her breathy vocals are practically electric.
Cherries are symbolic of innocent pleasures as well as feminine beauty and sexuality. This anthem practically oozes this, producing an aura of tender love and lust. The song is an elixir of feelings and the inescapable flames of a fiery relationship which is tearing at the seams. The heavy strings and trap drums lull you into a stripped back image of a sun-dried and sultry affair as Lana’s controlled draw flirts with the audience. Listening to this is like “smiling when the firing squad’s against you”.
Her glossy voice glimmers with sugar as Lana gestures back to her original obsession with the darker side of Hollywood. She is in lust with the sleaziness between the sparkles and the sinister smile of a dark, handsome million-dollar man. The acoustic, the gentle beat and the piercing whistles at the end produce a delicious cacophony of motion.
7. 13 Beaches
Cinematic, stirring. This swan song is a search for “something real”, beyond the games her persona is forced to play. The cry for privacy and realism is similar to the message in “High by the Beach”. The lyrics are bittersweet as the speaker ponders on the luxury (first-world) problem of trying to find an empty beach. It must be a metaphor for something I can’t decipher.
The persona is a celestial queen who is too pure and come-hither for this world that she is flung to the moon by rock stars who grab her by the ribbons in her hair. For every social commentary, Lana cuts off a piece of scandal and serves it to you on a pristine silver platter. “It’s F***ing hot, hot!”
Racy and provocative. It contains passion, profanities and pure fire as Lana asserts her dominion against a loser boyfriend. She is strong, she is confident, she is “crying while I’m coming”. But still rises freely, guns blazing. It is rumoured to be written about her summer fling with notorious white rapper G Eazy who “looks like James Dean but raps like Drake” (The Guardian).
10.When The World Was At War We Kept Dancing (at 41 minutes in link)
She meditates on War and Peace: “Everyday during the election, you’d wake up and some new horrible thing was happening. Korea, with missiles suddenly being pointed at the Western coast. With “When the World Was at War We Kept Dancing,” I was posing a real question to myself: Could this be the end of an era? The fall of Rome?”
The drawls of America are subdued with the romancing strings of a guitar.
“It’s certainly uncomfortable (to be romantic about America when Trump is the nation’s biggest celebrity) . I definitely changed my visuals on my tour videos. I’m not going to have the American flag waving while I’m singing “Born to Die.” It’s not going to happen. I’d rather have static. It’s a transitional period, and I’m super aware of that. I think it would be inappropriate to be in France with an American flag. It would feel weird to me now—it didn’t feel weird in 2013.” Although she’s never been outspoken about women’s rights, she wrote this anthem before the women’s marches in 2017. It is sung in honour of women everywhere who feel less safe in this America.
“The reason why I asked Stevie Nicks to be on the record is because she changes when her environment changes, and I’m like that as well.”
This is an ethereal piano ballad which almost acts as a homage to The Beatles.
14. Change (1:01:52 in link)
Honest. Capable. Beautiful Stable. The American Dream is a theme in Lana Del Rey’s thematic artistry. She romanticises it in her songs but looks at America today with dissatisfaction and a bittersweet plea for revolt. After all, she urged the nation’s witches to put a hex on Donald Trump. This remains a protest song at heart that is topped with a sombre and stunning melody.
This song captures the reason why Lana is a legend stuck between two generations. Like all the greats gone before her, she doesn’t just take on tired clichés such as ‘getting lit’ or enduring love/lust. She addresses the now, the present, while she prays for a future with a burning passion, a piercing tune and an array of eloquence. As legend has it, inspiration for this piece hit her after a weekend of dancing decadently at Coachella while tensions mounted in North Korea. On the way home, she pulled up in a Sequoia grove by the highway to gather her thoughts about the world’s burdens into a coherent sound. One which happens to be both catchy and nostalgic.
“I know I walk the line sometimes. [laughs] I saw comments that people said about my little “Coachella – Woodstock in my Mind” song. I write that title and I’m like, OK, I know I went there.It’s just like, yeah, I’m a hipster. I know it. Got it.”
16. Get Free
A spokesperson of the golden age, Del Rey’s modern manifesto is full of metaphors and an appeal to riding away from the black war zone of her mind and into the blue. She borrows generously from Radiohead’s “Creep”, one of many examples where she re-works iconic musical influences into her heady harmonies.
Leaks and Unreleased Music:
Historically, Lana has been one of the number one victims of leaked singles. A mere two days before the official release date of “Lust For Life”, her album was momentarily leaked, leading to sympathy from her fans who almost immediately deleted it.
If her pre-2013 unreleased songs hadn’t been leaked, she would have had enough music to create seven albums. Unfortunately, our only access to these gems now is through Youtube, Soundcloud, and the rare occasion where she chooses to perform them.
However, these tracks are so unique and upbeat that they must be payed respect to. Before she was Lana Del Rey, she was Lizzy Grant, the ‘sparkle jump rope queen…’
1. Ridin (ft A$AP)
2. Serial Killer
3. Kinda Outta Luck
Lolita lost in the hood vibes.
4. Live or Die
A self proclaimed ‘May Jailer’
5. My Best Days
6. This Is What Makes Us Girls
10. Because Of You
10. Dangerous Girl:
Sources (from interview):
All images sourced from Tumblr, Instagram and Lana Del Rey’s personal Instagram account.