Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Lana Del Rey - Lust For Life Review

Lana Del Rey is a confounding character. She's as likable as she is hatable, it merely depends on who's listening. Her aesthetic preaches revisionist history, circling the old with the new, leading to a trove of stereotypes brought on by cynics looking to contain her. Truthfully, she's likely the most original Pop singer making music right now, and with the growth and maturity seen on Lust For Life, stereotyping her further proves more difficult. Long gone are the days when she exploited daddy issues, gleamed about problems surrounding her upper middle class life, and reveled in conservative romanticism while promoting the opposite. These issues seem to be dropping off one by one with each passing record; Ultraviolence removing the submissive glorification, Honeymoon scratching first world problems. Now, with Lust For Life, Del Rey pushes the sappy schmaltz to the side, replacing the dispensable's with political distress. It's a new look for Del Rey, someone who previously worked under the guise of escapism, drawing crowds of Coachella followers who couldn't care less about society's problems. On Lust For Life, Del Rey attempts to converge the two worlds, sending out a worldwide SOS over Trap-influenced percussion. Her torch singing still present, her weeping soul as well, but what she loses in intangible production she gains in cultural awareness.

Despite the unnecessarily long hour and 12 minutes, Lust For Life's conclusive stature far exceeds Del Rey's last project; 2015's Honeymoon. The cover told the whole story. A star dazzling crowds by way of a vintage tour through Hollywood, it was as if the naysayers themselves wrote the premise. Here, impressions are less obtuse, even though the flowers entangled within her hair and the antique truck stationed behind her certainly don't help. Major difference being, the music contained within clashes with the cheeriness, whereas Honeymoon conformed. Throughout Lust For Life, there's numerous incongruities, and while part of that's manufactured self-awareness on Del Rey's behalf, there's no denying, amidst the turmoil surrounding us all, confusion itself plays a large role. And why shouldn't it? Previously, doom and gloom inundated anything Del Rey touched, so much so that troubled fans began flocking for the negative. Here, the negatives aren't personal, they're universal. The flower child flourishing her pearly whites on the cover isn't so much aesthetic as it is a call to the Woodstock days, where music was meant to overcome political strife. The confusion arises in whether to be honest or hopeful.

Del Rey doesn't wait long to instill the latter, starting small and privy with 'Love,' a track that concedes to the rebellious youth to get them on her side. Then, just as the drugs and alcohol emerge and the YOLO ideology sets in, 'Lust For Life' blindsides a legion of Del Rey and Weeknd fans by celebrating a long, healthy existence. In a fantastic Pop song, no less. This, ironically, is quite counterculture in today's world where drug and alcohol intake reign supreme, and for that alone, going against the grain of mainstream music and her own, I give Del Rey credit. This won't be the only time the singer confronts her own past, as efforts like 'God Bless America - And All The Beautiful Women In It' and especially 'Change' rework Del Rey's perception of feminism, a controversial topic for the artist who failed to side with the movement. That changes with 'Change,' an impressively thoughtful cut that looks inward instead of criticizing outward. The track, along with the grand finale 'Get Free,' provide a crisp one-two punch that poises Lust For Life as a modern day call to arms. In the most peaceful way possible, of course. That being music that unifies.

It's a shame that Lust For Life's true nature doesn't reveal itself until we're well under way though, as the album's first half is composed almost entirely of Del Rey's prototypical material. Tracks like 'Cherry,' 'White Mustang,' and 'In My Feelings' exist by way of proxy, covering the same regurgitated talking points we've seen throughout her career. Then there's the wholly inorganic Trap detour on tracks six and seven, otherwise known as 'Summer Bummer' and 'Groupie Love.' Dropped as singles simultaneously, with two prominent A$AP Rocky features, the sleek, sensual, summer anthems would've acted better as promotional singles than in-album irregularities. Even acting as two bonus tracks would've been more suitable. However, once 'Coachella' rolls around, there isn't a single love song for the rest of the LP, excluding, arguably, 'Tomorrow Never Came' which frolics around with Sean Ono Lennon in a folksy, hippy-embracing duet. Del Rey takes the 70's counterculture revolution to heart, curating it for the modern era. On 'Coachella' and 'When The World Was At War,' our lead considers a world where we danced our problems away, rather than one where we danced to forget them. The language isn't astonishing, but the intent is heartfelt.

With so much political, cultural, and societal discussion to go around, the music of Lust For Life takes a notable backseat. If it weren't for the change of heart and change in content, the album would've had the same poor result as Honeymoon due to the tiresome production. With 16 lengthy songs, only three of which are under the four-minute mark, the perplexing combination of Chamber Pop, Trap, and Folk began to tread down the same paths rather quickly. Thankfully, Lust For Life's ends with some of its heaviest tracks, both conceptually and musically. 'Heroin' and 'Get Free' are two clear standouts, as the former unravels a gorgeously-paced tale about a deteriorating starlet while the latter seizes hope and neglects doubt. These two monoliths, which are also Lust For Life's two longest songs, conclude with penultimate climaxes that shows Del Rey's growth as a composer. 'Heroin' booms with riveting resurgence using sweltering synths, whereas 'Get Free' pierces a hook by using Del Rey's most blunt backing vocals yet. They constitute her best material since Ultraviolence's opening five-track punch. But unlike that album, which teetered on shaky soil, Lust For Life retains enough consistency to keep the artist's message of optimism afloat.

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