Saturday, July 22, 2017

Lana Del Rey 'Lust For Life' Album Review

So Lana dropped her new album and I obviously lost my damn mind because every Lana album is a piece of art. But this one well and truly exceeded expectations, releasing her best album yet. 

Lana's work consistently conveys elements of nostalgia, mixing the old with the new and relying on her vocal range for a unique sound rather than pushing loud and powerful notes which separates her from other artists such as Adele. This alternative sound has adapted through the years as she tried different styles but you can undoubtedly spot a Lana song despite the genre she is playing with because she always makes it her own. Lyrical themes follow; sex, drugs, rock and roll, patriotism, love (often going wrong) and an internal struggle to find happiness.

A little on Lana's progression as an artist...

I have followed Lana's work since her first studio Album 'Born To Die' which gained her traction in the mainstream due to her haunting sound and push back on conventional pop. She had a contrast of radio play friendly hits (unlike any sound out there) and powerful slow ballads that hit you right in the feels. She released so many #1 songs from this album kicking it off with Born To Die followed by hit after hit 'Blue Jeans', 'Video Games', 'National Anthem', 'Ride' and of course 'Summertime Sadness'. This commercial success of an album set Lana up with the freedom to create whatever music she wanted after already gaining her loyal audience by getting in front of the mainstream with such hits.

She pushed back on conventional pop expectations even further with her second studio album 'Ultraviolence' which featured heavy metal guitar, minimal piano and a dark melancholy feel to the entire album. The black and white cover represents the tone of the music which if it were a colour would be shade of grey and blue. Songs like 'Cruel World', 'Shades of Cool', 'Sad Girl' and 'Pretty When You Cry' follow her struggle with what seems like a very depressing period in her life, admitting she was in a dark place at the time. The album perfectly encapsulates her struggle and internal though process with substance abuse and love gone wrong. My favourite song from the album is 'Is This Happiness' because it really takes you inside her head and makes you feel like you are there experiencing it with her.

Then came her third studio album 'Honeymoon' which makes you feel like you are stuck between the Los Angeles palms on a cloudy day in Old Hollywood. This music has a haunting sound, relying on Lana's vocal range as the background music is extremely soft and slow. Everything has been set to half the speed with this album so it's one you sadly sway to. The cathedral orchestra sound compliments the themes of Lana's sadness over her new found fame and how it has changed her for the worse. Full of slow ballads about lost love and getting high by the beach to escape, you gain a new insight into Lana and her progression as an artist.

Lust For Life

So that brings us to Lana's fourth studio album - Lust For Life. The theme of this album took fans by surprise due to the upbeat sound in her first few song releases. Her very first track to launch off the album was 'Love', a ballad about being young and in love which is very unlike Lana to sing about love in such a positive way, when usually we see the other side of the story when she has lost her love. The songs that followed were 'Lust For Life' and 'Woodstock in My Mind' which are good but I didn't fall in love with. So I wasn't going out of my mind waiting for this album because I wasn't sure I would like it...let's just say I was blown away and pleasantly surprised upon first listen.

New York Times described the album perfectly when they said this album follows her usually melancholy tone but delivered with a wink. She has done a lot of personal development through this album which can be seen in her depth in character and new themes introduced to the music.

This album is a mixed cocktail of many concepts but they all work together to make the most grand and complexly beautiful album. Common themes throughout are; summer, disappointment in love, political undertones and love ballads full of conflicting emotions and describing a breakup. She's still smitten with Hollywood, palms, beaches, money, substances and seeking a higher understanding or something more.

The many elements within the album include; going back to basics with a sound close to her unreleased songs from when she first started, some rap music in there with A$ap Rocky on a couple of tracks, powerful collaborative ballads with some other musical geniuses, songs about the current politics within America and her concerns for the future and next generation then of course her expected internal struggle and love gone wrong songs.

My top song picks from the album include;

Cherry lyrics deals with the conflicting emotions of loving someone so much that she can't stand the control it has over her. She discusses how much she wants the love, how she falls to pieces when she is with the person and how it has ruined the person she was. It's not your usual love song because she's mocking herself throughout it such as "and now all of my peaches are ruined (bitch)". The sound is slow and haunting with a hint of Ultraviolence. There is use of a lullabye style melody, repetition and acapella.

My Feelings goes through the motions of a break up realising she has wasted her time with a guy using a lot of poetic contradictions. I'm not 100% sold on the lyrics but the sound to this one is incredible. It's one of the most 'pop' songs on the album but done in true Lana style. The rhythm paired with her mostly monotone voice is a beautiful contrast.

White Mustang is a relaxing tune with Lana's soothing voice being the focal point. A slow beat is behind her and we follow her dealing with conflicting emotions about someone. 'Summer's meant for loving and leaving, I was such a fool for believing you could change all the ways you'd been living' and tracking back to the start 'the day I saw your white mustang'. 

Beautiful People, Beautiful Problems features the always wonderful Stevie Nicks and this song has beautiful poetic lyrics behind it that set theatrical landscapes with a haunting undertone. Ultimately the lyrics a lacking a bit of depth but beautiful to listen to and send the pretty simple message of first world problems and putting that into context.

Tomorrow Never Came features Sean Lennon and has a shockingly similar sound to The Beatles with the same emotion evoking rhythm using a few easy cords. The harmony and melody are soft and relaxing, the kind of song you can drift off with and have your head up in the clouds. Once again following Lana's usual style of lost love with an underlying sadness that she perfectly conveys with the emotion in her voice.

Okay so that's probably enough on Lana for one day but I really wanted to share my thoughts on the new album. I was not expecting to be a huge fan of the new music because I wasn't overly obsessed with the first few releases but she really saved the best for the album launch to really throw us through a loop. Not only has she shown her ability to hold her own within many genres over the progression of her career but now within one album she mixes numerous styles and still pulls it off. Each song is very different to the next, honestly it's like the box of chocolates in Forest Gump.

* Footnote: God Bless America the song sounds exactly like a Robot Unicorn theme song. Seriously, play them in unison for a good laugh. It's even more hilarious since I actually loved that theme song in high school.

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