Review: ‘Lust For Life’ Is Lana Del Rey’s Most Diverse, Uplifting Album Yet
Lana Del Rey is back and she’s cooler than ever. Pop’s resident sad girl has been hyping her noticeably cheerier new album since February, and she promised some big changes that would delight her fans. Her newest record, Lust For Life, is her most diverse yet, combining the best elements of her previous three albums. It has the quirky cool attitude and hip-hop beats of Born To Die, the ’70s soft rock and usually gloomy mood of Ultraviolence, and the muddy trap meets lush Old Hollywood sound of Honeymoon. But in addition to these familiar motifs, Lust For Life also weaves in refreshing new themes.
Most instantly recognizable is Lana’s sudden inclusion of featured artists. This is the first album in which Lana has invited a guest artist, and she really flew with the idea. She shares vocals on five tracks, including a total of five guest singers. Notably, the album spends a solid 20 minutes on an acoustic guitar-driven section in which Lana expresses her political observations and opinions. Though plenty of the songs detail her troubled relationships and personal struggles, this is the first time Lana has brought politics into her music. Likewise, Lust For Life – a rather uplifting title in itself – takes our sad girl into decidedly happier territory. She sings of love and joy, without all the weight that marked her last couple of albums.
In contrast to the thorough cohesion of her past albums, Lust For Life offers a few different moods and musical styles. It could very easily be separated into four distinct parts, or even four unique EPs. The album starts with lush, cinematic songs with old-school ’60s vibes. It transitions into a handful of more hip-hop leaning songs, murky and low and amplified by A$AP Rocky’s inclusion. The third section is made up of the aforementioned acoustic, political songs, complete with help from Stevie Nicks and Sean Ono Lennon. The album ends with a slight return to the lush, dramatic sound heard at the beginning, starting dark and gradually growing more hopeful. Lust For Life ends on an optimistic note, bringing it all full circle.
And unlike Ultraviolence and Honeymoon, two mainly old-school albums that ended with covers of timely classics, Lust For Life is overall more like Born To Die. Both are a bit more modern, and neither includes a cover track.
All in all, Lust For Life is Lana’s most diverse and wide-ranging album yet. It’s a lengthy record – 16 songs sprawling over 72 minutes – but each track deserves its place and is worth the listen. Lana offers songs that will appeal to all types of fans, and that keeps the album from becoming boring or repetitive. Lana Del Rey has proven herself yet again, and Lust For Life stands out among her pristine discography.
Track by Track
“Love” – Lust For Life starts with its first single, a heavenly, vintage-styled song celebrating young love. It’s a soft start that helps set the mood, Lana gently inviting the listener in with a welcoming ode to romance. “Love” doesn’t quite feel like a statement-making first song, but it is a sweet way to ease into the album.
“Lust For Life” (feat. The Weeknd) – The second single and title track is also our first duet of the record. The Weeknd has included Lana on three of his own songs, but this is his first appearance on her own album. “Lust For Life” is lush and cinematic, and in some ways feels like the real beginning of the record. Lana and The Weeknd trade lines, he singing high to match her soprano notes. It’s a sensual, powerful song that pulls the listener further into the joyous, lighthearted world Lana has constructed.
“13 Beaches” – Despite the feel-good vibes of the first two songs, “13 Beaches” confirms that there’s still trouble in paradise. After lovely strings and a murmured intro, Lana describes her fruitless efforts in forgetting an ex. She admits, “It hurts to love you, but I still love you.” The choruses are dreamy and untethered, and though this is certainly a sad breakup song, it’s also offset by the futuristic blips that marked the first two tracks.
“Cherry” – Lana performed “Cherry” ahead of the album’s release, and the studio version lives up to its live predecessor. It sounds like a cross between Born To Die and Ultraviolence, low and heavy instrumentation punctuated by shouts of “hey” and a couple of expletives. Lana describes her incongruous emotions, like smiling in the face of a firing squad and falling to pieces when she’s with her darling. It’s a standout that finishes of the 1-2-3-4 punch that starts Lust For Life.
“White Mustang” – Despite solemn piano kicking it off, “White Mustang” is ultimately the weakest song on Lust For Life. The chorus is repetitive, but the song is thankfully short. However, it serves is the right introduction to the next track.
“Summer Bummer” (feat. A$AP Rocky & Playboi Carti) – Lana shared “Summer Bummer” a week ago along with “Groupie Love,” both of which feature rapper A$AP Rocky. This is the closest to hip-hop Lana gets on the album, singing over a rap beat and low synths. It may be a bit polarizing at first, but with a few extra listens you’ll surely grow to like “Summer Bummer.”
“Groupie Love” (feat. A$AP Rocky) – Though they both feature A$AP Rocky, “Groupie Love” couldn’t be more different from “Summer Bummer.” In contrast to the murky hip-hop just heard, “Groupie Love” amplifies romance from the perspective of a band’s biggest fan. At first it sounds like a fantasy in Lana’s head, but by the second verse it seems like she’s truly with the musician superstar. It’s a lovely song that presents a new angle on slightly jealous young love in the face of fame.
“In My Feelings” – Halfway through Lust For Life we reach one of it’s greatest highlights. “In My Feelings” combines the themes of Born To Die and Ultraviolence perfectly, an almost comical take on a rough breakup. Lana starts off smoking while running on a treadmill, lamenting that she fell for another loser. But she’s had enough of his wasting her time and taking whats hers. There’s no one doper than Lana. “In My Feelings” provides a perfect blend of her 2012 attitude and 2014 drama.
“Coachella – Woodstock In My Mind” – When we first heard this song back in May, it was thought to be a standalone single. Instead, Lana made room for it here on Lust For Life. Besides namedropping two music festivals and an iconic Led Zeppelin song, Lana also delves into politics for the first time. It’s the perfect soundtrack for the queen of festivals.
“God Bless America – And All The Beautiful Women In It” – The political theme continues with what sounds like a fairly patriotic song. It starts with delicate, Spanish-styled acoustic guitar. Lana wrote the song about the Women’s Marches that took place earlier this year, though she somewhat psychicly wrote it before they had even been announced. Lana tells the beautiful women of America to “stand proud and strong like lady liberty shining.”
“When The World Was At War We Kept Dancing” – More guitar and politics guide this album highlight. Lana ponders, “Is this the end of an era? Is this the end of America?” But in answer to her own question she declares, “No, it’s only the beginning! If we hold onto hope we’ll have a happy ending.” “When The World Was At War” is Lana’s full-force resistance song, declaring that “we just want the f—ing truth.” She offers a glimmer of hope in these dark times, singing high over the uplifting music.
“Beautiful People Beautiful Problems” (feat. Stevie Nicks) – The social consciousness ends with this track featuring soft rock icon Stevie Nicks. Acoustic guitar and piano guide this gentle track about our blue/green planet and all the struggles we face in day-to-day life. Be in spite of our problems, we are beautiful; we just have to keep trying. It’s a great message.
“Tomorrow Never Came” (feat. Sean Ono Lennon) – Musically, “Tomorrow Never Came” finishes off the acoustic portion of Lust For Life. But this time, the lyrics focus on a relationship that came to a premature end. It’s mellow yet beautiful, Lana Del Rey and Sean Ono Lennon sharing their sides of the story in this tragic breakup.
“Heroin” – The darkest and saddest song on the album is certainly “Heroin,” comparable to “The Blackest Day” on Honeymoon. Lana describes how life rocked her, leaving her dreaming of escaping reality through the help of the nastiest of drugs. She reminisces, pulling the listener into her mournful abyss until you feel as gloomy as she does. It’s an incredible song, especially if you don’t mind a little melancholy.
“Change” – Piano gently pulls us out of the blackness, and Lana talks about her need to change. It’s the next chapter, one that introduces a path to resolution. She admits, “I’ve been thinking it’s someone else’s job to care,” but now realizes she herself needs to care. It’s a somber, sweet song that offers a glimmer of hope.
“Get Free” – Lust For Life ends with “Get Free,” an optimistic song about escaping the darkness. It starts off slow, but gradually builds into a spirited anthem. Lana references her hit “Ride” in saying, “I’ve got a war in my mind.” But this time, that war is left behind as she finds peace and happiness. “Get Free” fades away with a minute of soothing beach sounds and crashing waves.
Highlights on Lust For Life include: “In My Feelings,” “13 Beaches,” “When The World Was At War We Kept Dancing,” “Heroin,” “Groupie Love,” and “Cherry.”
You can buy Lust For Life on iTunes or stream it on Spotify now.