“I live right inside the middle of the ‘H’ of the Hollywood sign, and this is how I spent most of my nights: perched high above the chaos that swirls within the City of Angels below… when I’m in the middle of making a record – especially now, when the world is in the middle of such a tumultuous period – I find I really need to take the space for myself, far away from real life to consider what my contribution to the world should be in these dark times…”
Back in 2012, 26-year-old Lizzie Grant began the next stage of her mission to break the music industry. Her first album Lana Del Ray was released digitally in 2010, before being pulled from the market just three months later. Then, in 2011 she released Video Games and, two years and one reinvention after her ill-fated debut, came Born To Die – the first album by the newfound Lana Del Rey.
Known for her somber melodies and themes of destruction and loss, fans have come to expect a certain signature tone from the New York-born songstress. But, on new album Lust For Life there is a cathartic, almost cyclical theme, particularly in relation to her previous offerings. Perhaps the return of the logo used on the original Video Games single cover is confirmation of this; no longer contemplating life in relation to death, it seems now that Lana Del Rey is only interested in living.
What underpins this sense of liberation, however, seems to be a contemplation of the political state of America, and the world, right now in 2017. Lust For Life is like a double record; while the first half is typical Lana Del Rey ‘Hollyweird’ realness, the latter portion is characterised by a broader reflection of real world issues. Notably, the track Coachella – Woodstock in my Mind provides the turning point.
Prior to the record’s release, Lana previewed an early version of the song on her Instagram account
The song, written following the singer’s attendance at Coachella, contemplates the significance of the festival which took place while tensions between the United States and North Korea were mounting. “What about all these children/And what about all their parents/I’d trade it all for a stairway to heaven/I’d give it all away if you give me one more day to ask him one question.” Instead of sticking with one or the other, however, throughout the album Lana covers several current issues with a refreshing optimism.
In When The World Was At War We Kept Dancing she delivers a lesson from the history books on how to get through turbulent times – by staying uplifted and dancing, of course – while in God Bless America – And All The Beautiful Women In It she celebrates the women of America, and defies anyone to leave them out in the cold. One gets the sense that this one was specifically written with Mr. Trump in mind.
What really stands out this time around is the strength of the poetry within each song. Lead single Love sets the tone for the record, signposting the message that is present throughout – “It doesn’t matter if I’m not enough/’cause I’m young and in love” – while Beautiful People Beautiful Problems (a sublime duet with Ms. Stevie Nicks) is an introspective look at both singers’ lives, “My heart is soft/My past is rough.” In My Feelings is a particular highlight, signaling a return to her self-coined ‘gangsta Nancy Sinatra’ style, in which she portrays a hooker in denial about her attachment to a client, “Who’s doper than this bitch/Who’s freer than me/You got me in my feelings.”
The album closes with Get Free, which provides the answer to the questions that the album poises – most notably, just how we can overcome the struggles that the world is facing. “This is my commitment/My modern manifesto/I’m doing it for all of us/Who never got the chance.” Whilst contemplating the false promises of politicians and the way in which they embroil us all, she concludes that we don’t have to be a pawn in their games, and can choose instead to live how we desire.
A couple of months back I wrote about the need for those at the top of their game within the arts world to come together and spread a message of unity against those in power who are tearing the world apart. In Lust For Life, Lana Del Rey has perfected the formula in balancing the music that fans have come to expect, with the music that the world needs right now.
“… Amidst all the uncertainty, and as we transition out of one era into another one, there’s no place I’d rather be than smack-dab in the middle of ‘Hollyweird’ making this record for you. Because you and the music, and this place are my love, my life, and my lust for life.”
Lana Del Rey, Lust For Life Album Trailer
Check out our review of the Lust For Life launch gig at the O2 Academy Brixton here