Lana Del Rey Reflects on Dark Times With Hypnotic New Album ‘Lust for Life’

Lana Del Rey continues to be a baroque pop star who has a way about her that demands our collective attention. Her first step onto the national scene came from 2011’s “Video Games,” which the songstress released via YouTube to instant acclaim. Del Rey quickly followed up with a series of successful singles from her debut “Born to Die,” along with subsequent records. July 21 marks the release of her fifth studio album “Lust for Life,” featuring intriguing collaborations and, as always, the signature magnetism from the queen of dream-pop.

Many have lambasted Del Rey for being such an overtly emotive performer, but to fans, that’s part of her charm – particularly in the vapidity that runs pop music these days. “Lust for Life” sees Del Rey sticking to her guns, which for her fans is exactly what they want. Her videos continue to be works of charming lo-fi art as well. The lead-off track, “Love,” is shot through a hazy, vintage filter, showing Del Rey performing in front of a crowd of young men and women from a different era, as she sings a lullaby with (literal) stars in her eyes. The catchy hook speaks on the innocence of being young and in love, a theme she continues to explore since the days of “Video Games.”

There are a handful of notable collaborations on the album, with one of the most popular elevating the title single, “Lust for Life,” featuring The Weeknd. Here, the two perform in a duet style with Abel conforming his sound to fit Lana’s style. The music video complimenting the single is a stunning, glistening and sensual ode to young love as the two caress one another atop the Hollywood sign. “They say only the good die young / That just ain’t right,” Lana sings on a familiar theme. ’Cus we’re having too much fun / Too much fun tonight.”

A$AP Rocky joins Del Rey once again after his cameo in 2012’s “National Anthem” video. This time around, the hip-hip star takes verses on both “Groupie Love” and “Summer Bummer,” the latter of which also features Playboi Carti. Del Rey croons “Hip-hop in the summer / Don’t be a bummer, babe,” ahead of A$AP’s feature on “Summer Bummer.” This track provides a rare treat for her fans, as a genuine trap beat lays the foundation.

Coachella – Woodstock in My Mind” came to the singer after a weekend soaking in the peace and love of Coachella. The story goes, she stopped off in the nearby woods with a conflict on her mind. How can one enjoy life so blissfully when others struggle so mightily to maintain peace? While conflicts began to mount around the world, all was well in Indio, Calif. Throughout the song she references flower wrapped hair and stairway to heaven, deeming Coachella the Woodstock of the new age.

For the Metro Boomin’ produced track “God bless America – And All Beautiful Women In It,” Del Rey takes fans on a low-key ride through the struggles for women’s rights. The song came after a conversation with a female friends who expressed fears of not being represented in the political spectrum. With the national conversation often veering towards fears of those in power leaving the under-represented behind, Del Rey voices her rightful concerns here.

“When The World Was At War We Kept Dancing,” finds Lana in a similar mindset. She once described the song as “very dark” and “doesn’t lead to a fucking happy ending.” Her concerns about the end of America as we know it come full circle here, with “fucking” popping up in line after line as she vents frustratingly. She does insist though, that through these dark times her fans “stay vigilant and keep dancing.” She sings, “Is it the end of America? / No, it’s only the beginning.”

Nearing the end of this sixteen-track hypnotic ride from Del Rey “Beautiful People Beautiful Problems” see’s the Americana pop princess taking a step back in time with the help of Fleetwood Mac frontwoman Stevie Nicks. The track calls attention to the current state of our problematic world and wouldn’t have been out of place on a Stevie Nicks fronted record. Del Rey has previously described Nicks as a “bona fide badass,” complementing the legendary rock star for still touring at the age of sixty-nine.

Del Rey nearly steps in the time machine once again with the album’s next track “Tomorrow Never Came,” featuring John Lennon’s son Sean Ono Lennon. The reverberant guitars and soft vocals from both Del Rey and Lennon offer a fragrant trip into a flowery field beaming with sunlight. It’s no surprise either, that Lennon sounds a bit like his late-father, even the progression (co-written by Lennon) feels like a Beatles B-side cut. Leave it to Lana, to transport listeners to another time.

It’ll be fascinating to see how Del Rey continues to expand as an artist. The “innocent star-crossed lover with her heart on her sleeve” may not be sufficient to return to after delivering an album that has tackled such prominent socio-political themes. As the country continues to sway back and forth, as it teeters on the brink of uncharted territory, the question for her fans becomes: where will Lana take her lyrics and artistic motives next?

Lust for Life” is available July 21 on Apple Music.