Home / Arts & Life / Review: Lana Del Rey Wonders ‘Is It the End of America?’ on Her New Album

Review: Lana Del Rey Wonders ‘Is It the End of America?’ on Her New Album


Lana Del Rey, in 2014.

Kurt Iswarienko for The New York Times

Time is weighing on Lana Del Rey on her fourth major-label studio album, “Lust for Life.” At 32, she’s thinking not only about the troubled romances that fill most of her songs, but also about a next generation: flower-crowned children she sees around her at the Coachella festival, young lovers she notices on the street. In the album’s opening song, “Love,” she looks at, “You kids with your vintage music coming through satellites,” and observes, “You’re part of the past, but now you’re the future.”

That entanglement of old and new has been Ms. Del Rey’s gift and her strategy. Some pop careers unfold as a progression, an implicit narrative of an artist discovering new ideas and choosing different challenges. Ms. Del Rey’s catalog has been more like an Alexander Calder mobile: a fixed set of elements in a shifting balance, realigned with each viewing. “Lust for Life” is her most expansive album; it has 16 songs, stretching nearly 72 minutes. It also, in rare moments, hints at a wink behind Ms. Del Rey’s somber lullabies.

Ms. Del Rey has been a pop presence only since 2011, when she released her single “Video Games” and her debut album, “Born To Die.” But her materials and fixations were already lined up. She would sing about love, usually going wrong, along with fame, drugs and stray thoughts about America. She pushed, quietly and adamantly, against most expectations of pop in the 2010s. Turning her back on loud, emphatic, digitally hyped productions, Ms. Del Rey was whispery, soft focus, leisurely. Her voice would stay gentle and sustained, the opposite of a belter, using grain and melodic leaps rather than lung power for emotional peaks.

From the past, she echoed girl groups and pre-rock orchestral ballads, and slipped old song titles into her lyrics, as well as photo-archived images — particularly from Hollywood — into her videos. And from the present, she used blunt language and the shallow, openly artificial sounds of hip-hop percussion, spattering them against the decorous comforts of nostalgia. Her music is a self-made dream world: a slow-moving, gauzy, sad, glamorous, pensive, solitary realm, with Hollywood at its center and the rest of America somewhere in the distance, where she gently croons about fleeting pleasures and looming disappointments.

On successive albums, she tinkered with ingredients and proportions: a touch more psychedelic guitar on “Ultraviolence” in 2014, melodramatically dissonant string arrangements on “Honeymoon” in 2015. Yet her songs have remained immediately recognizable. “Lust for Life” features some new collaborators — Stevie Nicks, the Weeknd, ASAP Rocky, Sean Ono Lennon — but Ms. Del Rey brings them into her domain.


The Weeknd and Ms. Nicks signal the Hollywood decadence that Ms. Del Rey often chronicles and indicts: the Weeknd joining her in “Lust for Life” to sing about dancing on the Hollywood sign and getting naked, and Ms. Nicks collaborating on a piano ballad, “Beautiful People Beautiful Problems,” that teases at its own narcissism.

Continue reading the main story

About admin

Check Also

Hear the Best Albums and Songs of 2023

Dear listeners, In the spirit of holiday excess and end-of-the-year summation, we’re about to make …