As I held a copy of Lust For Life in my hands and surveyed the cover art, the first thing you notice is the beaming smile of Lana Del Rey herself. The second is the truck in the backdrop, later confirmed to be the same make and model as the one featuring in Born To Die‘s album artwork. That in itself speaks volumes of the complex semantics revolving around Del Rey’s Hollyweird sensibility. On Lust For Life, Del Rey seems more at ease as she evolves as an artist and expands on the limited palette of emotions that have coloured her previous four releases. The inclusion of the truck is once more an act of symbolism. Is Del Rey returning to her Born To Die era with this album? Or is she moving on completely into a new sphere of artistry? Truth is, she lands somewhere in between.
Americana has always been at the centre of Lana’s bejewelled flower crown and as America enters into a period of unknowing, Lana’s social consciousness astutely rolls with the punches as they come. In a way Lana remains the same; at the end of the day, an album about America in 2017 is still an album concerned with Americana. And for an artist so synonymous with visionary aspects of America and its romantic patriotism it only makes sense that she should reflect on its ever-changing countenance. The narrative of past records have always retained an air of intense surrogacy, where the listener can easily interact with the images she proposes. Del Rey’s perspective shifts from herself even more so throughout Lust For Life. On opening track ‘Love’, she wills on the youth of the generation with her praises, encouraging their continued positivity in the face of new adversity. On the stirring ‘God Bless America’, she again calls for solidarity with her fellow women in light of the current state of women’s rights. An accomplished tackling of these subjects shows true artistic growth; if Del Rey had attempted these tracks in particular even three of four years ago, few unbiased listeners would’ve taken her as seriously as they do now.
Lana’s inclusion doesn’t end with her audience either; Lust For Life is her first album to feature collaborations. The Weeknd teams up with Del Rey again for the album’s title track and most obvious pop offering and A$AP Rocky and Playboi Carti appear midway through to further legitimise Lana’s connections to Hip-Hop and trap music. However it’s Lana’s duet with Stevie Nicks on ‘Beautiful People Beautiful Problems’ that proves the most effective. Nicks’ seasoned vocal adds a new depth to Lana’s trademark forward male obsession.
But even as Del Rey flourishes with more profound strokes of deeper meaning and reflection, the vivid flashes of Americana that remain are entirely valid and welcomed. On ‘White Mustang’, Lana slips into yet another glamorous dress and on ‘Cherry’ she again alludes to a love/hate relationship with a troubled lover (‘I fall to pieces when I’m with you’). And interestingly, there are more overt references to her own work. ‘My boyfriend’s back and he’s cooler than ever,’ she sings on ‘Lust For Life’ in a sequel to her 2014 track ‘Brooklyn Baby’. And on album closer ‘Get Free’, Lana puts a slight twist on the famous line from Paradise track ‘Ride’: ‘Sometimes it feels like I’ve got a war in my mind/I want to get off, but I keep ridin’ the ride’.
More than any record post-Born To Die, Lust For Life shows visible growth as an artist and further confidence in her own symbolism and her manipulation of it. The mythic vibe remains intact even as her adversaries hop from trend to trend, perhaps in the search of a vague sense of ‘purposeful pop’. For Lana Del Rey, the majority of her inspiration has been about looking back at her predecessors and now as she explores the present and dissects her own back catalogue and what it means in the current context she perhaps comes to her own realisation. As the symbolism comes full circle, with Born To Die‘s blue truck adorned in full sight on her latest album’s cover, Lana Del Rey can confidently align herself with idols that have informed her past narratives.