LANA DEL REY Lust For Life gets 6.5/10

Lana Del Rey
Lust for Life
Universal

6.5/10

Lana Del Rey makes a return to the hip hop beats and trip hop inspired sounds of her breakthrough album Born to Die on fifth record Lust for Life. For much of the album she leaves her sad-core sad girl image behind in an effort to revitalise her image, collaborating with the likes of The Weeknd, A$AP Rocky, Stevie Nicks and Sean Ono Lennon. The irony is that the when she does finally play up to the signature style of her more recent work on three mini-epics that close the LP, it works much better.

Opening with the one-two of popular singles Love (“to be young and in love!” she exclaims in a spiritually positive successor to Young and Beautiful) and The Weeknd featuring title track Lust for Life, it’s a remarkably positive sounding Lizzy Grant. The theme continues on songs with self-explanatory titles such as God Bless America – and All the Beautiful Women in It and When the World was at War We Kept Dancing, while Coachella – Woodstock in My Mind is as fond reminiscence of a festival experience quite different to anything she’s penned to date.

All of which is fine – given the bad press she’s received for records such as her career defining Ultraviolence, you could forgive her for wanting to be more of a positive role model to young women, let alone sound happy in herself.

The problem is she doesn’t sound half as convincing as she did on Ultraviolence. Largely this comes down to the monotonous, beatsy trip hop production and the guest spots, which only detract from the intriguingly individualistic vision she has created for herself in recent years.

Why she hasn’t taken up with Black Keys frontman and Ultraviolence producer Dan Auerbach again since that startlingly insightful and stark record remains a mystery, but like the inclusion of A$AP Rocky and Playboi Carti on a couple of singles that derail the album’s first half, one can only assume the answer is “commercial realities”. After all, the oft-misunderstood Ultraviolence title track was a song about mental and physical abuse at the hands of a mentor; not your usual chart-topping fare.

Nothing against A$AP, but his tracks Summer Bummer and Groupie Love are real bummers. Elsewhere, Stevie Nicks appearing on Beautiful People Beautiful Problems fares better, while Tomorrow Never Came, a duet with Sean Ono Lennon is charmingly self-aware as Del Rey sings “Isn’t life crazy, I said, now that I’m singing with Sean”.

At over 70 minutes, it’s enough to test the patience of any Lana Del Rey devotee, but strangely it’s a trilogy of bona fide Lana Del Rey classics to close the album that save it from being her most insignificant release (that remains her little known, though not especially bad, debut album).

As the beats ease up towards the end, eulogy-in-song Heroin is a glimpse back to the pure songwriting that has characterised her past two records, and saved 2015’s Honeymoon from drifting away into the ether unnoticed. Likewise, piano-led Change and finale Get Free follow, and as she plays up to Neil Young singing “Out of the black, into the blue” in the latter we get the sense that finally she’s content, even if it’s stoned contentment.. We also get the Lana Del Rey album we could’ve had without too many producers in the way. Along with opener Love, these are the real reason to keep paying attention.

In the end, even a happy Lana Del Rey album is a pretty downbeat affair, and she fails to sound particularly convincing without the emotional weight of Ultraviolence or the spaced out haze of Honeymoon. But despite the hard slog running time, there’s still enough to keep fans who dig deep enough interested.

HARVEY RAE

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