Lana Del Rey — originally one of pop music’s most debated figures — has created a lane of her own after five studio releases in just as many years. Following a rocky outset with nearly spiteful reviews of her debut Born To Die, Del Rey has steadily released ever-evolving work: each consecutive project adding to her catalogue like a new book in a series, each one unmistakably written by the same author and told through the same protagonist’s eyes, swapping out plot points for production techniques.
Born To Die’s trip-hop, Ultraviolence’s brooding rock and Honeymoon’s baroque jazz are singular in their productions, but they approach life from the same place: mourning the past, sulking in the present or altogether dreaming up an alternate reality. One of Del Rey’s greatest strengths as a storyteller and vocalist is her ability to blur the line between biography and fantasy so flawlessly that listeners are forced to take all or none.
Lust for Life is Del Rey’s longest, most diverse album. Though it incorporates production techniques from all of her previous releases, Lust for Life seems like a direct follow-up to Born to Die. Aside from the obvious title dynamics, the albums’ covers parallel one another with Del Rey standing in the center, title above head, name below, with a pick-up truck behind her. One key difference: She smiles on Lust for Life, a first for any of her album covers.
As a whole, Lust for Life isn’t as striking as Ultraviolence or Honeymoon because it’s not an exploration of genre and tone in addition to one of Del Rey’s psyche. Lust for Life holds itself together across a varied production of trap drums and folk strings by blurring lyrical lines instead of instrumentals, carrying phrases and images across the album (She rhymes “summer” and “bummer” in the opening lines of “White Mustang,” endless references to beaches outside of “13 Beaches” and she even slides in “It’s more than just a video game” on “Beautiful People, Beautiful Problems”).
Lana’s unshakeable self-awareness is the cornerstone of this record; it not only allows her to troll the audience with meta-hipster lyrics delivered with a wink and a smile, but it also allows her to shift her perspective into the very real Trump-era, talk about her hope for the future and confront both the demons and the men she’s toyed with for the past four releases.
Lust for Life is full of firsts for Del Rey. It’s the first time she’s approached unadulterated joy and expressed hope for the future (“Love,” “Lust for Life,” “Change”). It’s the first time she has had features on her own albums, perfectly representing the genres from which she pulls inspiration (The Weeknd, Playboi Carti and A$AP Rocky) and the iconography she has always called on (Stevie Nicks and Sean Ono Lennon).
”Who’s tougher than this bitch? / Who’s freer than me?” she breathes on “In My Feelings,” one of Lust For Life’s standout tracks. For the last five years, Del Rey has pretty much done what she wants when she wants and that has yet to fail her — Lust for Life is a worthy addition to her stacked catalogue.