Lana Del Rey’s Lust for Life is drive- in theaters and mint green Thunderbirds. It’s sneaking a kiss at the top of Lookout Mountain, and getting back home by midnight. It’s pearls and kitten heels and letterman jackets. Lust for Life perfectly captures the bittersweet nostalgia of the past, like a Nancy Sinatra song, yet set in our current time in the way only a Lana Del Rey album can do.
Del Rey’s latest and fifth studio release is hailed as her “most Lana Del Rey album yet” by Billboard and is currently holding the coveted spot of Album of the Week. I listened to Lust for Life while floating in my pool, and I felt like I could float forever. The nostalgia felt like the warmth on my skin from the kiss of the sun, and for that moment, time stood still. Her voice is haunting, yet dream-like, and utterly Lana. It drips with the innocence of a first love, the yearning of acceptance, and the hope that there will be a happy ending. It’s a slight departure from her earlier more brooding work in “Born to Die,” with a surprisingly optimistic tone.
Inspired by the Shangri- Las, whose sound helped define the 60’s, Lust for Life features cameos by the Weeknd, Playboi Carti, A$AP Rocky, Sean Ono Lennon, and Stevie Nicks. The tenderness in Del Rey’s sultry voice works perfectly against the backdrop of subtle hip- hop beats curated by producers like Rick Nowels and Kieron Menzies. Del Rey is the artist our starving souls need and Lust for Life overflows with the poetry and purpose that seems to be lacking from mainstream entertainment. The underlying commentary on our social and political climate is necessary and all too rare in a young culture more interested in selfies than self- reflection.
In a conversation with Stevie Nicks for V Magazine, Del Rey talks about her newfound “lust for life” and what inspired her to pen this album. “There are so many things that have gotten me to the point that I’m at now. One of them is just time. And because I do write everything myself, I just wanted to chronicle how I was feeling honestly, in the moment, for each record. I had a lot of stories that I wanted to tell that I hadn’t told yet up until this point. And now, through the last four records, I got out a lot of those stories and a lot of those feelings, and for the first time, I’ve caught myself up to real time. And now, I’m at this place where I feel like I’m really present, and when I’m reading the news, I’m really reading it, whereas before I was a little bit in my own head. So, there’s definitely been a feeling of freedom and lightness being in the present moment. That brings on that lust for life feeling, when you don’t have all of those feelings about the past weighing you down.”
One of the many highlights is Del Rey’s collaboration with Stevie Nicks on the track “Beautiful People Beautiful Problems.” It’s the perfect blend of both artists, soft and melodic, tender and hopeful. It captures the youth of Del Rey and the maturity of Nicks, bridging the gap between the past and the present. The lyrics are simple yet full of depth; they tell a story and paint a picture in the most perfectly poetic way. Stevie Nicks sings, “Blue is the collar of the shirt of the man I love. He’s hard at work, hard to the touch. But warm is the body of the girl from the land he loves. My heart is soft, my past is rough.”
Then in unison they sing, “But when I love him get a feeling something close to like a sugar rush. It runs through me, but is it wasted love? (It’s not wasted love).” Because sometimes we have to break through someone’s walls to get to their heart.
And it’s the chorus that makes us all feel a little less alone in a sometimes lonely world. “We’re just beautiful people with beautiful problems (yeah). Beautiful problems, God knows we got them, but we gotta try (la, la, la), every day and night (la, la, la).”
Del Rey’s duet with the Weeknd on the unapologetically young and in love title song “Lust for Life” is reminiscent of the Angels’ 1963 classic “My Boyfriend’s Back.” And if you’re not at all familiar with the girl group, then you may have missed Del Rey’s subtle nod to them when she sings, “My boyfriend’s back, and he’s cooler than ever.” Her airy vocals pair perfectly with the Weeknd’s soulfully ethereal voice; the desire and desperation are nearly palpable. It’s the perfect title song and Del Rey at her best.
Perhaps the most pleasantly surprising duet on the album is “Tomorrow Never Came” with Sean Ono Lennon, son of Yoko Ono and John Lennon. You can’t help but hear and feel the essence of John Lennon through Sean’s impressive vocal performance. Del Rey pays homage to another UK legend, Elton John, when she sings, “’Cause if I had my way, you’d always stay. And I’d be your tiny dancer, Honey.” The simple guitar melody, easy chord changes, and effortless harmonies easily make this song one of the more sentimental tracks on the album.
“God Bless America- and All the Beautiful Women In it” is Del Rey’s female call to arms, to “…stand proud and strong, like Lady Liberty shining all night long.” And it’s also a demand to accept her for who she is. “Take me as I am. Don’t see me for what I’m not. Only you can hear me tonight. Keep your light on, Babe. I might be standing outside. You let me in, don’t leave me out, or leave me dry.” And the faint shots fired in the background after Del Rey sings, “God bless America,” is completely intentional and discreet irony at its finest.
Lust for Life evokes a feeling of familiarity with the unfamiliar, and it respectfully pays homage without imitating. It speaks volumes of Del Rey’s talents as not only a singer but a story teller. And it proves that not all is lost on our youth; that there are artists who understand that without the past, there is no future. And that the biggest favor we can do for ourselves is to learn from the past, rather than dwell on it. Lust for Life shares a message of hope and love, light and strength- and if all else fails just keep dancing. ‘Cause “…if we hold on to hope, we’ll have a happy ending.”
Lana Del Rey’s back, and she’s better than ever.