Hot on the heels of the critically-praised Ultraviolence (2014) and Honeymoon (2015), art-pop sorceress Lana Del Rey was in the perfect position to elevate her artistry to the next level with her fifth studio album Lust for Life. Regrettably, Del Rey’s not only slammed the brakes on her hot streak, but one could make a strong argument that Lust for Life is her most underwhelming project to date.
An album entitled Lust for Life should offer blissful escapism and liberation; however, there are only a handful of songs that venture into sunny territory. Lead single and album opener “Love” is heart-meltingly beautiful with Del Rey’s woozily gorgeous vocal floating above warm bass tones, thick choral harmonies, and mild percussive twitches. “God Bless America – and All the Beautiful Women in It” raises social consciousness around the globe—a refreshing change of pace in comparison to her previous recordings. Even the quiet fragility of album closer “Get Free” bursts with pure optimism as Del Rey travels “out of the black, into the blue.”
Apart from these bright spots, however, Lust for Life is a dreary, joyless ride into familiar lyrical territory: doe-eyed infatuation (“Lust for Life,” “Cherry,” “Summer Bummer,” and “Groupie Love”), substance abuse (“Heroin”), and nostalgic fantasies (“Coachella – Woodstock in My Mind”), with little to no variety in its ultra-polished soundscapes. By the time Stevie Nicks (“Beautiful People Beautiful Problems”) and Sean Ono Lennon (“Tomorrow Never Came”) arrive on the scene, some listeners will have already fallen into the “sunken place” Lana inadvertently created.
For these reasons, Lust for Life is a massive letdown. When it comes to an artist as talented as Lana Del Rey, that simply isn’t—and nor should it be—good enough. For her next project, it would behoove her to balance the moody, introspective material with breezier, retro-sounding grooves for maximum effect (see Raphael Saadiq’s Stone Rollin’ or Janelle Monáe’s The Electric Lady).
Notable Tracks: “Get Free” | “God Bless America – and All the Beautiful Women in It” | “Love”