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Music review: Lana Del Rey's Lust For Life is clear on her new album

Lana Del Rey has released one full-length album almost every year since 2012.
Lana Del Rey has released one full-length album almost every year since 2012.PHOTO: UNIVERSAL MUSIC SINGAPORE

Singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey's latest album shines with a marked sense of wonder

The fact that American singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey is beaming giddily on her latest album cover is the first sign that this release is not business as usual. Known for her dark, morose and slightly twisted take on pop, she rarely smiles for the camera.

Lust For Life, not to be confused with the Iggy Pop classic, is her fifth album. She has been productive, releasing one full-length album almost every year since her debut Born To Die dropped in 2012.

Like the title suggests, the songs shine with a marked sense of wonder, more so than in her past releases. It is not happy, sunshiney music, make no mistake, but a veil has been lifted and a ray of light permeates the mix of retro pop and lush, electronic sounds.

"Look at you kids, you know you're the coolest/The world is yours and you can't refuse it," she croons in opening track Love, an ode to youthful empowerment.

Although her past works yearned for the United States of times past, referencing personalities such as the Kennedys and James Dean, Del Rey's focus in this new batch of songs is a lot more topical.

When The World Was At War We Kept Dancing takes a long hard look at what is happening in the US right now, but instead of focusing on the political divide, she prefers to stay optimistic.



    Lana Del Rey


    4/5 stars

"Is it the end of an era?/Is it the end of America?" she sings in her distinct, breathy voice before hitting the falsettos and declaring "No, it's only the beginning/If we hold on to hope, we'll have a happy ending".

She is acutely self-aware on many of the tracks, most notably on Coachella - Woodstock In My Mind. In the song, she is musing about spending time in Coachella, a music festival that attracts the young, rich and beautiful while "tensions were rising over country lines".

"I'd trade it all for a stairway to heaven," she later sings in the same song, referencing the Led Zeppelin rock opus.

Another rock royalty appears on the album - Fleetwood Mac's Stevie Nicks duets on and co-wrote Beautiful People Beautiful Problems, their voices harmonising splendidly on the chorus.

Sean Ono Lennon, son of John Lennon and wife Yoko Ono, channels a little of his late father on the fragile and melancholic Tomorrow Never Came.

The rest of the guest artists are strictly contemporary, though - Canadian R&B/electronic pop crooner The Weeknd and Del Rey celebrate the joy of youth on the title track ("They say only the good die young/That just ain't right/ 'Cause we're having too much fun"), while New York rapper ASAP Rocky drops a few verses on Summer Bummer and Groupie Love.

But the spotlight is still on Del Rey and her journey from darkness into light.

As she intones on album closer Get Free: "Finally, I'm crossing the threshold."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 26, 2017, with the headline 'Stepping into the light'. Print Edition | Subscribe