Lana Del Rey’s back, and she’s freer than ever = album review

Lana Del Rey’s latest album <<Lust For Life>> came out a few weeks ago, and to commemorate the cultural moment, I’m making a celebratory, slow-evolving, culminating post about Prague and the restless, hazy feelings that the party city’s wrapped up in

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How do the two things relate? Well, for one, both things — Lana Del Rey’s album and Prague — are shockingly underwhelming really, full of cliches, drawing in massive amounts of tourists and spectators, betting on social events and historical tropes to get fans. Transparently self-promotional, the party city boasts an eclectic club-life and dense history, and Lana, a chameleon-like ability to avoid the harsher realities of life.

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I actually looked for reviews, too. I looked for reviews, but everything seemed watered down & censored. It’s important to have some critical insight on Lana, she’s defining femininity in an ambiguous time. She’s also talking about like, major social issues (“it’s hard to live when absolutely nothing’s clear” (Heroin).

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Lana’s singing about her personal doubts. She’s got massive anxiety  (“I’m taking all my medicine to take my thoughts away”). And yet, this is supposed to be Lana’s happiest album. She’s in a good place now. She’s feeling lighter than ever, she says in interviews. This seemingly contradictory nature is kind of what Lana is all about. Maybe it’s cathartic for her, to write sad songs, and sing them to large audiences. However, there’s more to the cultural myth than just noir-pop.

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Fundamentally, Lana is singing about freedom & fame.  The whole album is a kaleidoscope of cross-references. Like, ok, Stevie Nicks is good. Sean Ono Lennon (meh), A$AP (always good at collabs, can’t complain!), the Weeknd (ugh, weak), but my point is that it’s all so perfectly curated. As if the whole world has turned into one big search-engine-optimized version of reality. Even the music video for “Lust for Life” copies David Lynch’s Season 3 of Twin Peaks, (episode 3), with the Hollywood sign in the video resembling the aluminum box up in space. The climb, and the falll. Like, okay, we’re all just mirroring each other’s creative content now. And I knoww the video came out a week before the episode, but the whole message seems to be that “cultural producers” are using shared symbols, syncing up their content to maximize their reach. Hello, social media era. It’s definitely a tactic.

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And on this album, Lana relies on it too much. The final song copies Radiohead’s Creep entirely. But why? Power in numbers? Lana is a new cultural authority now, sorta. And with this comes a need to preserve her position and sway. And what better way than to link up with other powerful people. Ironically, in “Get Free” she says “I’m doing it for all of us, who never got the chance.” And we’re supposed to feel … better?

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The album is kind of awkwardly smug in this way. Lana’s sharing her glory with us, and we, in turn, give her the fame. The best songs are actually the ones that don’t bother with any of this. In My Feelings is awesome, so is Summer Bummer. Basically, the songs in which she sticks to writing raw emotion honestly are the best. Yet, aside from the fame (“I’d trade the fame, and the fortune, and the legend”), Lana’s singing about freedom.

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Lana’s got them: freedom and fame. And is left with the resulting isolation, and only the indestructibility of her fame as a prop against the crippling weight of self-doubt. So, she keeps seeking more and more fame. That’s the only way to really ward off the feelings of isolation and meaninglessness that come with the heights of fame. The heartbreak songs, apparently written about G-Eazy, also speak about an artist who’s biggest hit is about wanting to hook up with a star, and since the Kardashians were taken, there’s only one left. Um, ok. And then, here comes Lana and her album, trying to fill a certain niche, clearly. The quest for fame is what the new Lana album is about. And sex, drugs and festivals. Even “Groupie Love” sings about love as an effect of fame. Her tribute to Emma Tillman and her relationship with Father John Misty similarly evokes questions of love in the context of stardom (“to not want to lose it cause they lost their minds”). Lust for Life is really about the craving for fame. And where it gets you.

The strange thing is, if this is “reality,” it’s massively censored. Back when the “Lust for Life” video had just come out, I made a comment on a youtube thread that had like the 6th number of highest likes but was negative. The entire comment + thread was quickly removed, leaving no trace of anyone who “didn’t like” the video. Or anything critical that people had to say about it. So what is freedom then, other than freedom from bad press? It’s as if freedom has been abstracted, and is now actually composed of the inverse: the lack of individual freedom to express oneself and one’s thoughts. Freedom to say nothing much, really. And do very little.

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I like Lana though, she’s a lil star. Some of the sound has faded though. It’s got less lustre. The unreleased stuff on youtube is just too good, there’s so much nuance and subtlety. The themes are getting, emptier and ideologically falser (most of the lyrics are imbued in a new kind of self-restriction).. That, or they sound like they were written five-minutes before being recorded. But then again, that’s part of the appeal I guess. Running with whatever arises. My only problem with this self-restrictive space we find ourselves in currently, is that its aim is the pursuit of a political self-interest. So with that in mind, a heavily stylized album in a period of political uncertainty is to be expected. This irony of inverse psychology is actually what freedom means for us today: the pursuit of greater and greater political favour through the strength of self-restraint. Sounds like an Elizabeth Woolridge Grant.

AS A SIDE NOTE,

I kind of like that she said she’d made a happy album, that’s actually not happy at all, but this sort of numbed-out sound is what mainstream society characterizes as happiness.

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/it’s all about riding the inverse feeling wave * bye

I think that ultimately, in a time of political upheaval, Lana has strategically positioned herself in a cushy, conservative point-of-view. She’s aligning herself with more and more black artists, to show her solidarity but also to ensure her relevance, in a period when more and more people (again) are concerned with issues of race, appropriation, and diversification. Lana was the prototype of white privilege, so it was necessary to tweak that image if she wanted her career to go more mainstream. Again, solidarity with an anti-Trump sentiment is hardly rebellious. It’s basically the mainstream sentiment.

And why is she so free? Because she’s making money in the newest era of capitalist individualism, and um, yeah playing power & politics to maintain it. Hating Trump is really just a strategy in that game. So be careful. Hating Trump isn’t the answer, it’s just a distraction to force everyone else’s agenda.. But since it’s all going downhill for Trump with this solar eclipse, it’s easy to play that card.

Overall, the new Lana Del Rey album Lust for Life is a 6.7/10, it’s trying hard to place itself into the cannon, linking up with powerful industry heavy-weights, and using massive social and political events to portray its relevancy. The lyrics are so-so, kind of lacking innovative content and trying to resolve that through a self-reflexive structure of writing about fame itself. At this point, it’s clearly a balancing act.

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