Lana Del Rey’s newfound Lust for Life
By: Ipek Kozanoglu
It’s a dichotomy when it comes to the music of Lana del Rey. You can either completely hate it, or you can madly fall in love with it. At least, it happened to me that way. I wasn’t much of a fan when Lana del Rey first came out; it was too broody and didn’t have much to offer beyond her monotone, depressing pitch.
Hearing Young and Beautiful in the movie Great Gatsby allowed me to understand that Lana del Rey was different to what I thought or heard before. Her soulful voice not only spoke to people in the darkest of times but captured the sorrows of hearts providing solace and relief in a way that other singers couldn’t. Her songs were not for everyone or for every mood. They were very specific. I became an avid Lana fan soon enough and devoured every album.
The album-titled song in particular, "Lust for Life", performed fantastically on the commercial charts following her accompanying video with Toronto-born artist, The Weeknd. An increase in the number and diversity of the artists (e.g. The Weeknd and A$AP Rocky) featuring in this album is also a marked development.
The album is 16 tracks long, a surprising sight for any major-label album and her longest thus far; equally surprising is the artist’s wholesome smile, which features as the album cover - not a usual sight from the typical fabulously moody style of the 32-year-old. Lana has ditched her femme fatale style (especially notable in videos for "Young and Beautiful" and "Video Games"), instead opting for whole-sale positivity; a naturally 50’s aesthetic. Even her make-up became more natural; the flick of her eyeliner thinned down. This style change feels, to me, like the true Lana, shedding the skin that first brought her to global fame. “I know that if I had more of a persona then, I have less of one now. (…) Maybe I needed a stronger look or something to lean on. But it wouldn’t be really hard for me today to play a mega-show in jeans without rehearsing and still feel like I was coming from the right place.” She told Elle UK in a 2011 interview.
Enjoying life beyond the exploration of her dark side is what I would consider the driving force behind these changes. This is highlighted in an interview with Complex Magazine: “I think happiness is the ultimate life goal. I think it’s the only thing that’s important.” Lana is once again in front of us with her soulful voice, but this time with more hope and a better outlook to the future, which radiates with the album title Lust for Life. The style transition that has started with Lana’s Honeymoon album has definitely settled in Lust for Life.
Additionally, she is taking a new, more poignant route by also singing about America’s recent turmoil. As a global voice, directed observation and commentary are important traits which other artists, such as Taylor Swift, are failing to encompass through their new music. “I think it would be weird to be making a record during the past 18 months and not comment on how …[the political landscape]… was making me or the people I know feel, which is not good. It would be really difficult if my views didn’t line up with a lot of what people were saying.” The New York-born artist told Elle. "God Bless America – And All of The Beautiful Women in it" resonates with this thought. She told Dazed Magazine: “The last 16 months, things were kind of crazy in the US, and in London when I was there. I was just feeling like I wanted a song that made me feel a little more positive when I sang.” Rather than melancholic outbursts concerned with self-pity, Lust for Life focuses on positive action in situations that make you uncomfortable. Claiming that she is now bolder with her songs, Lana also admits to Complex that she “grew out of her older songs” and does not have the same style when it comes to the way she is presented in her songs. “In the last few years, I feel like I’ve grown up. Maybe I’ve just had time to process everything. Singing songs I wrote ten years ago... It does feel different. It’s weird listening back to my stuff”
It doesn’t matter if you have nowhere to go, it’s ok to be confused about your future and to think that maybe you’re not enough. This is what Lana tries to get across in the opening track, "Love. Lust for Life" focuses on the care-free attitude young people should adopt, to truly enjoy the present. This is made apparent as she sings: Cause we’re the masters of our own fate, we’re the captains of our own souls. So there’s no need for us to hesitate, A lust for life, keeps us alive.
However, fear not, "Get Free" echoes of the old Lana, as the closing track prevents her newfound positivity flowing uninterrupted from the start of the album, until the end. There’s no more chasing rainbows and hoping got an end to them. Their arches are illusions, solid at first glance. But then you try to touch them. There’s nothing to hold on to. Equally in "13 Beaches": I don’t belong in the world, that’s what it is. Something separates me from other people. Everywhere I turn, there’s something blocking my escape. It took thirteen beaches to find one empty but finally, it’s mine.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a black and white distinction between her happy and sad songs, nor between this and previous albums; rather, Lana is encouraging people to worry less about the bleak future and bad choices that cannot be changed. In the video for "Lust for Life", a girl jumping from the Hollywood sign to join her lost love serves as a clear nod towards Peg Entwistle’s famously tragic suicide as she jumped from the huge ‘H’ in 1932 and an equal moment in which we can consider this newfound Lust for Life as something deeper than just surface-level positivity.
ST.ART Magazine does not own the rights to any of the images used in this article.