Why is Lana Del Rey so obsessed with 1950s Americana? Why does each song sound – nearly – the same? Why does every track feel so emotionless and devoid of life? These are all questions that go unanswered on the New York singer-songwriter’s fourth studio album, Lust For Life, yet another taste of her dull, dreary, and ultimately inauthentic art pop. Not even appearances from A$AP Rocky, Stevie Nicks, and Sean Lennon can do anything to save Del Rey – her appropriations of atomic age music seem only to translate into flimsy, contemporary pop ballads aimed even further down than the lowest common denominator.
This album reads like a rich white woman reminiscing on her youth, dreaming of an idyllic suburban America while carefully forgetting about racially motivated violence, atomic fears, and the Cold War. Few of her hopeless, half-hearted attempts to imitate 1950s vocal pop come together to form anything beyond simple tangibility – her bulwark of talented songwriters and producers have focused more on presenting pop appeal than building vibrant backdrops for Del Rey to play off of. Hints of trip hop bleed into the lowkey drum arrangements on a few tracks, but when everything is tucked beneath layers of baroque pop boredom and studio sheen, Del Rey’s emotionless, sterile vocal performances only falter further.
There’s little use in talking about individual tracks here, considering pretty much all of these tracks fall into the category of baroque pop on the verge of breakdown. Occasionally there’s a folksy moment or two, like the Sean Lennon collaboration Tomorrow Never Came, but these come out nearly as equally uninteresting as the rest of the album’s performances. Even when more contemporary elements enter the fray, they clash constantly with Del Rey’s faux Americana aesthetic – tracks like Coachella – Woodstock In My Mind and White Mustang are so superficial and devoid of meaning that they make Del Rey’s singing feel emotional in comparison. While title track Lust For Life is a weak single made interesting by Del Rey’s and the Weeknd’s tough competition for most unenthusiastic and phoned-in singing yet, A$AP Rocky and Playboi Carti surprisingly come through for Summer Bummer, one of few tracks with high replay value, let alone any replay value at all.
Lust For Life is just one of those albums where every single aspect of it is so hopelessly lukewarm and lifeless – it’s apathetic art pop at it’s best. In a market saturated by singer-songwriters masquerading pedestrian appeal under the guise of “alternative pop”, Lana Del Rey could perhaps be doing it better than anyone else. Maybe she’ll come around and ditch the Americana aesthetic and do something real, maybe not – in the meantime, there’s so much wasted potential.
30 / 100