After some leaks and years away, Lana Del Rey’s latest effort was worth the wait. At 16 tracks long, some may wonder what the album holds, but its sheer length ends up playing to its advantage. Mixing vintage pop with hip hop and poison, Del Rey is at her usual best. While the album takes a few tracks to hit its stride, the majority of the record more than makes up for its slow start.
“Love” starts the album on a slow-beating ballad, that blooms more and more as the track goes on. Pulling in some percussive surprises, the track serves best as an intro rather than a standalone single. Going in a more grand direction “Lust For Life (feat. The Weekend)” has such a straightforward delivery that its wondrous sound will either sweep you away or swim by. Taking a sombre turn, “13 Beaches” has Del Rey at her most vulnerable as each line sheds away another layer of armour for a track as devastating as it is powerful.
On trickling guitar and a subdued drum, “Cherry” slips into darkness, as Del Rey sounds like she’s touching the mic. Finally settling into her groove, she delivers line after memorable line, on a heartbreaking melody with a bite. While “White Mustang” is definitely a track we’ve heard from Del Rey before, in the course of the album, the intoxicating tumble it puts listeners through is still enjoyable. “Summer Bummer (feat A$AP Rocky)” brings Del Rey into the hip hop world in appropriately ominous overtones, and while the tone feels off initially, it works more on repeat listens.
Taking the hip hop in more subtler notes “Groupie Love (feat. A$AP Rocky)” has a much more dreamy quality, kept modern by the subtle production notes. The ethereal quality of the overall blend finds her at her most heavenly, making another killer moment on the album, with Rocky’s verse a lot more cutting in its understated emotion. Riding this momentum, “In My Feelings” has an acidic Del Rey using her bass as a heft to drive her anger forward. Moving between the blissful highs and moving lows, she goes in deep on this track. In her familiar femme fatale tones, “Coachella – Woodstock In My Mind” has her dropping sarcastic slang while stealing your man away in the most hypnotic way.
“God Bless America – And All The Beautiful Women In It” brings in subtle guitar and background vocals for 90’s inspired relaxed ballad that eases you into its swagger. Much more mysterious “When The World Was At War We Kept Dancing” takes a much more apocalyptic narrative and finds Del Rey’s vocals soaring over it with vigor. Working with rock royalty on “Beautiful People Beautiful Problems” is moving in its tragedy. The heartstring plucking verse gets even harder to bear as Nicks vocals amp up the pain, with their harmonies connecting in a perfect bliss. Working with Sean Ono Lennon on “Tomorrow Never Came” the two swim through the seas of vintage pop, as they reflect the sad reality over variations of some of the most iconic melodies of the 60s. A unique track that feels strangely elegant instead of novel, especially given the multiple Beatles nods.
Pulling back the joy, for something more real, “Heroin” slides back to cloudy days in its sparse arrangement. While it takes quite a while to get there, the finale of the track has such an overpowering emotion to its hook that it’s easy to forgive the wait. “Change” strips a lot back for a cutting piano track, that only suffers from being surrounded by so many of the more complex tracks of the album. Climbing into the sunlight on “Get Free” Del Rey closes the record on a harmony-laden pop-shuffle. The hazy nature of the track makes the whole track float in a warped take on a candy-pop track.
Words by Owen Maxwell