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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

Album review: Lana Del Rey's Lust for Life revels in its dark glory

The uber-cool American singer latest haunting release has a slew of guest appearance adds elements of hip-hop and folk

Lust for Life, the latest release by Lana del Rey. Courtesy Interscope Records via AP
Lust for Life, the latest release by Lana del Rey. Courtesy Interscope Records via AP

Lana Del Rey

Lust for Life

(Interscope)

There is something deeply claustrophobic about Lana Del Rey's work. It may be the paired down nature of her musical arrangements or it might be the deliberately restrained nature of her often haunting vocal arc. Either way, the effect is rarely less than compelling.

In part, that’s because Del Rey's greatest skill has always been as a lyrical storyteller. Her lyrics pop with stories of slowly failing relationships (“it hurts to love you, but I still love you", she sings on 13 Beaches) and snap with unhappiness.

The stories she presents are tiny toxic vignettes of dysfunction and hurt (“can’t get you out of my veins, you can’t escape my affection", she implores in Summer Bummer). They are unexploded bombs that detonate as soon as you get close to them (“could it be that I fell for another loser”, she wonders during In My Feelings).

Lust for Life, her fifth studio album, fits comfortably into that dark canon, albeit with a backbone of hip-hop and folk influences. It's moody, restless, atmospheric. Oddly it also evokes the smoky halls of early 90s Bristol trip hop, in particular Portishead, despite Del Rey's obsessive and well-documented fixation with the more uncomfortable parts of Americana. But mostly it is all Del Rey, swinging punches and speaking truth to power.

There’s an impressive undercard of featured artists here, including The Weeknd, Stevie Nicks, A$AP Rocky, Playboi Carti and Sean Ono Lennon. Beautiful People Beautiful Problems, on which she shares vocal duties with Nicks, is an intriguing and intoxicating vocal combination. It’s a world weary and battle worn song, exquisitely toying with the premise its title suggests.

Likewise, Del Rey’s duet with Ono Lennon, which presents a pair of unlucky and misunderstood lovers, in a manner that evokes his father’s final studio album, Double Fantasy.

Lust for Life’s cover art, replete with a hippie chick image of the singer, may suggest that Del Rey’s work is moving into sunnier climes, but the album itself reveals otherwise. We should all be glad that she hasn’t deserted the dark side just yet.

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