Lana Del Rey – Lust For Life Review


Six years ago, twelve-year-old me sat on her bed listening to Now That’s What I Call Music 80 on her pink CD player, and heard Video Games by Lana del Rey for the first time. At first she didn’t understand why anyone would choose to listen to this over the recycled pop of Maroon 5 or The Saturdays etc, but even at that young and innocent age, it was difficult not to be enticed by its haunting beauty. Still now I’m enamoured by the way del Rey managed to fashion a hugely hard-hitting track alongside such a strong sense of vulnerability, with eerie vocals presented against a mere piano and glistening of strings. Six years later, Lana del Rey is four albums down, with her latest release – Lust for Life – being considered her most up-beat, pop-inspired album. But if this is what we’re labelling as pop these days, it certainly doesn’t match the stuff I was listening to at twelve.

What I admire so much about del Rey’s music is that she doesn’t just write songs, she writes stories. Each track is an invitation into a universe of happy-go-lucky consumerism, the glamour of Hollywood, dystopian America, a careless relationship, and so on and so on. The first glimpse of Lust for Life we received came in the form of single Love, which has a glimmer of 1950s to it, via echoing bass, climatic percussion and delicious harmonies. And despite its slowness, it has a youthful effervescence that only Lana could capture. It transports us to somewhere happy, somewhere care-free. Superficially del Rey’s decelerated numbers sound depleted, depressing, but there’s usually something innocently hopeful that underpins each track. This is true of titular track Lust for Life too, alongside The Weeknd. There’s a sense of grandeur in the lyricism – ‘climbing the H of the Hollywood sign’ is the kind of brilliantly young and reckless imagery del Rey often paints, mingling ideas of movie-like relationships and pop culture to curate mature, dreamy additions to her tracklist.

Though her songs often depict the typical topics of love and relationships, del Rey has a political side too. When The World Was At War We Kept Dancing deliberates President Trump’s first months in office and probes at his choices, yet remains somewhat optimistic in the way it urges us to keep dancing. Coachella – Woodstock In My Mind illustrates the euphoria of the eponymous festival, with an underlying guilt being felt as she enjoyed herself at a time of world tension. Instrumentally, there isn’t much diversity about the LP, but del Rey’s talent lies in the way she can put across different messages and different worlds through her evocative, lingering songs.

The circulating ‘pop vibe’ idea that has spread about this album could be down to the artists that feature. As well as The Weeknd, A$AP Rocky makes an appearance on both Summer Bummer (with Playboi Carti) and Groupie Love. Neither are the album’s greatest achievements, but the former is undeniably catchy in its bubbling bassline and shuffling percussion, though the best part of the track is the echoic vocals towards the end that recall Lana’s original style. Diverting from the pop resurgences, Sean Ono Lennon gives his vocals to Tomorrow Never Came, a Beatles tribute. It is slightly similar to the legendary band’s style, with shaky guitar and Ono Lennon’s voice deriving some likeness to his father’s. It’s one of the barest tracks on the album, one that exposes the powerful vulnerability that I fell in love with on Video Games. Lastly comes a collaboration with Stevie Nicks on Beautiful People Beautiful Problems. Their voices marry gorgeously, and the symbolism of two female, musical powerhouses of different eras joining forces gives extra magnificence to this already-wonderful track.

It may not compare wholly to the basic beauty of Born to Die, but the sheer distinctness and poignancy of everything Lana del Rey does will never not be impressive. She is the kind of female icon that needs a wider following – one that is known for her amazing and irrefutable talent over anything else. Props to her.

Lana del Rey – Lust for Life: 8/10

Eleanor Chivers

 

This Weeks Music Video with Arcade Fire, The Gorillaz, The Weeknd, MIA, Green Day, MØ and Royal Blood

This Weeks Music Video with Foo Fighters, Lana Del Rey feat. The Weeknd, Arcade Fire, Liam Gallagher, Metallica, Radiohead and MØ

This Weeks Music Video with Gorillaz, The Weeknd feat. Daft Punk, Weezer, Perfume Genius, The Shins and James Blake

This Weeks Music Video with Beyoncé, Lana Del Rey, The Weeknd, Laura Marling, Little Dragon, Spoon, ZHU and NAO

This Weeks Music Video with David Bowie, Sting, The Weeknd, Slowdive, Georgia, Cherry Glazerr and Cage The Elephant 

Musicandotherthingz Best Single of 2016

There’s been a almost too many rhythmic and hook-laden tracks in 2016 and they cover quite a wide range of genres from the Joyous Electro-Pop of Röyksopp to the reinvigorated, late era Punk Rockers Green Day. The classsic Eighties Pop thrills and undeniably infectious vocals from Tegan and Sara were a popular choice amongst voters as was dark Pop of The Weeknd with Daft Punk. They just missed out on getting into our top three however, which features very familiar and new acts below. 

3. Chance The Rapper – Angels (11.63% of the vote)

This year has been a strong year for Rap and Hip Hop music and nowhere is this more evident than with the success of Chance The Rapper. ‘Angels’ is a song bursting with joy and optimism about his home of Chicago. It is full of soaring brass, steady beats and enthused lyrics with a cool and easy contribution from Saba. 

2. Kanye West feat. Kendrick Lamar – No More Parties in L.A (21.00%) 

What made this single so popular was hearing someone as egocentric as Kanye getting fed up of the general excess of the party scene around him in Los Angeles which is mighty refreshing, but also a little comedic when his own personal excess is never far from mention. Kendrick Lamar adds context to Kanye’s message as he raps about the culture shock of coming from nothing and being thrusted into a distant and excessive high class society. There is slick use of sampling throughout and this ties the heavy verses together seamlessly.

1. Christine and the Queens – Tilted (30.23%)

‘Tilted’ is about not finding balance in your life, feeling out of place or feeling uneasy with yourself, even dealing with depression. It hardly seems like the appropriate lyrics for a Pop song, but sits this uncomfortable subject matter comfortably into this stylish and refined Pop song. As you’ll find with Christine, she can make so much from so little and she does that again here, with only nudging synths and gentle beats. Not only did she make a great Pop song with these lyrics and small amounts of music, but she made an oddly rhythmic song that has become of one the most popular dance tracks of the year and undoubtedly the most unique. 

Owen Riddle

Musicandotherthingz Best Act of 2016

This year we’ve added a popular vote to determine your best act of the year. The list of nominees was compiled from the popular reaction each act received from articles they’ve been featured on. We had a great response from you all so thank you for getting involved! 

David Bowie’s legendary impact both in his death, but also with a wonderfully evocative album in Blackstar. Beyoncé would have featured more widely across the other categories had she made her music more widely available. She had a landmark year with a bold album in Lemonade and bold performances. Christine and the Queens swept on to the scene on the back of huge commercial and critical success in France with thought provoking lyrics and functional music. With well performing singles and a large fan base, The Weeknd fared well in the vote, seeking greater depth in his sound. 

Owen Riddle 

The Weeknd – Starboy Review 

Abel Tesfaye’s audacious stage persona The Weeknd has defined the 2010s, and he knows it. A repertoire of irresistible vocal hooks, searing synths and bold lyrics tied together by his unmistakeable, smooth vocals only equates to sensational success, as proven by Beauty Behind the Madness being 2015’s most streamed album on Spotify. But how to do you top Can’t Feel My Face? Tesfaye’s solution: stick to what you know, exemplified in the churning out of 18 innovative pop numbers on Starboy: an autobiography tracing the whirlwind life of a hazy, provocative powerhouse.

I say ’18 pop numbers’, however his conventionality as a pop artist is dubious. He tells us in Reminder that he’s “not a teen choice” in response to Beauty Behind the Madness’s nominations – it seems mainstream pop is not Tesfaye’s ideal direction. At first glance you may be tempted to disagree, as Daft Punk put their popular electronic gloss over eponymous opener Starboy, putting into motion the trinity of high-impact tracks, serving as peepholes into the celebrity lifestyle. Starboy is a moody yet feisty single, triggering an array of tracks deliberating his indulgent lifestyle, but also the fragility of fame. The discreet backdrop to Tesfaye’s almost emotionless voice is a fantastic statement of carelessness, making the message of the track all the more terse. From this rises Party Monster. His opening declaration “I’m good, I’m good, I’m great” is uncertain, almost depressive, as it spirals into a cycle of women and parties. The constrained drum and bass instrumental is almost sinister, and enforces the idea this Party Monster takes on a dark, grave character. An instrumental revival takes place on False Alarm. The song is an up-tempo number, with a compelling refrain in the explosive chorus. The lyrics discuss the troubled cyclic life of the woman in question, warning the listeners of her alluring but dangerous personality. Despite Beauty Behind the Madness’s long line of womanly triumphs, Tesfaye seems to have hit a funk, although these more emotionally inflamed assertions are very effective.

These grimier numbers are balanced with the tracks reflective of The Weeknd circa. Can’t Feel My Face. The album’s send-off I Feel It Coming, also featuring Daft Punk, draws the aid of a relaxed disco bass and a fragmented synth background, echoing other neo-disco tracks of the year, while keeping wholly and originally The Weeknd. Eighties reiterations are notable elsewhere in tracks such as Secrets, the jovial punch veiling angry lyrics about cheating. Sidewalks’s chilled rippling drums has nods to reggae, the pitchy guitar riff giving it a modern infusion; Kendrick Lamar’s hip-hop verse, however, completely steals the show. Sidewalks, alongside True Colours, make for cool breaks, as they unravel into the album’s most simplistically-produced assets, while Lana Del Rey’s Stargirl (Interlude) adds an atmospheric alt edge to the tracklist. This track also connects with The Weeknd’s role as Starboy – though he finds his fame life tough, this sullen mini-track provides a glimmer of hope that he can find solace in this Stargirl going through the same, despite its gloom.

The breadth of mature and hidden meanings throughout this album proves Abel Tesfaye right – no, he’s not a conventional pop artist. He has created a sophisticated insight into the world of fame in a spectacularly rich and authentic album, elevating himself above all ‘pop’ expectations.

The Weeknd – Starboy: 9/10

By Eleanor Chivers

This Weeks Music Video with The Weeknd, Mitski, The Last Shadow Puppets, Rose Elinor Dougall and The Japanese House