“Climb up the H of the Hollywood sign, in these stolen moments the world is mine,” proclaims Lana Del Rey in the opening lyrics of the title track of her new album ‘Lust For Life’. She seems to openly pay tribute to the Hollywood glamour and sparkle of her words, a motif inherent in her lyrics.
Style and sophistication have always been found at the heart of everything Lana Del Rey has done, her aesthetic carefully crafted within an inch of its beautiful life and her vocals echo this trademark elegance. Yet beneath this perfect surface lies her lyrical power, evolving on each new album to tell a fresh story.
- - -
- - -
Love. Power. Money. Drugs. Fame. Life. Death. Seductive tropes of red dresses and scarlet lips. Her lyrics are artful, electric and paint the picture of a world way beyond our reach: “I'm your National Anthem, God, you're so handsome / Take me to the Hamptons, Bugatti Veyron…”
From her very persona of ‘Lana Del Rey’, Elizabeth Grant has always wanted to create something beautiful, and this much has been obvious since her breakthrough. However, the simplicity of ‘Video Games’ pushed past this, allowing the pained lyrics to speak for themselves. ‘Blue Jeans’ adopted a more powerful stance, sexy and sensual by design and bold enough to carry the now-iconic lyric “You’re so fresh to death and sick as ca-cancer”.
Ever since, Lana Del Rey’s lyrics have become a sort of hidden poetry, often overshadowed by the different musical direction each album takes; whether that’s the goose bump-inducing orchestral opening of ‘Born To Die’ or the feature-focused nature of her most recent releases from ‘Lust For Life’.
Just as the progression from ‘Born To Die’ to ‘Ultraviolence’ can be heard instrumentally - as it becomes more electronic and guitar driven - her lyrics evolved too, becoming heavier and more introspective. This development is not only natural but expected, and as we anticipate the release of ‘Lust For Life’ we ask ourselves whether these high-profile collaborations will compromise or add to her lyricism at all.
- - -
- - -
The beauty of her lyrics is, after all, part of what captured us when ‘Born To Die’ was released. Lana Del Rey showed us that not only could she be dramatically poetic, but also playful, occasionally surprising us by juxtaposing her lyrics against the sweeping instrumentals. They can be witty, blunt or harsh, and make you trip over them in the flow of her songs as a result.
It is all too easy to get caught up in the ethereal dream-like trance of her vocals, and these lyrics work in pulling you out, a technique she continued to use on ‘Honeymoon’. “The truth is that I never bought into your bullshit”, she sings on ‘High By The Beach’, this honesty working as jarring break from the track’s soothing rhythm.
Despite this playfulness, each of her albums is tainted with a tone of sadness similar to that with which we often associate written literary poetry. This is where we find much of the appeal of her lyricism; wildly romanticised, beautiful yet bitter. We picture her as a tortured artist, often defensive in the face of being hurt and it is on this level that so many fans identify with her.
‘Pretty When You Cry’ is the epitome of this: raw, personal and vulnerable, letting the poetry of her lyricism communicates her feelings. Despite that damaged, glamourous world seeming beyond our reach, the vulnerability and anxiousness of some of her lyrics allow us to identify with her on a human level. We see beneath the production and aesthetic that her lyricism is embedded so perfectly within.
- - -
- - -
On her newest releases the vocals are as sensual and lingering as ever, winding themselves as tightly around every “baby” as they did before. Her lyrics hang on to the nostalgia that Lana Del Rey has become so famed for, but once again are contrasted against the modernity of her new collaborators. Take for example A$AP Rocky’s feature on ‘Summer Bummer’: “Her sophistication make you wanna quit the bitch you dating...”
The beat on the track feels distinctly unlike the Lana Del Rey we knew before, but it works. It works just as well as we expect the Stevie Nicks feature on album track ‘Beautiful People Beautiful Problems’ will work, because isn’t that just the most Lana Del Rey thing you’ve ever heard?
Once more she takes a step in a new direction with a new album, this time feeling more contemporary than ever. Lana Del Rey has always been lyrically reflective of the world around her, and with ‘Lust For Life’ we are left expecting to hear a twist on the classic sound we already know without stepping too far from the familiar.
Notably, she is pictured smiling on this album cover for the first time, perhaps indicating that ‘Lust For Life’ might indicate the start of a new lyrical era after all.
- - -
- - -
'Lust For Life' will be released on July 21st.
Words: Katie Pilbeam