When was it we realized Lana Del Rey was here to stay? It was most definitely long after her painful SNL performance and the litany of even more arduous think pieces written by the post-“Video Games” authenticity police. By the time her full-length debut Born To Die arrived in early 2012, she still had our attention (and burgeoning commercial hype), but its myriad lyrical clunkers and lack of a traditional “hit” left her teetering in the brink of collapsing under the weight of her own mythology. Somewhere between 2014’s lush, guitar-cradled Ultraviolence and the following year’s Soundcloud Nancy Sinatra-spiked Honeymoon, Lana cemented her status -- a singular force in the pop game, calling her own shots with few real peers or imitators, owning an inside joke she’s been in on all along.
That being said, Lust For Life is Lana Del Rey’s Most Lana Del Rey Album yet. She revels in the absurdities of her persona, pushing the shtick toward ten out of ten: the classic rock references, the hip-hop affectation, the thinkpiece-bait lyrics, the patience-pushing run time. If you thought Honeymoon was her best album yet, you’re in luck, as the jump from her last LP to this one is the least jarring cross-album transition of her career. The skittering trap beat she test-drove on “High By the Beach” is now a recurring theme, a seedy underbelly to guide along “Cherry,” “Summer Bummer,” “In My Feelings,” and others. Her marriage of past and present has gone from precarious at best to sturdy, bankable, and all but her own: drape an orchestra of sepia-toned nostalgia over an oh-so-2017 heartbeat, and you've got Lust For Life at its best.
At 16 tracks and 72 minutes, it's an awfully long album, but the tedium is limited by the way it's structured. Tracks cluster around tiny, unassuming suites that allow Lana to jump from scene to scene. It opens with the already-familiar singles "Love" and the Max Martin-assisted Weeknd duet "Lust For Life," an accessible intro to a sprawling, indulgent album. Both A$AP Rocky collaborations -- "Summer Bummer" and "Groupie Love" -- appear back-to-back near the record's midsection, Lana's first album-proper hip-hop feature made all the more intimate by the JFK to her Jackie O. And stringing together sides C and D of this quadruple-vinyl epic, there's Lana's luxurious classic rock duets -- the Stevie Nicks-assisted "Beautiful People Beautiful Problems" and the Sean Ono Lennon-featuring Beatles hat tip "Tomorrow Never Came" -- followed by a trio of feathery solo ballads to close things out.