Geopolitics, occult influences and the inspiration of an IRL Hollywood suicide – we break down everything to expect from the singer’s fourth studio album Lust For Life
When Lana Del Rey spoke to Courtney Love for the cover of Dazed’s spring/summer issue, she talked in-depth about making her fourth studio album Lust For Life: how it reflected the “kind of crazy” political environment of the US and UK over the past year-and-a-half, the collaborators she worked with, and the advice she got from pop hitmaker Max Martin. She also said that the album would be dropping in spring, and while she has just missed that deadline, we’ll finally be getting to hear the album in full this Friday (July 21).
Before that, we’ve combed the internet for everything we could find about the alternative icon’s new album, from unexpected guest collaborations to its occult undertones. Here’s your guide to Lust For Life.
IT COMES FROM A PLACE OF POSITIVITY
The artwork for Lust For Life shows Del Rey looking directly into the camera, flowers in her hair and a wide grin across her face. It’s a far cry from the deadpan stares of her past three album covers. “We were looking for something that had that lightness to it,” Chuck Grant, the photographer who shot the cover, told Entertainment Weekly. “We knew that we wanted something more upbeat.”
Likewise, the album’s title – as well as that of its lead single, “Love” – certainly feels a lot more optimistic than Born to Die and Ultraviolence. Along with the more lighthearted videos she’s been posting on Instagram recently, all signs point to Lust For Life being Lana’s most upbeat album to date – and that’s before even discussing the music. “There are a lot of major-key songs and melodies (on the album),” producer/engineer Kieron Menzies told Entertainment Weekly. “Both the production and the songwriting have evolved into this different place.”
SOME OF IT WAS INSPIRED BY NORTH KOREA
“I think it would be weird to be making a record during the past 18 months and not comment on how (the political landscape) was making me or the people I know feel, which is not good,” Del Rey told Elle recently, neatly capturing the political mood she hoped to explore on the record. While Del Rey hasn’t taken a direct swipe at the Trump administration, it’s not hard to read a political subtext into titles like “God Bless America”, “When the World Was at War We Kept Dancing”, and “Tomorrow Never Came”.
Likewise, new song “Coachella – Woodstock in My Mind” alludes to the USA and geopolitical issues. The song was written after Del Rey’s performance at this year’s Coachella, as nuclear tensions between the US and North Korea were rising. “I’m not gonna lie,” she wrote on Instagram, “I had complex feelings about spending the weekend dancing whilst watching tensions (with) North Korea mount. I just wanted to share this in hopes that one individual’s hope and prayer for peace might contribute to the possibility of it in the long run.”
Given Del Rey’s preoccupation with icons of Americana, from Pepsi-Cola to John F. Kennedy, you might think the album reflects on the US’s fading dominance as a superpower. “I have a song that’s quite aware about the collective worry, about whether this is the end of an era,” she told Flaunt. “It’s called ‘When the World Was at War We Kept Dancing’... The question it poses: Is this the end of America, of an era? Are we running out of time with this person at the helm of a ship? Will it crash?”
THERE ARE A LOT OF GUESTS…
“I did something I haven’t ever done, which is not that big of a deal, but I have a couple of collabs on this record,” Del Rey told us earlier this year. Lust For Life features a range of collaborators, including some familiar faces. A$AP Rocky appears twice, on “Summer Bummer” and “Groupie Love” – these will be their first officially released musical collaborations, though they’ve worked together plenty of times in the past, most notably on the “National Anthem” music video (where Rocky played JFK) and on the leaked “Ridin”. The Weekend follows up their previous work together on “Prisoner”, “Party Monster”, and “Stargirl Interlude” by teaming up on title track “Lust For Life”.
First-time collaborators include “Magnolia” rapper Playboi Carti, who features on “Summer Bummer”, and Sean Lennon, who appears on the John and Yoko-referencing “Tomorrow Never Came”. If this all sounds very dude-centric, then Stevie Nicks is making an appearance on “Beautiful People, Beautiful Problems”. Speaking to KROQ, Del Rey said that “I thought I finished the record a couple of times, then one of those times, I wanted a woman on the record. I talked to my producer Rick Nowels… we both could only come up with Stevie. Funnily enough, he went to high school with her and wrote his first hit with her.”
Behind the boards, previous collaborators Rick Nowels, Kieron Menzies, and Emilie Haynie are all credited on the album – but she’s also added Drake/Rihanna producer Boi-1da and hit machines Benny Blanco and Max Martin to the mix. It’s a diverse set of names, and that’s set to be reflected in the music: “There is a ton of hip hop that’s infused. But there are some (songs) that go back to her jazz and folk roots,” Chuck Grant told Entertainment Weekly, with Rick Nowels adding: “There’s hip hop, piano songs, acoustic guitar songs, psychedelia.”
…BUT IT’S A FAMILY AFFAIR, TOO
Despite all of these outside collaborators, Lust For Life also features a tight familial connection: her younger sister, Chuck Grant. Grant has been photographing Del Rey since the start of her career, lensing all of her album covers and many of her promotional videos, and she’s back on Lust For Life.
Besides shooting the album cover, Grant is indirectly responsible for some of the album’s political themes. “When all the Women’s Marches were happening, I had already written this song (‘God Bless America’),” she told Flaunt. “I have a sister, and a lot of girlfriends, who had a lot of concerns about things that were being said in the media by some of our leaders... And so without really trying to, I felt compelled to just write a song and say we are all concerned. And it really made me think about my relationship with women.”
IT’S FOR THE FANS
Del Rey has used her recent interviews to discuss how she’s opened up her writing, focusing less on what’s happening in her own life and more on what’s happening in the wider world. Basically, she wanted to give something to her fans, particularly her younger fans. “It really does come down to love and the intentions behind the music,” she wrote on Instagram. “That’s why this (‘Love’) is the perfect first single, because this one is for you and I luv you.”
IT MAY BE INSPIRED BY A REAL LIFE SUICIDE
LDR fans have been speculating that Lust For Life contains references to the death of Peg Entwistle. Entwistle was by all accounts a gifted English actress who was active in the Old Hollywood era; after making a name for herself on Broadway, she moved to Los Angeles to try her hand at the pictures, scoring a supporting role in the 1932 psychological thriller Thirteen Women – only to find her screen time drastically cut from the final film. Shortly later, she hiked to the Hollywood sign, climbed to the top of the ‘H’, and jumped to her death. Since her death, there have been multiple reported sightings of Entwistle’s ghost, enough so for her to be a subject of an episode of Ghost Adventures.
The story is perfect for Del Rey, and fans quickly picked out allusions to Entwistle’s story in lyrics and promotional videos. “Climb up the H of the Hollywood sign, yeah / In these stolen moments / The world is mine,” Del Rey sings in “Lust For Life”. Its music video, meanwhile, sees the singer and The Weeknd dance upon the ‘H’. And this is before even touching on the album teaser she released, which sees Del Rey play a ghost who lives “right inside the middle of the ‘H’ of the Hollywood sign”. Also in the video is a ladder – just like the one Entwistle used to scale the sign.
Still, these might not necessarily be direct references to Entwistle but instead to other themes on the album we’ve yet to hear: as director Clark Jackson told Pitchfork recently, they “wanted to put in a whole bunch of hidden tie-ins to the rest of her album. In the end there are not very many items represented there, but each of them means something – each thing was placed on purpose. We want people to ask, ‘Why a ladder? Why the seven planets?’ As songs and the rest of the album are released, they will become more clear.”
IT’S GONNA BE BEWITCHING
Speaking of that teaser video, you may have noticed that it felt a little… supernatural. Reflecting the lighter side of Lust For Life, Del Rey seems to be embracing the esoteric, with the teaser video featuring classic occult symbols: not just the spells she casts with her hands or the floating cauldron she conjures, but in the aforementioned ladder and the seven planets, which could be referring seven rungs of Jacob’s Ladder. Then there was of course the mass ritual binding spell that Del Rey seemingly took part in to get Donald Trump ‘removed’ from office – though, you know, we’re still praying for that one to come true.
Lana Del Rey’s Lust For Life is out July 21