Photo Credit: Lanna Del Rey/YouTube
Lana Del Rey, born Elizabeth Woolridge Grant, gave the world her latest release and seventh studio album Chemtrails Over the Country Club, on March 19th. Opening the 11-track album is a piano intro and Lana’s breathy high vocals in “White Dress.” Right away, Lana sings about her younger self, being in love and feeling seen. She remembers her waitressing days in New York, listening to The White Stripes and Kings of Leon, before she became a popular artist. Here, Lana sings the line “Down at the men in music business conference” and is referring to the music industry being male dominated, and how tough it was for her to make it as a woman. The words are forced into the phrase intentionally as Lana sings them quicker than all other lines – they sound rushed, showing how difficult it was for her, amongst others, to reach the same heights in the business as her male counterparts. At 19-years-old, Lana (then – “Lizzi Grant”), released her first EP, not yet knowing the burden fame will bring her. She once felt like a god, but finds it unsettling now, questioning if it even was worth it. Lana elaborates on the feeling throughout the album.
Namesake song “Chemtrails Over the Country Club” is an acoustic track, Lana’s usual mix of low vocals with a high-pitched head voice. She is running back to her past, looking back at simpler times, “laughing about nothing.” Compared to her escapism in Born to Die, Lana’s actions here are noticeably less reckless. If we think of the song “This Is What Makes Us Girls”, these tracks sound as if two opposite sides of the same person wrote them. “Running from the cops in our black bikini tops” versus “We’re in our jewels in the swimming pool, me and my sister just playin’ it cool.” We hear more maturity and ease in the lyrics while the tone of the song remains familiar. The theme continues in “Wild At Heart.” Even as an adult, Lana still has the curiosity and attitude of her younger self: “Like if you heard I was out in the bars drinkin’ Jack and Coke, going crazy for anyone who would listen to my stories, babe.”
Throughout the album, Lana looks to musical geniuses. In the ballad “Let Me Love You Like A Woman”, she references Prince in the phrase “We could get lost in the purple rain”, referring to an ever-lasting love with it’s magical and exaggerated highs and lows. In “Tulsa Jesus Freaks” and “Yosemite”, “No more candle in the wind” is a nod to Elton John’s song about Marilyn Monroe. Lana has always been vocal about her connection with the actress, and in Born To Die’s “Body Electric”, she mentions what Marilyn means to her: “Elvis is my daddy, Marilyn is my mother.” In the mentioned “Tulsa Jesus Freaks”, we are reminiscing together with Lana, missing something that is yet to happen. The familiar bittersweet self-destructive phrases like “Trade this body for a can of Gin” remind us of her previous work. She worships herself and is careless with herself at the same time, and seems to have that polarity with love as well.
Lana speaks on how a relationship can make us powerful in “Yosemite” (“You make me feel I’m invincible // Just like I wanted”), directly followed by “I love you only, but it’s makin’ me blue” in “Breaking Up Slowly”, keeping up with the duality in her feelings, as well as in missing the old yet embracing the new. The latter song features Nikki Lane, and tells a story from the point of view of late country singer Tammy Wynette, also known as the “First Lady of Country Music”. The album has several country-inspired tracks, another one being “Not All Who Wander Are Lost.” Lana plays with words, reminding her listeners that she is a poet first: “Not all those who wander are lost // Not all those who wander, all those who wander // All those who wander are lost // It’s just wanderlust.” There are also mentions of being from a small town and thinking of leaving Los Angeles that are common throughout the album, as well as hints on quitting her music career like she did during her Born To Die era. In “Wild At Heart”, she sings: “What would you do if I wouldn’t sing for them no more?”
Another subject of the album: music careers, making it, fame, and the effect that all of these things give to a person. For instance, “Dark But Just A Game” speaks about those who made it, and are now paying the price of fame. The groovy track differs musically from the rest of the album, with hints of Nelly Furtado-style pop, Regina Spector and Lily Allen-like phrasing, and R&B elements. The title comes from a quote by the album’s producer Jack Antonoff (who previously worked with Taylor Swift and Lorde), the context being “never meet your idols”: “The faces aren’t the same, but their stories all end tragically // And that’s the price of fame,” Lana sings. She was perhaps referring to this fear when reminiscing about the good old days before fame expressed earlier on the album. The track goes hand-in-hand with her quotes of leaving the music industry: Lana does not want fame to do to her what it did to her icons, like Marilyn Monroe and Amy Winehouse: “The bеst ones lost their minds // So I’m not gonna change // I’ll stay the same.”
In “Dance Till We Die”, Lana pays homage to the singer-songwriters Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Nicks and Courtney Love: “I’m coverin’ Joni and I’m dancin’ with Joan // Stevie is callin’ on the telephone // Court almost burned down my home // But God, it feels good not to be alone.” The musical references to each are heavily felt in the song as well, continuing one of the main themes of the record – disillusionment with fame. Closing the album, the acoustic piano cover of Joni Mitchel’s “For Free” features Weyes Blood & Zella Day. The lyrics speak on that initial desire to sing for a reason higher than money and fame, but how common it is for true talent to go unnoticed: “Nobody stopped to hеar him // Though he played so sweet and high // They knew he had never been on the TV // So they passed his music by.”
The album closer fits in well with Lana’s overall deep and poetic lyrics. She mentions her sister with whom she is quite close with and shopping for jewels and dressing up even to the pool. In the “Chemtrails Over the Country Club” music video, Lana is driving a red convertible – an ongoing theme in her work – symbolizing her wildness, no matter how mature and grown she has become. While the fan expectations of Chemtrails Over the Country Club were reached, they were not exceeded. The record sounds more like an intimate concert rather than a grandiose album like Norman F*cking! Rockwell. Lana stayed true to herself, added a country and folk twist and the occasional slightly more passionate vocals, and created a simple, well-produced record with all the Lana Del Rey nostalgia one may have been craving.