Lana Del Rey’s new album is a win despite her controversial comments
By Mead Gill, Copy & Online Editor
Whether or not music should be consumed when the artist themself is a questionable character is a constant moral dilemma. On one hand, no one wants to support a bad person through Spotify streams, but on the other, good music is good music.
Eager Lana Del Rey fans are facing this same dilemma yet again, as she has released her seventh full-length album, “Chemtrails Over The Country Club” just last month. Del Rey is no stranger to controversy, though in the past few months she has only managed to ruffle more feathers.
“The madness of Trump… As bad as it was, it really needed to happen.” Del Rey said in a BBC interview in January, referring to the Capitol riots that took place days beforehand. “We really needed a reflection of our world’s greatest problem, which is not climate change but sociopathy and narcissism.”
This statement was the first of multiple controversies, most notably defending herself against racial insensitivity by writing in an Instagram comment, “My best friends are rappers, my boyfriends have been rappers.” It is unfortunate that Del Rey has become such a polarizing figure, seeing as “Chemtrails Over The Country Club” is one of her best albums to date.
The opening track “White Dress” is a nostalgic flashback to Del Rey’s teenage years as a young woman in the industry. Her raspy falsetto-ish vocals seem to draw inspiration from experimental R&B singer FKA twigs, almost like she is gasping for breath but in the best way.
The title track as well as “Let Me Love You Like A Woman” highlight Del Rey’s classic melancholy voice backed with swelling piano chords and synth leads, staying true to the style her fans know and love.
“Wild At Heart” shows Del Rey exploring country and Americana music. Each refrain shows off her ability to strain her voice in the lower register, almost like a growl typically heard in the genre. The chorus sounds suspiciously similar to the closing track off her last album, but it is not enough to ruin the song.
Del Rey continues to experiment with new genres on “Dark But Just A Game,” this time drawing inspiration from trip-hop, a genre borrowing from electronic and hip hop music. The beat drop draws back to 90’s band Portishead, comparable to their song “It Could Be Sweet,” creating a heavy, ominous aura. Every new musical endeavor Del Rey tries is able to push the boundary far enough to feel fresh, yet still familiar.
Themes of independence and mystery are sung over lush guitar arrangements on “Not All Who Wander Are Lost,” which is possibly a “Lord of the Rings” reference. Del Rey’s voice is layered on top of itself on the chorus, a technique musicians like Elliot Smith and Phoebe Bridgers have mastered over the years. The lyrics show Del Rey is living her life with no agenda and filling it with fast-paced adventure.
The melody on “Breaking Up Slowly” dives even deeper into Ameraucana, with support from country singer extraordinaire Nikki Lane. If only Del Rey had not used the same boring chord progression and melody throughout the entire song, it might have actually been enjoyable.
It is clear that Del Rey is on an artistic roll these days, and with another album dropping in June, there are no signs of it ending. Her biggest hurdle to overcome is not inspiration, but public image. “Chemtrails Over The Country Club,” with all of its highlights, has not garnered the same attention that many of her releases have in the past, mostly due to the fact that Del Rey’s current media coverage stems from controversy, not her music. The moral dilemma that many listeners are facing with her music is justified, though it is unfortunate to see so many people passing up such a stunning album. But as much as her talent stands for itself, Del Rey must be held accountable for her actions. If she could just drop the problematic persona and understand how her comments come across, people might actually pay attention to her music.