Lana Del Rey's vision post NFR!
Known for her themes of love, breakups, the past, and stark Folk-Americana influences, Lana Del Rey released her seventh studio album "Chemtrails over the Country Club" on March 19. Although, the release of "Chemtrails" came after more than a year of waiting as its development was announced back during the highly-anticipated release of "Normal Fucking Rockwell!" (NFR) back in 2019. Nonetheless, and like always, Del Rey delivered an album true to her unique imagination and vocal style.
"Chemtrails" continued her Folk-Americana motifs.
Teasing fans and critics alike with a trailer video released in January of this year, Del Rey painted the scenic route of a hollow American Dream steeped in emotions of frustration, sexuality, disillusionment, and staunch femininity. Like most of her albums, Del Rey showcases personal, relational struggles alongside the wispy and delicate nature of falling in love, the intensity of youthful and at times lustful sex, and independence wish the Country Club being a musical manifestation of the United States as a whole..
Trailing after the Era of NFR.
While adding in some new elements vocally—and being one of the handful of instances where artists are featured in some of Del Rey's work—"Chemtrails over the Country Club" takes the roots-oriented, Folk and American ethos portrayed in NFR to new levels; although, stylistically, NFR still remains the superior album for its sound, lyrics, overall composition, and the sheer evocation of love, escapism, and the hollow dream of the nation. Nonetheless, "Chemtrails" is a fantastic album overall, but at times it stumbles over themes and lyrics, which I will discuss in the ranking of the songs. The album is a close second to NFR, and it departs completely from the repetitive and even overdone pop renderings that became formulaic for artists like Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, and more. However, what NFR did was reinvent some of those pop genre influences and incorporated them into Del Rey's breathy vocals and overall American-dream-escapist artistic expression without overpowering them like in "Doin' Time," "Cinnamon Girl," and "The Next Best American Record." Those subtle touches would have taken "Chemtrails" to a new level, and sadly there is none of that in this roots-oriented album. Regardless, here are each of the songs ranked!
11. Breaking Up Slowly
Lana Del Rey - Breaking Up Slowly (Official Audio) www.youtube.com
One of two songs with featured artists, "Breaking up Slowly" is just as its title implies: slow and mournful. The song references the life of Tammy Wynette, who sustained several surgeries due to health complication, lived through a kidnapping, a coma, and became addicted to painkiller throughout her music career. As one of the first women in country music, Wynette image is seen throughout the song as both Del Rey and featured artist Nikki Lane languidly depict that "breakin' up slowly is a hard thing to do," but "it's the right thing to do." As the first song the list, the song itself is incompatible with the rest of the album; it's just rather basic. Breaking up is difficult, but that is the only message outside of the small reference to Wynette that emanates from this song. Del Rey's and Lane's vocals are superb, but the song does not have much substance.
10. For Free
Lana Del Rey - For Free (Official Audio) ft. Zella Day & Weyes Blood www.youtube.com
A cover of Joni Mitchell's song of the same name, it is the second song in "Chemtrails" with featured artists: Zella Day and Weyes Blood. Like "Breaking Up Slowly," the vocals from the three artists creates a perfect balance of different vocal ranges, vocal styles (with Del Rey implementing her unique deeper vocal ranges as opposed to her generally breathiness) and harmonizing with both Day and Blood. "For Free" is more mature than other songs in the album, especially those at the opening of the album, as a progression throughout age and love evolves throughout the album. While a fantastic song both in its covering of the 1970s classic, the vocals, and instrumentation, the song is not necessarily something new or exciting: it's an homage to one of Folk music's greatest. It's great but not all that exciting—and even then—Mitchell's album "Ladies of the Canyon" incorporated more of those pop elements present in Del Rey's other albums. A missed opportunity to play around with the genre she began in, yet Del Rey shows her musical excellence, nonetheless.
9. Dance Till We Die
Lana Del Rey - Dance Till We Die (Official Audio) www.youtube.com
Del Rey pays admiration to artists that inspired her like Stevie Nicks, Joni Mitchell, and Joan Baez who she now knows in her real life; moreover, all of these women were cited as inspirations by Del Rey throughout her music career, and she has performed with some of them since her rise to stardom. When your influences become your friends right? Moreover, "Dance Till We Die," resembles much of "The greatest," (a song on NFR) and shares some of its slow guitar riffs and vastly similar instrumentation. While listening to this song, I kept thinking of what song it related to, and I was surpised to hear "The greatest" in its overall instrumentation. The song bears a soulful and deeper connection to Del Rey's personal life with allusions to her fiancé Clayton Johnson and a particular character from an old 2000s movie. This song, while only nine on our list, connects with some of the greater songs in "Chemtrails."
8. Not All Who Wander Are Lost
Lana Del Rey - Not All Who Wander Are Lost (Official Audio) www.youtube.com
It truly is the J. R. R. Tolkien reference me! This particular song bears a phrase located in one of the greatest fantasy series in the world, "The Lord of the Rings," as the title is the opening lines of a poem located in "The Fellowship of the Rings." Moreover, the lyrics are beautiful in depicting more nuanced and even wistful ideas of spontaneous, wanderlust and free-spirited adventures. All of these are motifs of escapism that are inherent to Del Rey's artistry, and the song itself is phenomenal both lyrically, prosodically, and instrumentally. Del Rey gets The One Ring for this one to rule them all!
7. Dark But Just A Game
Lana Del Rey - Dark But Just A Game (Official Audio) www.youtube.com
The darker tones of fame and tragedy are incredibly pronounced in "Dark But Just A Game." Truly, fame is dark at times, and everyone must play the game with "the best ones [who] lost their minds." The more mature understandings and acknowledgements of Del Rey's own fame along with those who died as a result of fame before her makes the song not only mournful and tragic but also chilling in a way. The slow cadence of Del Rey's singing along with the slightly blues inspired instrumentation (created by the consistent hi hat and snare drum tempo) creates such a deep musical experience. Del Rey plays the game very well in this one.,
6. Let Me Love You Like A Woman
Lana Del Rey - Let Me Love You Like A Woman (Live On "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon") www.youtube.com
"Let Me Love You Like A Woman" is an evocation of love from Del Rey in which she wishes to go with her love to love them unconditionally and wholly—resulting in an escapist experience with that particular love interest through "pink champagne" or was is commonly known as ecstasy. The song itself bears that colorfully hazy and almost hallucinated experience as Del Rey professes her love, wishing to "let me be who I'm meant to be." The instrumentation is fantastic, and Del Rey's lyrics and vocals are spot on.
5. White Dress
Lana Del Rey - White Dress (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com
Two words: youthful, immature. Del Rey steps into the world of the music industry for the first time, and as the first song in the album, the youthfulness and overall motifs of "White Dress" are phenomenal. Del Rey references the creation of her stage name, the grandeur and ego of the Music Industry—aptly named the "Men in Music Business Conference"—and the innocence of being 19 years-old in the world as both a woman and an artist. "White Dress" is nothing short of original and excellent.
4. Wild At Heart
Lana Del Rey - Wild At Heart (Official Audio) www.youtube.com
The past, as both a concept and a nod to Del Rey's personal past, is strongly pronounced in "Wild at Heart." Del Rey references her time living in California after becoming a star, her public life, and the death of Princess Diana of Wales as the paparazzi are what drove her (both figuratively and literally) to her death in 1997. Del Rey then escapes from these, liberating herself from the ashes of what was left in California both in terms of the shallowness of the various industries that reside in Los Angeles and the actual wildfires that consumed much of the state in recent years. All that's left are the wild desires and actions of Del Rey and the soot of a past she escaped from. What more could be said about "Wild At Heart"?
3. Chemtrails Over the Country Club
Lana Del Rey - Chemtrails Over The Country Club (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com
Straying from a moral path, contemplating a higher being, chemical agents used to poison Americans in the sky, and a departure from opulence and materialism? The titular song cements almost all of the themes present in the album in one single expression, and Del Rey beautifully renders her image between the more youthful and immature ideas in her album alongside its juxtaposing maturity. A phenomenal song through and through.
2. Tulsa Jesus Freak
Lana Del Rey - Tulsa Jesus Freak (Official Audio) www.youtube.com
"Tulsa Jesus Freak" alludes to some of Del Rey's previous tracks—namely "Video Games" and "Marine Apartment Complex" respectively. Moreover, the song plays with the breakup of Del Rey and Tulsa, Oklahoma police officer Sean Larkin. Here, Del Rey references the inability to communicate with her partner, alcoholism, and her partner's inability to perform sexually as everything turns into an emotional outlet in the relationship. The song is profound, and Del Rey at times plays very tongue and cheek with the more idealized rendering of what the Country Club's perfect couple is: "white, Christian, and hot." In all, "Tulsa Jesus Freak" is a superior song!
Lana Del Rey - Yosemite (Official Audio) www.youtube.com
Del Rey is no longer a "candle in the wind" as the song depicts her rising self-confidence, strength as an individual, as a woman, and her resilience. The song alludes to "Mariners Apartment Complex" and really cements the Folk-Americana motifs and instrumentation that Del Rey built her album on with slow, almost blues and roots rock vibes throughout. Del Rey outdid herself with Yosemite, and the idea of her partners love empowering her to love herself in a way—to become stronger and self-assured as a result—is why it lands as number one on the list.
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