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Monday, May 20, 2024

'Chemtrails Over The Country Club' is a reminder of Lana Del Rey's artistic growth at its finest and her melodies are just as beautiful as before.

Lana Del Rey contemplates stardom with nostalgic ambience on 'Chemtrails Over The Country Club'

Driven by alternative folk-rock, wanderlust and nostalgia, Lana Del Rey's seventh studio album, 'Chemtrails Over the Country Club,' has created yet another immersive world for her listeners. The release features Del Rey taking her audience through a detailed description of trying to make it in the music industry, from her teenage day job to her friendship with Stevie Nicks. Each song feels like Del Rey is reading a chapter of her life to her fans, weaving glimpses of her memories into a musical experience that incorporates psychedelic sultry soft rock, her alternative roots and a first-time flirtation with country music.

No longer is Del Rey reminiscing on her days in love and intoxicated on Venice Beach or describing the harmonic, peaceful land of the rose-tinted 1960s as she does on 'Norman Fucking Rockwell' and 'Lust for Life.' Through the 11 songs on her newest album, the songstress, using the imaginative lyricism that suffused her previous LPs, welcomes her listeners into the simplistic glamour of a small town in the pre-pandemic United States.

From the first track, "White Dress," Del Rey's nostalgia for a simpler time is apparent. Following a simple piano introduction from producer Jack Antonoff, Del Rey reminisces on days spent waitressing before her music video for "Video Games" went viral on YouTube in 2012 and skyrocketed her to stardom. With lines like "I wasn't famous, just listening to Kings of Leon to the beat," Del Rey recounts what her relationship with music was like before becoming well-known in the industry. The track shocks listeners and sweeps them into Del Rey’s past with airy, eerily high vocals and octaves that have never been featured in her songs before.

But Del Rey is not one to deliver a nostalgic song just for the sake of peacefully reminiscing. At the end of the track, she hesitantly sings, "It kinda makes me feel like maybe I was better off." She leaves her listener pondering a potential life without fame as she moves along with the story. And the singer's experiences as a young waitress before becoming a famous musician and controversial public figure is in many ways synonymous with the longing her listeners feel for a pre-pandemic life. 

Yet, right as listeners get comfortable with the sentimental themes and softer percussion, an initial soft drumbeat in "Tulsa Jesus Freak" cascades into psychedelic rock. And as the percussion and guitar build into a heavier atmosphere, Del Rey's voice grows grand, hazy and even distortedly auto-tuned. The track slowly spirals into a sultry disaster in the best way, completing one of the most memorable moments of her discography as she serenades with, "We'll be white-hot forever / White hot forever / White hot forever / And ever and ever, amen." The folkloric yet theatrical nature of "Tulsa Jesus Freak" is in many ways reflective of the album as a whole.

The following track further exemplifies Del Rey's tribute to folk and country music while also sticking to the serene piano sounds familiar to her previous music. The classic grandeur and romantic lyrics that fill many of Del Rey's earlier songs are apparent in "Let Me Love You Like A Woman." However, she strays from setting her love story in idyllic locations like the Hamptons or Hollywood, instead opting for a generic "small town" setting that resonates more with her listeners and the album's themes.

The artist then takes a youthful, carefree turn with "Dark But Just A Game." Driven by percussion and bass, the song creates an initially dissonant divergence but takes listeners back to Del Rey's earlier discography and more playful lyricism. But clearly, she would not leave the scene without once again pondering the possibilities of a simpler life as she whispers, "Don't even want what's mine/ Much less the fame." Del Rey explains how she refuses to lose herself and her genuine voice to maintain her status as a celebrity, looking at her complex relationship with the media and publicity as something dark but playful. 

As the album continues, Del Rey tries her hand at the country scene for the first time, with the standout track "Yosemite." With stunning acoustic guitar runs, Del Rey creates a genius bridge where she completely lets her guard down. In a delicate melody, she sounds as if she is reading her own journaled thoughts about a past relationship, ultimately concluding that she has found more strength within herself despite the relationship ending.

Before ending the album with a cover of Joni Mitchell's "For Free" alongside Zella Day and Weyes Blood, Del Rey gets ridiculously personal in "Dance Till We Die." She opens the track talking about dancing with her friends and their phone conversations–those friends being Joan Baez and Stevie Nicks. It is as if she is talking about everything that got her to this point musically–as if she is saying, "'White Dress' is where I started, and this is where I made it."

While the album has mixed reviews among listeners, and many of Del Rey's early fans long for the younger, heartbroken crooner from 'Born to Die' or 'Ultraviolence,' 'Chemtrails Over the Country Club' makes sense of Del Rey's complex relationship with stardom and her past life. The project pushes listeners to think about celebrity culture while also offering her fans fresh, romantic, self-exploratory songs in the signature style they know and love dearly.

'Chemtrails Over The Country Club' is a reminder of Del Rey's distinct artistic growth at its finest. The singer has vehemently changed the symbolism and lyrics of her songwriting to be as vulnerable and simple as possible compared to the theatrical 'Born to Die.' Yet her melodies, emotions and nostalgia infused in the songs are just as beautiful as before. Alongside her gentle vulnerability, she displays unwavering confidence in what makes her Lana Del Rey–after all, her Cancer is sun and her Leo is moon.

Grade: A-

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