Lana Del Rey, “Lust for Life” (Interscope)
Time is weighing on Del Rey on her fourth major-label studio album. At 32, she’s thinking not only about the troubled romances that fill most of her songs, but also about a next generation.
That entanglement of old and new has been Del Rey’s gift and her strategy. Some pop careers unfold as a progression, an implicit narrative of an artist discovering new ideas and choosing different challenges. Del Rey’s catalog has been more like an Alexander Calder mobile: a fixed set of elements in a shifting balance, realigned with each viewing. “Lust for Life” is her most expansive album; it has 16 songs, stretching nearly 72 minutes.
Del Rey has been a pop presence only since 2011, when she released her single “Video Games” and her debut album, “Born to Die.” Her music is a self-made dream world: a slow-moving, gauzy, sad, glamorous, pensive, solitary realm, with Hollywood at its center and the rest of America somewhere in the distance, where she gently croons about fleeting pleasures and looming disappointments.
“Lust for Life” features some new collaborators — Stevie Nicks, the Weeknd, ASAP Rocky, Sean Ono Lennon — but Del Rey brings them into her domain. The Weeknd joins her in “Lust for Life” to sing about dancing on the Hollywood sign and getting naked, and Nicks collaborates on a piano ballad, “Beautiful People Beautiful Problems,” that teases at its own narcissism.
Del Rey pivots away from personal matters for a brief, enigmatic stretch midway through the album. “God Bless America — and All The Beautiful Women in It” seesaws between doubtful and idealistic; in the chorus, the line “God bless America” is followed by two loud gunshots. She sings “When the World Was at War We Kept Dancing” in a vintage music-hall warble, trying to find hope but wondering: “Is it the end of an era?/Is it the end of America?”
Still, doleful love songs are Del Rey’s enduring vocation: songs like “Change,” a bare-bones piano ballad in which she resolves to “find the power to be faithful.” And now and then, she turns the tables. “In My Feelings” finds the spunk to sneer at a cheating boyfriend. And she closes the album with “Get Free,” as she resolves to dump someone. The usual melancholy is there, but so is a wink.
JON PARELES, New York Times
Declan McKenna, “What Do You Think About the Car?” (Columbia)
McKenna, the 18-year-old British singer-songwriter who won over the massive Glastonbury Festival at the tender age of 16, approaches his debut with the unbridled enthusiasm of a teenager. He takes on police brutality in the sleek, up-tempo rocker “Isombard.” He rails against religious hypocrisy in the indie-rock challenger “Bethlehem.” And he stands up for LGBT teens in the pop anthem “Paracetemol,” named for the British version of Tylenol. With his sharp wit and emotive vocals, McKenna adds depth to everything he sings.
Some are already calling McKenna a postmillennial Bob Dylan because his songwriting captures the interests and intensity of teenage life. That may be a lot to hang on him, but his stunning debut shows McKenna is up to the challenge.
GLENN GAMBOA, Newsday
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