Lana Del Rey has done it again. The singer’s latest album drop has once again proved her musical talents—lyrically and melodically—while setting the bar for her contemporaries in the indie rock genre.
Del Rey’s music has been defined by a certain melancholy, one that yearns for something better, something more than just herself. That something was often found in the form of a boyfriend or male figure onto which she projected herself. Her sixth album, Chemtrails Over the Country Club, focuses more on her. She explores her relationship with the world around her, her innate femininity, and above all, her coming to terms with herself. The album brings a new sense of empathy of self that subtly underlies the lyrical talent that defined her as a wunderkind.
The album starts off with “White Dress,” immediately setting the bar for the nostalgic look-back of this album. Del Rey wistfully sings, “When I was a waitress, wearing a white dress / Look how I do this, look how I got this,” reminiscing about her life before fame. The essence of the song is defined by a metaphorical rose-colored lens of the past, juxtaposing the anguish that Del Rey’s current life seems to be engulfed by. Singing, “I felt seen,” she goes back to her final teenage years and claims, “It kinda makes me feel like maybe I was better off.” The opening song of the album leaves the listener wondering if her plea for a resurgence of the past is a response to the criticism she has faced in the past year.
Del Rey, under recent scrutiny for allegedly wearing a mesh mask, has faced several scandals, most famously her social media feud with other women musicians over the message she chooses to promote. Del Rey was slammed for bordering anti-feminism, but responded: “But there has to be a place in feminism for women who look and act like me. The kind of woman who says no but men hear yes—the kind of women who are slated mercilessly for being their authentic, delicate selves, the kind of women who get their own stories and voices taken away from them by stronger women or by men who hate women.” Coining herself as a woman of fragility, Del Rey advocated that there ought to be an acceptance of those that are fragile, and her music does much to represent both her fragility and her submersion into a fantasy land, where her fragility is her guiding superpower.
The album, while introducing new elements to Del Rey’s discography, stays true to her signature dramatism. “Let Me Love You Like a Woman” screams classic Lana, almost reminiscent of her debut album Born to Die. She sings, “I come from a small town, how about you / I only mention it 'cause I'm ready to leave LA / And I want you to come,” channeling the very escapism that she entered the music industry yearning for.
In “Wild at Heart,” she sings, “I left Calabasas, escaped all the ashes / Ran into the dark / And it made me wild, wild, wild at heart.” Her flair for the dramatic is presented in a familiar way; fans don’t feel overwhelmed listening to the album, but rather that they are escaping into Lana-world. Her album combines the paradoxical yearning for a future and a nostalgia for the past that goes to show that, at least for Del Rey, the present is a period consistently defined by melancholy and restlessness. Del Rey’s voice evolves so clearly in this album, as she showcases her flair for wistful and airy vocals carrying a deep and heavy message.
Del Rey reached new heights in showcasing both her voice and her lyricism in her sixth album. The defining song of the album is arguably “Not All Who Wander Are Lost,” as it winds the dramatic album down in a low-key manner, mirroring Del Rey’s personal journey. Growing from her drama queen hit song “Summertime Sadness” in 2012, it seems as though Del Rey has matured emotionally to a point past asking for pity, or even attention. Rather, she quite poignantly professes her standing in the world, without asking for validation to exist.
The album flows beautifully, with one song merging playfully into the next. But while Del Rey showcases her talent for eliciting empathy and overall lyrical poignance, she fails to end the album on a memorable note. Her 2019 album Norman F*****g Rockwell was comparably better organized and composed, as it started and ended more definitively. Chemtrails Over the Country Club ends on “For Free,” a country-esque song that leaves the listener wanting more. The track seems unresolved and makes the listener wonder, “Wait, is the album over?”
Chemtrails Over the Country Club is a masterful collection of reflections and memories, all presented by Del Rey’s airy voice. Perfect for a sunset drive, it’s the quintessential spring evening album.
Overall rating: 8.5/10.