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The Exquisite Horror in Lana Del Rey’s Nostalgia

Lust for Life, the singer’s fourth album, greets Trump-era anxieties with an eerie flower-infant grin. Scroll through the photos that David LaChapelle lately shot with Lana Del Rey, and you may be hit with a whiff of linoleum, microwave dinner, or asbestos. She descends a spiral staircase next to an elaborate faux Christmas tree of the type you don’t see anymore, sporting an equally flashy coat, her eyes squinting, the digicam having snapped at the incorrect second. She strains a wedding table with purple wine, her mascara strolling, and the flash catching the blood in the back of her retinas as a man within the foreground smokes in ripped whitey tighties. She poses in a ruffled gets dressed in front of a tiered garden styled with character-sized candles, after a sign analyzing, “Happy Birthday America … 1776 1976.”

The Exquisite Horror in Lana Del Rey's Nostalgia 3

Pop culture has been mining the heyday of Polaroid on this style for a while now, and Lana Del Rey has led the way. Ever since the Los Angeles singer first accomplished fame in 2011, she’s hardly ever been defined without mentioning Instagram filters that make new pictures look antique or how platforms like Tumblr and Pinterest encourage young people to university the bygone. So, the nostalgia kick ought to be played out now. Still, I can’t prevent gazing at those LaChapelle snapshots. In small approaches—say, the body styles of the people posting with Del Rey—they seize something about the generation they reference.

But in the hues, the couture, Del Rey’s impish glint, they’re novel. Most hanging is the sense of menace underlying the garishness. Psychedelic burnout, Watergate disillusionment, serial murders—all tingeing snapshots that otherwise might evoke “a less difficult time.” The belief of not-altogether-fun slippage among generations seems more of an obsession than ever for Del Rey on her fourth album, Lust for Life. The identity is an Iggy Pop rip, certainly one of many blatantly referential turns of phrase on the album.

In ther songs’ tales, time travel almost appears real: a moment in 2017 Coachella can come to be “Woodstock in my thoughts,” mainly her to interpolate “Stairway to Heaven” and contemplate nuclear apocalypse. She starts the album sighing about “you children along with your vintage music,” including, “You’re part of the past, but now you’re the destiny / Signals crossing can get puzzling.” She’s awed by the cultural records that mass media marinates nowadays’s youngsters in—but she’s additionally unsettled by it.

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Del Rey’s song itself has continually been retro-minded. In 2011, something approximately the way she sang sounded foreign compared to the attempt-hard emoting of Lady Gaga or Adele, and the description she regularly received changed into “lifeless eyes.” Her shtick became a semi-parodic throwback that swirled B-film blankness, female-institution earnestness, and Laurel Canyon introspection.

Yet how she married that sensibility with dramatic orchestration and snaking gadget rhythms for her debut, Born to Die, changed into new, establishing a template for radio that also prevails today. Her two follow-ups, Ultraviolence and Honeymoon, have been gauzier, slower experiments in rock and cabaret. Still, in reality, Lust for Life is Born to Die’s sequel: and as a substitute, fantastic go back to catchiness, camp, and faint hip-hop impacts. She’s ever-more-cleverly casting the existing in phrases of the beyond and vice versa—and this time, there’s a political cause why.

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