Album Review: Chemtrails Over the Country Club by Lana Del Rey
Very Good, Based on 6 Critics
Clash Music - 90 Based on rating 9
Lana Del Rey's continued quest for minimalism sits utterly at odds with the overwhelming majority of her peers. While the neon legacy of PC Music burning bright and hyper-pop becoming a go-to genre tag for left-field innovators, her satisfaction in conjuring sculptures from smoke rings of sound remains as undimmed and potent as ever. Indeed, 'Chemtrails Over The Country Club' is in many ways her most stripped down album to date.
It's difficult to think of an artist who had more of an ascent to critical, commercial, and conversational acclaim than Lana Del Rey did in the 2010s. Her debut album, Born to Die, smashed sales records upon release in early 2012 but was met with a more-than-lukewarm hesitancy from critics. Allegations of her being an "industry plant" circulated, in much the same way they have done more recently with artists like Billie Eilish, a criticism that seems to be shorthand for a female singer/songwriter who does something interesting and seamlessly accumulates a large, devoted fanbase from the jump.
Over the years, a spoken word poetry collection and song titles such as "Coachella (Woodstock of my Mind)" have made dutiful appearances. Now, like clockwork, here she is again, posing with a bunch of pals for an album entitled Chemtrails Over the Country Club. And yet, Del Rey strikes as an artist reinvigorated. Two albums ago she seemed to be merely drifting through motions of sultry crooning and cocktail lounge covers.
On the morning of January 11th, as she ate a popsicle for breakfast with a newly broken arm, Lana Del Rey tumbled into nearly 40 somersaulting minutes of free-associative responses to questions from BBC Radio 1 presenter Annie Mac. On live radio, the pop star parkoured from thoughts on Trump's presidency to going to the farmer's market barefoot to how she'd characterize at least half of her friends as jerks. Finally, her frisson found a foothold in the psychology behind the insurrection at the U.S.
When Lana Del Rey burst onto the scene in 2011, critics had a hard time buying her diamond-encrusted sad-girl shtick. Her 2012 major label debut, Born to Die, was derided as a cliché-riddled dreamscape, and as Lana continued with Ultraviolence, Honeymoon and Lust for Life, it was hard to tell whether her patriotic beach-ballads of romance and recklessness were cheeky, honest, or both.
But by 2019, she had found a newly graceful stride chronicling the ecstatic agony of searching for freedom in America's self-indulgent coastal imagination.
It was such a scene / and I felt seen
When will people stop giving Lana del Rey such unfair treatment? Is it a tragedy that more people don't take her radically candid songwriting style more seriously? Uh, you bet it is, and don't you dare insinuate that there are more important things to bewail. Of everyone who has ever put self-awareness to one side and stood Christ-like in the spotlight of public scrutiny, has any rich, successful, attractive, popular, critically acclaimed artist been less rewarded for doing so? Maybe she brings a little of it upon herself, but as far as big names go, Lana is clearly the victim of discriminatory double standards: if Beyoncé called out half the non-white RnB canon for singing too loosely about sex, you can bet people would take her seriously! People have been calling Lana biased against black artists ever since she challenged Azealia Banks to a fistfight, but the facts dictate that no-one cares more about not soliciting a racially informed perspective on just about anything than Lana del Rey. Not that any of this is important; it's still great music.