Tau Nell | Content Writer
Since announcing Chemtrails, her seventh studio album, Lana Del Rey has undergone numerous public metamorphoses. She was America’s sweetheart, riding on the success of 2019’s Norman F*cking Rockwell; a controversial commentator, following her bold but untimely tirade against double standards in the music industry; and a sensitive poet, telling all in her 2020 literary debut Violet Bent Backwards over the Grass. Even after the dust had settled, Del Rey continued to restyle her image in the lead-up to Chemtrails’ release: one moment a sweet, sun-dappled blonde, the next a vengeful, smokey-eyed brunette, then a bejewelled werewolf (in a mind-bending teaser trailer). Confusion abounded; where promotions for Lana’s previous albums have been slick and streamlined, Chemtrails’ aesthetic and backstory were impossible to pin down before its release. But now that the album is out, it all makes sense: it’s not supposed to be pinned down at all.
There is no consistent narrative in the genre-defying Chemtrails, nor is there a predictable protagonist. In Born to Die, Lana was the heartbroken ingenue; in Norman F*cking Rockwell, she was the carefree bon-vivant; in Chemtrails, she cannot be confined to any one archetype and that is the point. Lana uses this album to showcase her wild side. The side that has baffled critics, beguiled fans, and survived condemnation since her 2011 debut. But where before this quality was carefully bridled, in Chemtrails it takes over. This is what makes Del Rey’s latest album her most interesting and exciting yet.
Chemtrails keeps you on your toes. The title track may be a lilting lullaby but it does not prepare you for what comes next. Dark But Just a Game will have your head bouncing, you will chant along to Wild at Heart, and White Dress will make you weep. Dramatic differences lie not only between the tracks on Chemtrails but also within them: Dance Till We Die takes a sudden turn in the bridge when Lana decides to belt to blues guitars and saxophones after crooning to soft piano. This untamed experimental streak runs throughout the album, notably on Tulsa Jesus Freak, where Lana’s gentle voice is transformed by conspicuous auto-tune and a honey-sweet southern accent. This unpredictability may disorientate you during your first listen to Chemtrails, especially if you’re used to Del Rey’s characteristic grandeur and melancholy, but rest assured that once this album gets a grip on you, it doesn’t let go.
One of the biggest differences on Chemtrails is Del Rey’s change of muse. She confesses on Let Me Love You Like a Woman: ‘I’m ready to leave LA, and I want you to come’. No longer infatuated with the City of Angels, Lana cruises down the road less travelled: Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, ever deeper into the heart of her beloved America. She has picked up inspiration, and some talented collaborators, including country star Nikki Lane, along the way and created an album that feels like a long-awaited road trip after years spent in manicured Californian suburbs. Chemtrails Over the Country Club is a compelling display of what Lana Del Rey can do when she leans into her wild side: we can only hope that she means to continue this journey of discovery, and that she’s willing to bring us with her.