Lana Del Rey continues her upward trajectory
It’s safe to say Lana Del Rey is firmly established as a pop music superstar in the wake of the July release of her latest album Lust for Life and subsequent tour. The “sadcore” chanteuse weathered a torrent of Internet trolling and think pieces about her authenticity at the start of her career, but she steadfastly persisted with her musical vision until the growing devotion of her fans made questions about the construction of her identity irrelevant. Lust for Life, her fifth full studio album and fourth for a major label, debuted at No. 1, becoming her second album to top the charts after 2014’s Ultraviolence.
It wasn’t her only recent chart accomplishment. Del Rey became the third woman in history (along with Carole King and Adele) to have an album spend 300 weeks on the Billboard 200 chart with her 2012 debut album Born to Die. She had become a viral sensation in 2011 after uploading her song “Video Games” to YouTube, establishing an atmospheric, cinematic sound and an image as a melancholic modern torch singer. Well received at first, Del Rey’s upward trajectory was disrupted when the blogosphere became preoccupied with her initial, aborted attempts to break into the industry under her given name (Lizzie Grant).
That Del Rey was scrutinized by a music-listening public that by and large loves Lady Gaga and deified David Bowie is an issue best fielded by sociologists. She carried on cultivating a persona that some critics called antifeminist, but was embraced by legions of fans attracted to her retro-glam Hollywood image and tales of tangled relationships. Ultraviolence proved Del Rey had staying power and received mostly positive reviews, but she didn’t tour to promote her 2015 album Honeymoon, which may have contributed to it merely reaching No. 2.
Lust for Life finds Del Rey collaborating with Sean Lennon, Stevie Nicks, The Weeknd and Playboi Carti as she channels the turbulent zeitgeist into familiar haunting sonic territory on tracks like “Heroin,” “Get Free” and current set opener “13 Beaches.” Her growing interest in politics is evident on “When the World Was at War We Kept Dancing” and “God Bless America—and All the Beautiful Women in It,” but she balances it with boudoir soundtrack material via songs such as “Cherry.”
While Del Rey has inarguably progressed as an artist, she hasn’t escaped controversy. Lust for Life’s closing track “Get Free” was musically and melodically similar enough to Radiohead’s “Creep” to draw attention in the media after the new year, but Del Rey is no stranger to recasting familiar-sounding snatches of melodies in original settings and taking them to new, evocative places. For her LA to the Moon tour, she renders her songs in a mesmerizing stage setting that evokes California coastal imagery. Some may still dispute her origin story, but there’s no questioning her ability to demonstrate artistic authenticity in a live setting.
Mandalay Bay, 8 p.m. Feb. 16, starting at $39.50 plus tax and fee. 800.745.3000 Ticketmaster