Lust comes in many forms here in Hollywood, as well as out there beyond the Tinsel where it’s a tad more… normal? You’ve got your sexual lust, power lust, wanderlust, object lust, lust for intimacy, lust for that which dare not speak its name, follower lust, lost youth lust, future lust, pornographic lust, biblical lust, virtual lust. Anyway you skin it, though, lust is interestingly something wholly contained to our own psyche. It has no antecedent, no binary, only fractal likenesses spreading out over history, the now, and the speculative future. Sure, two lusters may collide between the sheets following a plastics convention in Islamabad, around a hearty bowl of moqueca de camarao in a Bahian resort, or a ’67 Porsche 911 in Pebble Beach. But what’s to say these individuals’ lust for the other’s body, the soup, the auto, is equivocal, let alone measurable? No, lust, in its rawest form, is something we must repress, exercise, weigh, or value entirely on our own.
Consider the new record from superstar, Lana Del Rey: Lust for Life. When considering, might we assume this particular “lust” to have some corrupted layer to it? Some sort of invasive, or melancholic, or alienating undertone? Something mysterious?* Why might we? Well, because those are the sort of insinuations we tend to foist upon the Lana Del Rey we’ve come to know, or presume we know, over the last near decade, be it through the multitudinous, oft-confounded media halo around her, or perhaps our own desire for her to personally fulfill on some of the themes bandied about her discography. Lana Del Rey is mentally unwell. Lana Del Rey is violence-obsessed. Lana Del Rey is lost in an abandoned era. Lana Del Rey is… happy? “I think I was feeling happy that I was present, and not afraid in a way that I couldn’t enjoy my everyday things,” the musician says of the new record’s title, sat in blue jeans, cross-legged on the floor of a Chateau Marmont hotel suite, enjoying French fries and a Diet Coke on a balmy, breezy Friday afternoon. “I’m the kind of person that really loves those things. Like when I drive, I love every road, and I can’t believe that I’m in L.A. I love the architecture, grabbing a coffee, striking up conversation with the people I encounter. And I hate when I can’t enjoy the little things because in the back of my head I have concerns or preoccupations. So for me, it was that sort of lust for life. It was kind of just about happiness.”
Are we ok with that? Can we appreciate a lust from Grammy-nominated Del Rey if it’s not tortured or muddied, glass eyed, drowning in itself? Can this fifth full-length follow previous efforts with titles like Born to Die (2012) or Ultraviolence (2014) with calm, with appreciation for the light and the trees and the way our foamy cappuccino looks so god damned beautiful? It doesn’t really matter, for we’ll never know this lust’s exactitude as I suggest above, and that’s ok. And anyway, nothing is more undefinable or elusive than happiness. What does matter is that the songs on the record possess an incredible richness in production, there’s some excellent and legendary guests on a few tracks, and from the artist’s point of view, a kind of carving down in scope, what I’ll venture to call a distinct maturation in her oeuvre. “The record has fewer dimensions,” she remarks. “But they’re more beautiful than in the past. I had no idea that would make it easier to talk about.” Has this ease with discussing the content perhaps coincided with a sort of softening, or openness toward her in the arenas of public or journalistic reception? “I feel that,” she says thoughtfully. “And it’s helped me be more open as well. Because it’s hard to talk about your innermost feelings if you feel the reception will be cold. And I hung back for a while. I did a handful of interviews, but not many in the last few years. But also I was writing and writing, and digging through stuff, and not writing things as easy to digest or discuss. It still comes from me, but as I’ve evened out as a person, I don’t have as much I don’t want to say. I feel comfortable.”