Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Lana Del Rey

  • Born to Die [Polydor, 2012] *
  • Paradise [Interscope, 2012] **
  • Ultraviolence [Polydor/Interscope, 2014] ***
  • Honeymoon [Polydor/Interscope, 2015] A-
  • Lust for Life [Interscope/Polydor, 2017] ***
  • Norman Fucking Rockwell! [Interscope, 2019] ***
  • Chemtrails Over the Country Club [Polydor/Interscope, 2021] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Born to Die [Polydor, 2012]
Convincing and occasionally compelling proof that money can't buy happiness ("Video Games," "This Is What Makes Us Girls") *

Paradise [Interscope, 2012]
Continues to project a hedonistic lassitude and desperate edge you wish you could warn your buddy off ("American," "Body Electric") **

Ultraviolence [Polydor/Interscope, 2014]
Self-made sad girl celebrates self-caricaturing sex appeal of self-fulfilling bad love. ("Cruel World," "Ultraviolence") ***

Honeymoon [Polydor/Interscope, 2015]
Presumably anybody who thinks her shtick has stagnated is too embarrassed to pay attention, because without doubt it's evolved. Subtly, OK, but the slowing tempos at least are hard to miss, and they go with the subtle part: the changing ways she's portrayed both herself and the objects of her affection over the past four years. Initially she enacted rockish boy-toy masochism--a pretty girl who got wet for an entire casting call of rough trade sugar daddies. But the third album of her tuneful, bonus-studded catalogue stars the torchy femme fatale who always lurked underneath, and by now half the objects of her exploitation are pretty clearly jerks. Born-to-lie Mr. Born to Lose is a game to her--she never bought into his bullshit. "Salvatore," who could be based on her real-life Italian boyfriend for all I know, is auto-crooned so close to the edge of parody I wish she'd figured out how to sneak in the moon hitting her eye like a big pizza pie. But the biggest breakthrough is Lana herself on "God Knows I Tried," where the artist born Lizzy Grant cops to her real-life fame and interrupts the come-ons to swear, "I feel free when I see no one." You never know--this dame might write a love song we can believe in someday. "Freak" and "Blackest Day" come fairly close. A-

Lust for Life [Interscope/Polydor, 2017]
Languid self-expressions of considerable theoretical interest, just like the Lana Del Rey character's sexual proclivities used to be ("When the World Was at War We Kept Dancing," "13 Beaches") ***

Norman Fucking Rockwell! [Interscope, 2019]
American studies paper on the late '60s fused with soft-core porn whose erotic charge is the deeper part of the synthesis ("Hope is a dangerous thing to for a woman like me to have--but I have it," "Love Song") ***

Chemtrails Over the Country Club [Polydor/Interscope, 2021]
As an LDR agnostic who's felt uneasy about failing to find the so-called NFR! a masterpiece or LDR sexually alluring as ice queen, hot number, intellectual, or any combination of same, I was delighted to be humming in my head before I'd gotten through this Jack Antonoff production twice. Hooks are far more plentiful here than on most LDR albums, the Antonoff-fueled NFR! included, and unusual ones at that. My favorite is "Down in the Men in Music Business Conference" (FYI there is no such thing--with that literal a name, anyway). Runner-up: "We did it for fun/We did it for free/I did it for you/You did if for me"--and then, right on time, "We did it for the right reasons." But also "I left Calabasas, escaped all the ashes" and "I'm coverin' Joni and I'm dancin' with Joan/Stevie is callin' on the telephone" and "Breakin' up slowly is a hard thing to do" and "I don't wanna live with a life of regret/I don't want to end up like Tammy Wynette." Now that she's connected A-list name-dropping to a love life normal humans can recognize, I can see where guys and gals might get off imagining a dreamy soprano "wearin' the same damn clothes forthree damn days" because "Lincoln, Nebraska got me in a haze." But the humming in my head thing is what matters to me. A-