On her latest album, Lust for Life, Lana Del Rey stays true to her musical style. She maintains her haunting vocals, which are deep and rich and can take off with soaring clarity. The light, slow beats that accompany her voice are in the background, while her vocals take up the focus. Her sound is pretty and gritty all at the same time. At The Atlantic, Spencer Kornhaber describes Del Rey’s new release as a return to her first one: “Lust for Life is really Born to Die’s sequel: a rather fabulous return to catchiness, camp, and faint hip-hop influences.”
The album screams nostalgia, from the opening song, “Love”—which resembles a 1950’s rock anthem—to “Beautiful People Beautiful Problems,” a duet with Stevie Nicks, to the retro-looking album cover. Her lyrics, meanwhile, carry timeless pop themes: summer love affairs, love lost, bad relationships, sex, and romance.
Though pop lyrics about relationships are “oh so cliche,” they also serve as a signpost for our cultural obsession with love. Del Rey is echoing a longing inside us all, an innate desire to love and be loved. As she sings on “13 Beaches”:
It hurts to love you
But I still love you
It's just the way I feel
And I'd be lying
If I kept hiding
The fact that I can't deal
That I've been dying
For something real
Many of Del Rey’s lyrics about love have a shallow ring to them. On “Summer Bummer” she asks a fling to be her “undercover lover.” On “In My Feelings,” she sings, “Sobbin' in my cup of coffee / 'Cause I fell for another loser.” Like many of us, Del Rey underestimates the richness of love. Love can go deeper than we imagine, love is more than a summer fling, a rush of emotions, and much more than sex. Even so, there is something in earthly romance that helps us grasp at a spiritual reality. The emotional rush is a foretaste of what we’ll experience when we’re in the presence of God forever.
C.S. Lewis points us to this greater love, a love for which all of us, including Del Rey, long. In Mere Christianity, Lewis writes, “The living, dynamic activity of love has been going on in God forever and has created everything else.” When John writes that “God is love,” he means that God is the source of love itself. He has placed eternity in our hearts, and so we long for the type of love that can only be found in him. He is true love. And he proved the depths of his love by dying for us and rising again. True love is a death and resurrection. It’s the burying of a seed to let it die in the ground, so it can rise and bear more fruit.
On her album’s title track, Del Rey sings, “Our lust for life / keeps us alive.” To fulfill our longing for something deeper, we often seek earthly love in shallow places (“We dance on the H of the Hollywood sign,” she also sings). Yet even if we are piddling around in a mud puddle of what we think love is, God desires to show us the vast ocean of his love for us. We only see love in part, but one day we will see in it full. Until then, “these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”