It’s easy to forget that Lana Del Rey was only introduced to the public at large a little under a decade ago; in that time, the “gangster Nancy Sinatra” has undergone a career’s worth of re-inventions – from the trip-hop of ‘Born To Die’ to the dark rock of ‘Ultraviolence’ to her subtly political magnum opus ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell’. Del Rey, and her career, are still relatively young, but she sounds more than ever like an artist in their golden years; having largely settled into a psychedelic pop sound.
Her latest batch of three singles showcase an artist largely uninterested in reinvention or, publicity, for that matter. Released with little to no promotion, and given covers likely made on PicsArt, the three new songs show Lana at her most care-free and relaxed. While Del Rey has ditched acclaimed collaborator Jack Antonoff, in favour of Mike Dean, the three tracks sound like they could’ve easily been off ‘Chemtrails’.
That said, it would be unfair to dismiss any of these tracks as redundant; each charts just enough new territory to make them interesting and necessary; ‘Text Book’ perfectly utilises Del Rey’s gorgeous falsetto, while ‘Wildflower Wildfire’ includes a sublime mid-song tempo-change. The tracks, which mention Lana’s real life friends ‘Jenny’ and ‘Nikki Lane’, come across as her most vulnerable and autobiographical to date. Del Rey’s music has often contained darker truths than anyone else in mainstream pop music would dare to express – the title track off ‘Ultraviolence’ had the infamous line “he hit me and it felt like a kiss”. But, ‘Wildflower Wildfire’ contains some of the most heart-wrenching lyrics Del Rey has ever released; “My father never stepped in when his wife would rage at me / So I ended up awkward but sweet / Later then hospitals, and still on my feet / Comfortably numb”.
Ultimately, these three tracks – while sonically similar to Del Rey’s previous work – add much needed context to Del Rey’s music. Across her decade-long career, it’s been impossible to tell the truth from the fiction of Del Rey’s work; many have wondered if ‘Lana Del Rey’ is little more than a persona; but the quietly heart-wrenching new singles suggest much of the darkness of Del Rey’s music reflects a dark reality and an equally notable quiet resilience.