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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Lana Del Rey doesn't capture brilliance in 'Chemtrails Over the Country Club'

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Lana Del Rey's album cover for "Chemtrails Over the Country Club' (2021) is pictured.

With her voice softer and instrumentation simpler than ever, Lana Del Rey has returned. On March 19, the Los Angeles indie rock singer cast off the weight of numerous controversies before and after the making of her Grammy-nominated album “Norman F***ing Rockwell!” (2019) and released “Chemtrails Over the Country Club” (2021).

Prior to “Norman F***ing Rockwell!,”Del Rey’s albums had always been characterized by her distinct fusion of glamour and melancholy — and sometimes even irony and humor — over piano, guitar, strings and drums. However, with the release of “Norman F***ing Rockwell!,”Lana Del Rey began to shift to a less complicated version of her earlier style to focus more on the lyrics and sentimental quality of her music.

“Chemtrails Over the Country Club” goes a step beyond “Norman F***ing Rockwell!” to focus almost solely on Del Rey’s lilting voice and clear tonality.

Beginning with "White Dress" — which is likely the best song on the album — the central theme of nostalgia and Del Rey’s desire to escape the limelight are exposed. Crooning “When I was a waitress wearing a tight dress handling the heat/ I wasn't famous, just listening to Kings of Leon to the beat,”Del Rey begins to delicately paint the image of a woman at the height of her fame who has become tired of its accompanying complications, wishing to retreat to the time in her life when she was free of the paparazzi. "It kinda makes me feel, like maybe I was better off,” she sings. 

Continuing with this idea on the love ballad “Let Me Love You Like A Woman,”Del Rey says she is “from a small town,”clarifying “I only mention it ‘cause I’m ready to leave L.A.”

And most of the rest of the songs on the album follow a similar narrative: They either reminisce on Del Rey’s simpler past or express a desire to escape from her current reality.

While songs like the title track “Chemtrails Over the Country Club” and “Wild At Heart” seem to build more on the album’s central themes in a unique manner, the album is a little too modest. Whether it’s a reflection of the monotonous subject matter or the generally uneventful instrumentation, “Chemtrails Over the Country Club” is a shadow of the ingenuity of “Norman F***ing Rockwell!”

It isn’t lacking in charm or beauty — it is a beautiful experience to listen through the whole thing. However, it is underwhelming in the wake of the charisma that has characterized much of Del Rey’s best music. Past songs like “Brooklyn Baby” (2014), "Florida Kilos" (2014) and “Hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but I have it” (2019) showcase her personality and talent for storytelling, and also prove that even in uncomplicated, slow songs, Del Rey can truly create magic. Sometimes painfully honest and other times melodramatic and mocking, her music is special because of its variety.

On “Chemtrails Over the Country Club,”Del Rey’s lyrics are as strong as always, proving that her unique talent for writing and spinning phrases has not faded, but the narrative is too cohesive so that the lack of deviation makes much of the musical content feel repetitive. Lines like “I’m in the wind, I’m in the water/ Nobody’s son, nobody’s daughter/ Watching the chemtrails over the country club” from the title track make the album truly special to listen to, and yet cannot save it from the lingering success and versatility of “Norman F***ing Rockwell!” that overshadow the excessive simplicity of the new album.

Chemtrails Over the Country Club” lacks much of the character which emboldened her past works but still has its own charm and is embellished with Del Rey’s resonating voice in ways never seen before. “Chemtrails Over The Country Club” isn’t Del Rey's best album, but it proves that she may not be capable of a worst.

Summary “Chemtrails Over the Country Club” is a simplistic album focusing on Lana Del Rey's reflections on fame and escape with less of the charisma that has long characterized her music.
3.5 Stars