Album Review: “Chemtrails over the Country Club” by Lana Del Rey

“Chemtrails over the Country Club” was released by Lana Del Rey in March of 2021.

Quick thoughts:

  • I can’t help but compare every single album she puts out, and this one for sure stands out from the rest, differing in so many ways, while somehow staying true to original Lana Del Rey essence.
  • Lana Del Rey is always working on something. It’s hard to believe the pandemic slowed her down a bit, who would’ve guessed at the rate she’s going!? This is not a bad thing. Keep on giving us starving fans more, more, more!
  • She introduced sad-girl-aesthetic to the world before they were ready for it, and now newer artists like Billie Eilish are bringing dark vibes to the mainstream, being praised for the same things Lana was overlooked for. But now, always one step ahead of the game, Lana’s music has already evolved into something entirely different.
  • Lana Del Rey is officially a brand new woman, and “Chemtrails” is the final nail on the coffin of her early 2010s days. Her new music is underproduced, stripped down, and totally raw. The instruments are acoustic and minimal, as the power of her sultry voice and clever lyrics shines through.
  • She’s explored so many territories on previous albums — from jazzy pop, to psychedelic rock, to dream-pop, to hip-hop, eventually reaching her current indie-rock alternative. The sound of “Chemtrails” most closely resembles “Norman F Rockwell!”, both consisting of stripped-down acoustics, but are still so different in so many ways.
  • “Chemtrails” is mature. It does not demand attention, it does not beg to prove itself. Straying away from themes of competition, eagerness, and rushing in and out of love — this album is slow, calm, and steady — it applauds female friendship and the sense of supporting one another.

My full review:

As I’m writing this review for an album that only came out two months ago, Lana Del Rey has already dropped three new tracks from her upcoming album “Blue Banisters.” As soon as her last album, “Norman F***ing Rockwell!” came out back in late 2019, we were already hearing news about what she had planned next. This woman never takes a break. A year later, she released a poetry book along with the audiobook version. We also kept hearing rumors about what her next album would be titled — it seemed to go back and forth between “Chemtrails over the Country Club” or “Blue Banisters.” We would find out she chose the prior, and then quickly find out that she also chose the latter. (“White Hot Forever” was also a contender, which is a lyric in one of the album’s songs — Tulsa Jesus Freak.)

Lana Del Rey’s sound is ever-changing and ever-evolving. While she maintains that classic “Lana Del Rey aesthetic” (that’s really the best phrase to describe it) on all her albums, each one has its own unique sound. With “Chemtrails,” Lana has officially reached a point in her music career where she has strayed quite far from her breakout days.

Lana Del Rey’s first official album came out in 2012, and although she was widely successful, the world was not quite ready for her just yet. It can be argued that Lana Del Rey was the first star to bring “sad girl aesthetic” into the mainstream. She was overlooked by many because she was doing something different, bringing a new sound into the world, one that embraced dark themes and heavy emotion. This paved the way for many new artists to follow in her footsteps. Billie Eilish was highly praised at the 2020 Grammys for doing what Lana had been doing for about a whole decade before her. While there are still many differences between the two singers, they both embrace the dark side — except for Billie Eilish, it was perfect timing — with Lana Del Rey, she was, and probably will always be, ahead of her time.

LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 26: Lana Del Rey attends the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards at Staples Center on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

There is always something different with a new Lana Del Rey album. She started out on the verge of pop mixed with a jazzy and old-timey feel (Born to Die), strayed towards psychedelic rock (Ultraviolence), morphed into a very dreamy haze (Honeymoon), and then dabbled into some hip-hop (Lust for Life). It seemed as if her music was becoming almost “happier,” yet never losing that melancholy aftertaste. With her more recent album, NFR!, she completely reintroduced herself into a brand new, wiser, more mature woman. “Norman Rockwell!” nearly gave me Billy Joel vibes, but much softer, with its stripped down piano and acoustics — like a dive bar soundtrack, or a long drive through the country.

“Chemtrails” follows in “NFR!’s” footsteps, with a very similar sound. It’s underproduced to the point where it sounds live. Personally, I love this authentic feel. Her previous albums had a haziness that came from overproduction, and now the haziness remains but reveals itself in a new way. You can fully appreciate the smoothness of her voice.

I saw a lot more maturity in “NFR!”, and now I see the maturity growing even more with “Chemtrails.” Her music always seems to speak of being wild, crazy, and free… but now it’s coming off in a gentler, more soothing and accepting way. There’s less anxiety and eagerness; there’s more faith and assurance. I feel that Lana has gained much more confidence in her music-writing ability, and that she wants to be taken more seriously. I hear her relying more on her voice and lyrics, rather than leaning on beats or catchy hooks. “Chemtrails” is raw, vulnerable, and it has nothing to prove.

While “Chemtrails” is nearly identical to “NFR!”, there are still many aspects that separates the two. The first is that, regarding more maturity, you can clearly see that Lana is stepping away from the “shock factor” that most pop-stars cling to in order to gain attention. Not only is her music stripped down, it’s also cleaner with less cursing or dirty language. The titles alone are much tamer than prior songs, and only two tracks are explicit. While her early albums had a handful of explicit songs, “NFR!” hit a new peak with half the album containing explicit lyrics, not to mention the album title itself featuring the infamous F-word.

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 11: Lana Del Rey performs on stage at Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre on October 11, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Daniel Knighton/Getty Images)

The second major difference is that “Chemtrails” takes a step back from romance — specifically competing for love and attention, and rather, places spotlight on friendship, the nature of woman, and the nature of life. On Lana’s musical journey, this move takes a whole new turn.

The cover art for “Chemtrails” is a black-and-white photograph of Lana Del Rey, surrounded by girlfriends in pretty dresses, with toothy smiles. Lana blends in with the crowd and gives equal spotlight to everyone. Lana has described this album as more of a focus on the love of her beautiful friends and family. While “romance” is still the theme of many tracks, you can also see that “support” prevails over any sense of “competition.” This is also unique — as her prior albums focused heavily on achievement, knocking others down in order to get ahead, and being the best. It’s yet another example of how her confidence and maturity has soared, as she places more value on kindness, and lets go of jealousy.

I also love how her features are strictly female artists. Lana rarely collaborates, and when she does, it always seems to be male artists. Most notably — A$AP Rocky, who has been accused of domestic abuse. Lana has been repeatedly accused of sexism and female oppression, but this album totally squashes those rumors. She gracefully embraces female empowerment, without “overpowering” males, or making gender into a competition. Instead, she is peacefully applauding the magic of woman.


Tracks:

  • White Dress — Starting strong with soft piano — love this! And she really shows off her soprano voice like never before.
  • Chemtrails over the Country Club — Absolutely flawless. It’s a dark twist over that perfect, pearly, picket-fence life.
  • Tulsa Jesus Freak — There’s some voice effects which is interesting.
  • Let Me Love You Like a Woman — So beautiful. Let me do what I was born to do.
  • Wild at Heart — I also really like this one, sweet and adorable.
  • Dark But Just A Game — I love the sound of this one.
  • Not All Who Wander Are Lost — Wonderful. I feel as if I’m laying on the grass, picking buttercups.
  • Yosemite — Not my favorite but still a good one! Definitely need to listen to this more to fully process it.
  • Breaking Up Slowly (ft. Nikki Lane) — Wow, scary-accurate and relatable.
  • Dance Til We Die — Great way to wrap up the album. Totally transforms into a different song by the end!
  • For Free (ft. Zella Day & Weyes Blood) — A slow ballad.

5 thoughts on “Album Review: “Chemtrails over the Country Club” by Lana Del Rey

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.