When we think about albums, we think about the fanbase they’re delivered to. We don’t think of audience with rhetoric in mind though when it comes to music (those fanbase and audience are two different entities entirely), that an album sends a distinct message to a distinct ensemble of listeners. What are a set of lyrics saying to a particular audience?
In the sense that one’s audience serves as a sad rich person escapism, the message lyrics display can be rather shallow. For Americana and indie pop artist Lana Del Rey, her newest effort, “Chemtrails Over the Country Club,” promotes a pretension that not only gives listeners more reasons to shed disdain toward her, but develops an exclusivity unrivalled by any other pop artist.
A Lana Del Rey album is only as digestible as its aesthetic, which has glacially evolved (or devolved, depending on the person) since her debut. Del Rey, however, has a tendency to be derivative, perhaps self-absorbed, like a crusty overused sponge. She’s derivative not of other artists (at least not until “Chemtrails” leaked online), but rather of herself. Alternating consistently between good albums and recycled albums is what one comes to expect from Del Rey, but “Chemtrails” appears as possibly her grandest disappointment yet.
It’s difficult to listen to “Chemtrails Over the Country Club” without looking fondly back upon its 2019 parent album, “Norman F—— Rockwell!” Notwithstanding how nearly every track mirrors and embodies the tracklist from “NFR!”, “Chemtrails” attempts to strip back its sound to be as acoustic as possible, or rather as instrumentally stale as possible. Despite this trial-run, Del Rey falls back on reusing the same vocal melodies and lyrics from past albums. Unfortunately, this fails to create intimate familiarity and instead demonstrates how unabashedly uninspired Del Rey is.
Del Rey’s aesthetic is severely undermined by her infatuation with Beat Generation poets and Americana tropes that fantasize an American past not worth repeating for seven straight LPs. It shouldn’t be understated that Del Rey has a committed audience, one that is willing to put up with her infantile fascination of vintage culture. Perhaps by this point in her career, which has been firmly established, Del Rey could get away with even six more renditions of “Chemtrails Over the Country Club,” and people will still flock to her majesty.
This is all to say that in spite of Lana Del Rey’s sterile jabs at writing Americana songs with any shred of soul or heart, “NFR!” was an amazing record, undoubtedly the most successful collaboration of Del Rey’s best traits. Were “Chemtrails” to have been released prior to “NFR!” we may want to look upon it much differently, without the mindset that everything “Chemtrails” accomplishes “NFR!” executes infinitely better.
But this is not that alternate reality. “Chemtrails Over the Country Club” does the opposite; it doesn’t accomplish anything. If one can divorce Lana Del Rey’s intensely pandered aesthetic from her music (avoiding even the lyrics), then one can find genuinely pretty indie dream pop records waiting in her back catalog. A record like “Chemtrails” isn’t saddening—it’s not even disappointing—because the face of the matter is that Lana Del Rey doesn’t really care if she’s disappointing her audience with bland music. With songs as overproduced as these, can anything be underwhelming?
Listen to “Chemtrails Over the Country Club” on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/6QeosPQpJckkW0Obir5RT8?si=FO5vGDAITSiw4dELgvBNYA