BY MARIANA GARRICK
Lana Del Rey’s follow-up to her 2019 album “Norman F***ing Rockwell!” includes her hard to miss hauntingly-romantic and eerily-heartbreaking signature ambience. Chemtrails Over the Country Club takes us on a cross-country road trip from Tulsa, to Yosemite, to San Francisco and the singer reflects on her life while she aims to get away from Hollywood. Del Rey’s music has somewhat abandoned her old Hollywood aesthetic, and since adopted an Americana feel. It’s clear to listeners that her flower-crown era is over, and instead, the days of driving down a dirt road either with, or from her lover are just beginning.
Chemtrails Over the Country Club delivers a more nostalgic feel and stark difference to her previous albums with the hushing opener of “White Dress.” She reflects on her life prior to fame (“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”) and compares her life to the simplicity and freeness of summer. Del Rey’s whispering piano ballad provids a sense of nostalgia for life before fame and sets the tone for the remaining 10 other songs on the album.
The title track, “Tulsa Jesus Freak” and “Let Me Love You Like a Woman” seem to signify the start of the road trip and a relationship (“I only mention it ’cause I’m ready to leave LA // And I want you to come // Eighty miles North or South will do”). Her signature slow tempos are paired with words of longing and fulfillment that she yearns for from her lover as they both get away from the busy city. Del Rey’s relationship struggles and experiences are a reoccurring theme in her music, and it proves to be working just fine. All seven of her albums revolve around the relationship she has with herself, or others.
As the road trip continues, the steady guitar intros to “Wild at Heart,” “Dark But Just a Game” and “Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost” lead us to Nebraska. The 35-year-old singer brings us to a darker place and starts to question her fame, creativity, career choice and love for the person she’s with. Her lyrics reference the death of Princess Diana (“The cameras have flashes, they cause the car crashes”) and reminds listeners how all stories involving fame end tragically.
Del Rey tries to convince herself that she’s made the right choice regarding everything, despite her thoughts (“I love you lots, despite the odds // You’re killing me, Joe // And all these thoughts brought us apart // And that’s okay”), she sings in “Wild at Heart.”
Del Rey’s uncertainty finds its way to Yosemite and “Breaking Up Slowly” brings us to her sudden realization that she’d rather be lonely than be in a relationship that “makes her blue.” Country singer-songwriter Nikki Lane assists Del Rey on this melancholy track, and the two pair their voices together for a haunting duet that signifies the complicated end of a relationship. As the road trip ends, so does Del Rey’s relationship.
The album finishes with a cover of Joni Mitchell’s 1970 song “For Free.” Del Rey, Zella Day and Weyes Blood sing along to a piano ballad that reflects the success of people involved in the music industry. Del Rey flaunts the praise Stevie Nicks has given her, and how she feels “burdened by the weight of fame.” The singer struggles to remain positive throughout her stardom and regardless of the war in her mind, she continues to walk on the sunny side.
Throughout the album, the singer travels cross-country while she explores her relationship and vocal range. Though Del Rey’s angelic vocals have matured since the 2011 song “Video Games” put her on the map, her dark, descriptive and personal lyricism remains the same. While the artist has stated that she wants to do something new and get away from California, her frequent references to Jesus and the Golden State are reminiscent of previous albums with similar themes. Del Rey’s aesthetic is classic Americana, and America itself is described as “one nation under God.” With song titles ranging from “Gods & Monsters” to “God Knows I Tried” and now, “Tulsa Jesus Freak,” her mention of Jesus and God should be expected at this point.
Chemtrails Over the Country Club feels like an intimate page out of her diary. Her revelations in this album are so personal and private, that we now know she views fame as detrimental. Like most of her other albums, Del Rey highlights her painful life and relationship experiences. At least on this album, she sees a silver lining to all that she’s endured. She reminds listeners and fans that she’s still wild at heart.