Friday, January 22nd, 2021

Lana Del Rey – Chemtrails Over The Country Club

How does she fare when the culture isn’t so lit anymore?


Aaron Bergstrom: “Black Helicopters Over The Boat Parade.” “Mole People Under Mar-a-Lago.” “Flat Earth At Fashion Week.” Is this anything?

Will Adams: Like “Coachella — Woodstock On My Mind”, a wordy title with quaint juxtaposition. Chemtrails? Over my country club? It’s more expected than you’d think. Elizabeth Grant has spent over a decade examining a particular version of the (white) upwardly mobile middle class, so its logical conclusion is reclining on a chaise longue by the pool, looking up her birth chart and thinking, “hm, interesting”, as fighter jets soar across the sky. Whether this character is someone she merely portrays or fully embodies, it’s compelling nonetheless. The slow build and eventual, drums-only outro recalls “The Greatest”, where the conclusion is not so much a grande finale as it is a bleary-eyed dimming. I’m numbed enough now to appreciate the irony in watching the world burn as the waiter hands me another Bellini.

Scott Mildenhall: A trail of vapour in the air afforded intrigue on account of its emptiness. These things write themselves, and it would be no surprise if “Chemtrails” actually had. As if born from a Del Rey word cloud, its listlessness in the uncanny valley of the dolls stands alone without substance. Not only is there little hint of humanity, but its intentional absence meets no consequence. Zero friction, zero story, zero analysis and zero feeling.

Thomas Inskeep: Could “chemtrails over the country club” be any more of a Karen phrase? No, of course it couldn’t, because LDR is nothing if not the fucking definition of white privilege – and that definitely impacts how I hear the song. As for the rest of it, it’s a wispy little nothing (kinda like a chemtrail, whaddaya know) with which Del Rey, as usual, attempts to show off how dramatic she is, with an odd pseudo-jazz-drumming outro (what gives, Antonoff?) that adds nothing. And to paraphrase Billy Preston, nothing plus nothing equals nothing.

Alfred Soto: She’s unequalled when it comes to titles: it’s as if she jots them down, then finds tunes for them. More languid than I’d like, but “more languid” and “Lana Del Rey” is like complaining about artificial sugar in a frappuccino. But the languor suits the subject: privileged women luxuriating in wealth and idleness. 

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Delightfully languorous, which is to say that it’s knowingly unremarkable. It’s the sound of a certain lounging around allotted to the upper crust of society. She “contemplates God” and finds delight in the “chemtrails” adorning the sky, but it doesn’t ever really matter what she’s doing, because everything just points back to the glamor of her carefree lifestyle. It’s an irresistible and privileged world to live in, enough so that her music hasn’t needed to evolve much throughout the past decade: a longing for this sort of fantasy only increases with every hellish year. I’ll give her credit and say that her songwriting has gotten better over the years, but there’s no evidence of that here.

Leah Isobel: “Chemtrails Over the Country Club” finds Lana ensconced in suburbia, stumbling over a chorus melody that turns the phrase “contemplating God” into syllabic mush. There’s a pleasing ambiguity to how she renders the title phrase — less like the chemtrails are over the country club, more like she herself is so over the country club — but the way she leans on her archetypal images (sports cars, jewels, swimming pools) and the audible warmth when she sings about “normality” doesn’t let that ambiguity do much more than sit there. It ultimately feels like Another Lana Song: she’s once again pointing out the links between luxury, aesthetic pleasure, hegemonic power, and apocalypse as if simply exposing the connection is enough. When I was confused and lonely at 17, it was. But now, the glamorous ennui that originally drew me to Lana’s work, that embodied beauty while cultivating lyrical distance from what that beauty was supposed to signify, just looks a lot like complacency. 

Rose Stuart: Oh, Lana. This is exactly what I didn’t want from you. Norman Fucking Rockwell was a record that felt like the end of an era. Nay, with a song like “The Greatest”, it had to be. Like any great ending, the sequel needed Lana to push herself in a new direction, show growth, and demonstrate her maturing as an artist (my hopes will be eternally pinned on her embracing the rock edge that she has shown in her demos and the remixes she performed on her “LA to the Moon” tour). Sadly, “Chemtrails Over the Country Club” does the worst thing it could possibly have done: be a Lana Del Rey song. It’s “Video Games” with a “Norman Fucking Rockwell” twist. It covers no new ground. It shows no growth. It’s just a retread of her classic hits. And the worst part is that, like any bad sequel, it retroactively makes “The Greatest” worse. 

Katherine St Asaph: Once every few years Lana finds a track that sounds like it’s meant to be this slow, and a vocal that doesn’t sound bathed in mucus and melatonin. But that shouldn’t be worth congratulating someone for, and even here there’s more thrill in the past minute of stumbling percussion waltz than her past several singles combined, the start of this one included. And while she still writes great titles (though with this one you almost feel the secondhand writer’s strain of picking imagery that’s conspiratorial, but not too conspiratorial), that doesn’t extend to the rest of the song. Being a Cancer sun and Leo moon is really not that deep.

Vikram Joseph: We’re definitely in more-vibes-less-plot territory here — Lana painting a loose, impressionistic picture of affluent, becalmed lives and inviting us to form our own judgements – but it’s hard not to read something into the hum that rises up behind the delicate piano-and-strings waltz, or the nightmarish transition halfway through the “Chemtrails…” video. The woman in question (Lana herself?) seems to have made peace with the comfortable numbness of her lifestyle, embracing picket-fence suburbia, kids’ swimming pools and trips to the market. But there’s a complexity to her hazy narrative that makes us wonder whether something is pulling her back to her old life, where she could be “strange and wild” without judgement. Much like the protagonist, “Chemtrails…” finds Lana in her comfort zone — she turns out gorgeous vocal melodies in her sleep these days – but with just enough unresolved tension to keep it from dullness.

Joshua Lu: The intrigue of reading into the politics of Lana songs is much less enjoyable when you know the underlying politics are bit rotted, huh? You’re just left with a narcissistic ballad in need of better mixing.

Reader average: [7.62] (8 votes)

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