The rrramble team unite to cast their early judgements on the titular track of Lana Del Rey’s upcoming (and already controversial) album, Chemtrails Over The Country Club.
Read on for our thoughts, and predictions for the full album (due to be released March 2021).
I often find songs that I repeatedly want to listen to, are ones that capture me on the first listen, whether it’s a particular lyric that resonates with me or makes me feel a certain way. Lana Del Rey’s most recent release Chemtrails Over The Country Club didn’t spark this feeling, though I can’t say I was disappointed as I don’t have much to go off, having only heard a few of her previous songs. However, I stuck with it. Its repetitiveness made it become an easy background listen and after a while I thought that Lana Del Rey’s music is something which I could, just maybe, continue to listen to.
You might have already guessed it but I’m not a devoted fan of Del Rey’s music, so I’m coming at this review with a fresh pair of eyes (or ears?). I’ll take you through my Del Rey discoveries of Chemtrails Over The Country Club…The track starts straight off with ‘I’m on the run, with you my sweet love’, suggesting the song will be another of Del Rey’s melodic love songs. However, as the song continues I sense it’s less about one specific relationship but more about individuals that she loves, like her friends or sister, which she references in the line ‘me and my sister just playing it cool’. This makes the song less of a cliché to me.
Throughout, the song builds up a visual scene in the use of some really strong poetic imagery along with an underlying portrayal of privilege, which is hard to miss with the continuous mention of this ‘country club’. Del Rey builds up this image of a relaxed and comfortable lifestyle with a hint of nostalgia thrown in too. I find it refreshing for a song to be so descriptive in its visual references, so you’re allowed to build up your own imagery based on what you hear and interpret this how you like. One point to Lana on this.
Along with the underlying theme of privilege, there does also seem to be an overarching feeling of sadness. The lyrics have a dreamlike harshness to them, so I can’t help but think that what Del Rey is describing was perhaps short lived. A rose tinted, fleeting moment if you like. “I’m not unhinged or unhappy, I’m just wild” Del Rey sings, as though to explain her individuality but I’m curious as to why she needs to do this? And I’m not sure I believe her when she says she’s not unhappy. The lull in the rhythm of her voice and the slow melody, gives a melancholy feel to the song, it’s like something much darker is looming under the façade. Though again, this steadiness could just be a reflection of Lana Del Rey’s musical style that I’m not very familiar with.
Despite the visual imagery that Chemtrails Over The Country Club conjures up and despite this being an element of the song I do like, the repetitiveness, dare I say it, makes it a slightly unvaried listen. The song doesn’t really culminate to anything like I anticipated, which is disappointing, though the repetitiveness sure does make the lyrics easy to remember. Overall, I’ve been left feeling a little uninspired but I’m intrigued to see what the rest of the album has instore, with the hope it builds on the theme of nostalgia, though I sense it will contain more slow, dreamlike love songs if Let Me Love You Like A Woman (her first release from the album) is anything to go by.
With a name like Chemtrails Over The Country Club – equipped with wistful lyrics, breathy delivery and vague suburban references – there’s no doubt that this song belongs to Lana Del Rey. Branding seems to be ever Lana’s strong suit; if you hear her songs on the radio, they are undoubtedly hers – no easy feat. The caveat to this marketing success, however, is that every Lana Del Rey song sounds exactly the same.
I’m well aware that there are plenty of Lana stans who do not share this opinion (and may crucify me for it) but honestly; how many lulling, stifled melodies with melodramatic lyrical depictions of what is essentially a highly privileged life can Lana produce? There’s no doubt that Lana is a talented vocalist – her voice is smooth, and this song does show some of her higher range that we don’t often get to hear – but when it boils down to it, Lana’s tunes scream exclusivity (and not in the attractive, ‘can I join the club’ kind of way).
As you can probably guess, lyrically, Chemtrails falls into this exact trap. With talk of country clubs, suburbia, wearing jewels in swimming pools, sports cars, and LSD; Lana’s lyrical content seems to revolve solely around experiences of being a highly privileged, rich white woman (write what you know, I guess?). In fact: sometimes, listening to Lana feels like listening to that girl from high school bragging about a party she’s going to and complaining about how hard it is to be popular, even though she knows that a) you haven’t been invited and b) even if you were invited, you couldn’t go to the party cos you have to work the night shift at maccies.
I’m fully expecting that this air of wealth, privilege and incongruous dissatisfaction with both will be a continuing theme throughout the full album. If so, I’m predicting that this may rile potential audiences. At its most simple; if the majority of people listening can’t see themselves reflected in your songs in some way, however small, they aren’t going to keep listening. But deeper than that, after a year like 2020 – which was likely challenging for all listeners in some way, but was disproportionately challenging for listeners who are black/global majority, disabled or working class – I can see Lana receiving criticism about how she has painted her idyllic life with such a discontented (and dare I say, ungrateful?) brush. Honestly, after years of controversy and rightful criticism for various unsavory actions (read here for Billboard’s helpful timeline) I don’t know how much longer we’ll be hearing Lana’s songs in the charts.
I’m sure that die-hard Lana fans will love this album, as it seems like it’ll be in classic Del Rey style. This song in particular may find its way onto the playlists of astrology fans, thanks to the references in the chorus (“Baby what’s your sign? My moon’s in Leo my Cancer is sun”) – and may even find its way onto astrology TikTok. If you’re desperately looking for escapism, you may even pop on some jewels to wear in your bathtub and imagine being oh so rich and oh so troubled whilst you listen along – and really, I wouldn’t judge you for it. My personal takeaway? Relief that I don’t share my astrology placements with Lana Del Rey.
I am not a Lana Del Rey fan; I remember thinking Born to Die and Video Games were good when they were in the charts, and there was that one year I listened to Summertime Sadness a few too many times, but overall she doesn’t make the kind of music I listen to; so I came into Chemtrails Over The Country Club with no more perspective than the memory of sorta liking her radio hits.
And I liked it. Chemtrails has beautiful harmonies and vocals that sound hopeful, nostalgic and slightly sinister all at the same time. In many ways it carries on the intense emotive, dreamlike, and eerie sound that I remembered standing out the most in her early records. She keeps up the incredible vocals, elegant harmonies, and emotive lyrics that are distinctly Lana Del Rey and I’m confident that anyone who likes Lana will love this, and anyone who’s a bit more tepid will still like it.
It doesn’t feel, however, that Lana is attempting to recreate the past. There is something tangibly different about this record. Unlike her earlier songs the instrumentals are slightly more muted, relying solely on piano and acoustic guitar for large parts of the song. This places the vocals at the forefront right up until the midpoint, when percussion creeps in and gradually takes over the song, leading up to my favourite moment: the final 30 seconds when only the drums remain. It was powerful and transformative to have Lana’s vocals, the strongest part of her work, taken over like that, and crystallised the tensions that had been running throughout the song. High and low pitches, lyrics that look both to the past and the future, images of affluence that feel cheap and hollow, the conflicts seemed destined to collapse into something else and it was so cathartic when they did.
Again, I don’t know Lana Del Rey’s discography well and do not trust myself to predict what is going to be in the full album, but I do know what I’d like to see. I’d like to see motifs of change take prominence in the album. A lot of Lana’s songs are brilliant at capturing a moment, but in Chemtrails that moment seems unstable, and I’d love to see her explore change both thematically and artistically. We already got a snippet of this in the tense and evolving sound of Chemtrails, and I’d be keen to hear more. Perhaps lyrics dealing with stasis and change, or even a steady shift away from dreamy piano and strings, to more grounded and rhythmic instrumentals. It would be difficult, but the ambition could turn a good song into a great album.
For now, I doubt this is a song I’m going to come back to. I’ll keep recommending it to people because it has a lot to offer, but ultimately it’s still aimed at Lana’s core fans, and there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s the area where she shines.
You can listen to Chemtrails Over The Country Club on all major streaming platforms. Full album release anticipated for 19th March 2021.