Entertainment & Media
Chemtrails Over the Country Club: Album Review
By Lucy Wu
Volume 1 Issue 7
April 22, 2021
Original album by Lana del Rey
On March 19, 2021, Lana del Rey released her long-anticipated seventh studio album, Chemtrails Over the Country Club. After a Californian escapade of late-night musings and love rock ballads in her previous album, Norman F*cking Rockwell, we return to an appreciation of the simple things in life through traversing the American Midwest in this album. Co-producers Jack Antonoff and Rick Nowels bring this vision to life with acoustic instruments to envelop her soft vocals, creating an atmospheric album dedicated to the nostalgic charm of folk Americana.
1. “White Dress”
Through her lyrics, Lana takes us back to her roots when she worked as a waitress playing her guitar before her fame as a songwriter and artist. Her raspy vocals, contrasted by her sweet tone throughout the song, make it engaging even beyond her lyrical storytelling. If you listen to any song on this album, listen to this one because it represents the takeaway of the entire album: nostalgia for a past life.
Best Lyric: When she whisper-yells “down at the men in music business conference” in the middle of the chorus, I feel that my life is complete.
2. “Chemtrails Over the Country Club”
In our “little red sports car,” we take a trip through 1950’s suburbia and reminisce about summers spent under the “white picket chemtrails.” At this stage in her life, Lana deeply longs for the stability and normalcy of living in a Levittown, presenting this through her soft “feminine” vocals, layered harmonies, and descriptive lyricism. We experience her dreams of domesticity through “doing the laundry” and lavish in the simplicity of wearing “jewels in the swimming pool.” However, her little riffs present in her music video are missing in the actual track, leaving a little more desired sonically. Still, her dreamy performance is alluring and makes the title track one of the best on the album.
Best Lyric: “My moon’s in leo my cancer is sun” references her contrasting zodiacs and her unpredictable personality.
3. “Tulsa Jesus Freak”
And now we try to find our way back to the ranch in Tulsa, Oklahoma, through a sultry yet divine song. Unlike the rest of the tracks in the album, this is much less folk and much more pop, closer in style to her previous works. Her purposeful use of autotune in the verse adds an interesting twist to an already memorable song before she seduces us and says to “stay close to Jesus.” Did I mention the beat, lyrics, and everything about this song is just catchy? She even nails the subtle Southern accent and adds an audio snippet of her laughing, which I find endearing. This track introduces the line “no more candle in the wind,” to show that she isn’t fragile, but stable instead.
Best Lyric: “White hot forever and ever and ever, amen” is a catchy yet evocative line in the chorus. The original album was supposed to be named White Hot Forever before it was changed, but this lyric in the song is still a great tribute.
4. “Let Me Love You Like a Woman”
While some of her tracks are enhanced by the minimalism in the lyrics, this one suffers from being overly simplistic. Rather than be enchanted by her voice and pleas for us to “talk about the good ol’ days,” I was distracted by the monotony of lyrics and the underwhelming instrumental production. Still, her tone quality and control in her voice perfectly complement the soft country vibe she exudes. Knowing what she is capable of, I expected more from her quality of songwriting, which is why this track proved to be particularly lackluster compared to the others.
Best Lyric: “We could get high on some pink champagne” has such an excellent visual quality to it and stands out among the rest of the lyrics.
5. “Wild at Heart”
Leaving Calabasas, California, we escape to the Midwest to abandon the “coffee pots and Insta’ thots” in search of limitless freedom instead. The backing track is the same as How to Disappear, a beloved song from her previous album, Norman F*cking Rockwell, making this song a continuation. In conjunction with the lyrics, this contributes to her growth from the last album to this one. The unexpected tempo and style change from the verse to the chorus is ambitious but welcome as it aids to advance the song. Similarly, her layered vocals in the chorus are resoundingly confident.
Best Lyric: “The cameras have flashes, they cause the car crashes” alludes to Princess Diana’s tragic death as her car crashed because of the paparazzi flashes; it explains why she wants to get away from the fame. Throughout the track, we also see Diana’s influence in the line “no more candle in the wind.”
6. “Dark but Just a Game”
To continue the theme of rejecting stardom, we venture into a darker side of the music industry. “The faces aren’t the same, but their stories all end tragically” references the media icons throughout history, including Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston, who suffered from drug abuse and depression. While the lyrics preach of denouncing fame and glory for constancy in life, the production with heavy bass and drums doesn’t match the innocent folk aura of the album in the slightest. Quite literally the black sheep of the album, though, it provides a taste of her old alternative rock style of music and is a refreshing change of tone, making it an edgy hit.
Best Lyric: Her melancholic attitude makes a welcome comeback when she sings, “nothing came for either one but pain, but ____ it”
7. “Not All Who Wander are Lost”
We journey back to Lincoln, Nebraska, where the skies are blue, and the sun is bright. Her voice is impossibly ethereal and gentle, like the warm breeze that brushes your arm as you walk through the countryside. Paired with the acoustic guitar in the background, her harmonies in the bridge are glorious to listen to. Like the girl next door, this song is simple, sweet, charming, and understated but naturally fades into the background and is slightly forgettable.
Best Lyric: Circling back to the underlying theme of religion, “you talk to God like I do” pays homage to her past and current work, understanding her relationship with God.
Again, we find ourselves in California, but this time we’re Yosemite on what I picture a misty and rainy evening. Her breathless and fragile falsetto serves as the backbone for this emotional piece. But just how she sings, “isn’t it cool how nothing here changes at all,” the song itself barely changes at all. The production is the same, and the chorus is frankly too repetitive. The guitar plucking keeps the song moving, but it still drags on and on and on. And while the bridge somewhat salvages the subpar performance, it leaves the aftertaste of untapped potential for this song to be breathtaking.
Best Lyric: “Honey, you made me feel I’m invincible” is gratifying to hear since the whole album reflects on not becoming the “candle in the wind” that burns out.
9. “Breaking Up Slowly ft. Nikki Lane”
After finding the joy in freedom and stability within ourselves, we’re left with a dilemma: breaking up slowly. While the emotional persuasion is there from their vocals, it doesn’t hide the overly simplistic lyrics or instrumentals. Personally, when other artists are featured on a track, the track inadvertently is not my favorite to listen to. Still, this track strikes a nice balance between Lana and Nikki as they lament about “breaking up slowly.”
Best Lyric: “George got arrested out on the lawn, we might be breaking up right after this song” is actually quite funny to visualize, although I’m not certain if its intent was to be woeful.
10. “Dance till we Die”
Before we finish the journey through Midwest America, we make a quick detour for a bar “that stays open just for us” to go “Afro-Caribbean two-step” dancing. While I feared this song would be lackluster like some of the other slower tracks, it has an optimistic sentiment and manages to build on itself. The production is minimal throughout the verse, but the subtle saxophone in the background makes it jazzy and weird in the best way possible. Ultimately, the upbeat bridge provides a meaningful contrast to the lull to the verse and chorus. We grow nostalgic for musical idols like Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez, who are now Lana’s friends.
Best Lyric: “Clementine’s not just a fruit, it’s my daughter’s chosen name” catches us off guard since it’s an oddly personal declaration in the middle of a song about dancing, but I find it endearing that she included it.
11. “For Free ft. Zella Day and Weyes Blood”
To end the experience, we reflect on the entire voyage through a gentle cover of Joni Mitchell’s folk classic, For Free. The subtleties in the song are conveyed through the meaning of the lyrics, which initially seem unassuming and quite literal. However, the fact that she sings only one of the three verses, not to mention that the original song is not even her own, bothers me as this song ends the album. But perhaps, she wants us to understand her growth as a person was made possible by other artists, so she pays tribute to that idea through her inclusion of other musicians to end the album.
Best Lyric: “Now me I play for fortunes, and those velvet curtain calls” perfectly encapsulates everything Lana wishes to express through the album: she makes music for money and fame. Still, she longs for the time when she played for nothing.
Reflections: The album can be summarized as “no more candle in the wind.” She doesn’t want to be fragile and vulnerable as she was in her previous hit album, and we can clearly hear this in her choice of lyrics. Sonically, she celebrates newfound freedom and independence with minimal acoustic instrumentals and a nostalgic folk production in this album, which is distinctly different than anything else she has produced. We dream of past lives and simpler times, and she captures the feeling of longing for rural America perfectly. While some lyrics were undoubtedly less memorable than others, and some quite profane, her voice has matured, and her confidence as an artist is even more prominent than before. With each listen, the album only continues to grow on me as I, too, find myself daydreaming about chemtrails over the country club.
White Dress 9.3
Tulsa Jesus Freak 8.7
Dark but Just a Game 8.5
Chemtrails over the Country Club 8.2
Wild at Heart 7.8
Dance Till We Die 7.2
Not All Who Wander Are Lost 6.7
Breaking Up Slowly ft. Nikki Lane 5.5
Let Me Love You Like A Woman 5.3
For Free ft. Zella Day and Weyes Blood 4.6