On March 19th, 2021, Lana Del Rey opened the door to a vulnerable new sound of regret and reminiscence relatable to most. On Chemtrails Over The Country Club lyrics observing fame and its effect on her and others (unrelatable to most) showed a side to Del Rey never before seen. The vocals are less strong, holding power in the whispered screams, resembling a lullaby. Chemtrails Over The Country Club is so unrecognizable because it’s never before seen in this genre.
The title track ‘White Dress’ opens with a melancholy piano tune carrying haunting and unsettlingly quiet vocals. In September 2020 Del Rey spoke with Interview Magazine to talk about the track among other things. “What I like about that song is that despite all the freakiness over it, you understand exactly what it’s about when it ends. I hate when I hear a song that has a great melody, but I have no idea what they’re talking about.” Towards the end of the song the melody picks up and Del Rey’s voice rises, blowing over any thoughts that this was a soft song in any prospect. Carrying you through an unbearable sorrow, faster and faster. You’re there with Lana Del Rey, only 19, in her white dress as a waitress. ‘When I was a waitress wearing a white dress… I was only 19’. The music video plays into Del Rey’s longing reminiscences of a time filled with simplicity and predictability. She spins and twirls in her white dress through a long, middle-of-nowhere road at sunset, the shrubs, and sparse trees lining the way being her only audience.
The title track ‘Chemtrails Over The Country Club’ has Del Rey’s voice flowing, watery, liquidy in a rasp. It rises, building elegantly only to drop and throw you to a pit where her voice dims to a throaty, sorrowful cry. Once more reminiscent, this album seems to be grasping at memories of a childhood Lana Del Rey no longer has, or maybe never did. The video features Del Rey through a grainy filter as she cruises in a red Mercedes, white lace gloves draping over the steering wheel, the car gliding through endless blue skies.
The official music video of ‘Chemtrails Over The Country Club’ by Lana Del Rey
The third track introduces ‘Tulsa Jesus Freak’, a song about the abandonment of God for a sweeping romance. It has a slow beat of rappity-taps that while is nice, the rhythm becomes repetitive. Cries of escapism and the knowing betrayal of your morality presenting you with a sinking feeling whilst listening. ‘We should do this ‘you should do that’.
Following ‘Tulsa Jesus Freak’ is ‘Let Me Love You Like A Woman’. Running away into the sunset and trying to convince yourself it’s a good idea is what comes to mind, just giving up entirely on the harsh lights of LA. The music video opens with handheld clips of moving cars on a country road and motel signs. Grainy footage of a black and white Del Rey singing from the driver’s seat of a red convertible, transition to clips of her swaying in a breeze flowing through her. As her body sways, her eyes scamper in excitement to the cameraman, hair dancing in the wind. More clips ensue, concerts and such, easily interpreted as the highlights of her career. The song is about wanting to return to the glory days before her music, the relationship she has with the music being an escapist romance forged out of a bittersweet relationship Del Rey has formed with her fame as a result of it.
‘Wild At Heart’ opens with guitar strings strumming, strumming, strumming, as dull scratches of the strings coax the painful voice of Del Rey to life. Lulling and rolling over the highs and through the low notes passionately, pulling at your heart. As the chorus kicks in the song can be interpreted as an ode to fame and it’s effect on a romance through it all.
‘Dark But Just A Game’ explains the impending doom that fame can have on who you are as a person and your morality. The name of the song came from a conversation Del Rey had with her producer, Jack Antanoff. Quoted in the interview with MOJO Magazine, the singer talked of some words he said at a party at Guy Oseary’s house. “I think it’s interesting that the best musicians end up in such terrible places.’ I thought to myself, I’m going to try my best not to change because I love who I am.’ I said, ‘Jack, it’s dark.’ And he said, ‘Well, it’s dark – but just a game.” Fame brings a spotlight spotted with mental illness and addiction, something both major influences of Del Rey, Whitney Houston, and Amy Winehouse faced. The fame she’s always wanted to have might be the very thing that kills her.
‘Not All Who Wander Are Lost’ is airy and spacious, the lyrics ‘it’s just wanderlust’ describing it perfectly, but it’s forgettable, not a shining track on this album. Yosemite, however, is maybe the best track on the album, with its ominous strums and loving lyrics. It contains an older sound, not so young and light, but that doesn’t stop it from being so, so catchy.
‘Breaking Up Slowly’ has a strong country influence from Nikki Lane. The combination of the two voices merge the indie rock and country genre for a nuanced heartbreak song fluttering with betrayal.
‘Dance Till We Die’ is a testament to Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, and Stevie Nicks when Del Rey whispers willfully, ‘I’m coverin’ Joni and I’m dancin’ with Joan, Stevie is callin’ on the telephone’. Noting her influences and soaking in their fame through this transitional piece. In the bridge, Del Rey adapts all three sounds of Mitchell and Baez and Nicks, with a stormy force of classic rock and roll.
The final track, ‘For Free’ is a lackluster collaboration with Zella Dey and Welles Blood, making the mistake of trying to cover Joni Mitchel, of all people, the sound of Mitchel, and the voice of Del Rey simply just not meshing.
Chemtrails Over The Country Club is a dreamy, broken-down, raw piece of artistry that will be adored for years to come. Its simplicity holds power, the vocals of Del Rey and collaborators being the only value such an album needs. There’s an edge in the raspiness of her whispers, as she leans into her vocals and lyricism, backing away from the instrumentals that played such a big part in her earlier albums. This ode to fame and all the pain it brings with it is an insight no one knew they needed, but can no longer live without.