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Lana Del Rey stars on the cover of the new edition of Music Week

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“She’s already got two albums in mind, I think,” says Millett. “And there’s the other poetry book still to come.”

 

So, are there already words or titles that Lana is homing in on?

“Spending so much time in a close circle of country music friends, I could see one option for a title coming from that,” she hints. “I also have a secondary title I like that summed up 18 months of my life.”

 

 


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Lana Del Rey - The Music Week Interview

March 15th 2021 at 7:30AM
Lana Del Rey - The Music Week Interview

For a decade now, Lana Del Rey has blazed an inimitable trail through the music industry. And sold over 11 million records in the process. Hot on the heels of 2019’s acclaimed Norman Fucking Rockwell! and 2020’s Violet Bent Backwards Over The Grass poetry book and spoken-word LP, the star is already releasing her stunning new seventh album, Chemtrails Over The Country Club. Here, the singer-songwriter – alongside Tap Music’s Ben Mawson and Ed Millett, Polydor co-president Tom March, Sony Music Publishing president/co-MD David Ventura and legendary songwriter Rick Nowels – reflects on her incredible journey so far…

Words: George Garner    Photos: Chuck Grant/Cody Osbourne

 

Somewhere in LA, Lana Del Rey – who has been busy “staying in touch with the news and myself while staying off the grid” – is holding court with Music Week. It is, quite frankly, astounding that she’s found the time to do this – or anything else for that matter – given the prolific streak she’s on right now.

A recap: in August 2019, she released her sixth studio record Norman Fucking Rockwell! – not only a UK No.1, but also the most critically acclaimed album of her career. With its impact still in full effect, in 2020 she released Violet Bent Backwards Over The Grass, a poetry book that was also turned into a beautiful spoken-word album. And now, in 2021? She’s already unveiling her spectacular seventh album, Chemtrails Over The Country Club. The cumulative impression is of an artist working overtime to keep pace with her muse. We can’t help but wonder what’s been behind this burst of creativity…

“Well, I was able to write the entirety of my spoken-word album when I was completely out of a relationship,” she begins. “So, I felt a very clear channel, uninhibited by the concerns of whether or not a relationship would be maintained. Without even meaning to, I was able to write a pretty coherent small book of poetry, which has continued to really surprise me and make me proud. That’s one of those lightning-in-a-bottle moments that you just cannot pass up.”

But when it came to making the follow-up to NFR!? Well, that would be a different story…

“In terms of the music, I had a good start for the style of where I was going that was a continuation from my last record,” she tells Music Week. “This one felt more like a trudge rather than a joyful spring-of-the-step walk through that I had in the last record which is OK, that happens sometimes. But I do believe an artist’s creations are a manifestation of what’s going on inside, so I think it was a reflection of being at a standstill within myself in terms of trying to figure out what my next move in life was.”
While Chemtrails may have felt like a trudge, it sounds anything but: 11 gorgeous tracks conjured by Lana, Jack Antonoff, and a few other revered collaborators.

“Coming off Norman Fucking Rockwell!, she’s in the best place she’s been in almost from the beginning of her career,” beams Polydor’s Tom March (co-president at the label alongside Ben Mortimer). It’s worth considering just  how impressive that is.

It’s approaching 10 years since Lana brought the music world to a standstill with her all-eclipsing single Video Games. One of relatively few singles to go viral not by virtue of an accompanying dance or novelty shtick, but rather on the pure strength of its songwriting, its compelling video offering a portal to a lost America and the air of mystery it cultivated. Coupled with its 4x platinum 2012 parent album, Born To Die (1,248,425 sales – OCC), Lana recast pop in her own image. Her co-manager Ben Mawson still seems overawed by the enormity of that breakthrough moment.

“I can’t really remember anything like the way she blew up at the time,” he tells Music Week from Tap Music’s HQ. The wall behind him – a veritable museum of LDR plaques – is a firm reminder that this impact was not short-lived. Indeed, in the time since Born To Die, Lana has established herself as one of the most preternaturally talented and successful singer-songwriters in the world.

According to Official Charts Company data, each of her albums since has gone gold in the UK (2014’s Ultraviolence – 254,760 sales; 2015’s Honeymoon – 140,162; 2017’s Lust For Life – 134,304; and Norman Fucking Rockwell! – 137,701). That Norman Fucking Rockwell! sold well is important – not many artists find that level of commercial and critical success on their sixth record. There is, in fact, a real sense not just of excitement about what Chemtrails can do, but also genuine curiosity… 

“I don’t think we saw a single negative review on Norman, I don’t know if we can improve upon that,” laughs Mawson.

“I don’t know what it can do for her other than just keep cementing her position as one of the best songwriters in the world,” says Tap’s Ed Millett, who co-manages Lana with Mawson. “She’s had a career-long battle to be fully understood [regarding] how good she is as a writer. Some people got it. Some people at the beginning were suspicious for a whole host of reasons. But, certainly with Norman, it really made people realise how good she is. This record shows that wasn’t a fluke.”

“It’s an exceptional place to be in creatively, but one of the beautiful things about Lana is that every 12 months there’s more music,” adds March. “She marches to the beat of her own drum.”

Lana’s been spending time working out the particular rhythms of that drum of late, especially as she went into making Chemtrails. She knew where she wanted to go, but even now she’s not sure she got there...

“I think for myself, as well as a lot of other female singers I know, I’m often trying to figure out if the place I’m searching to get to is an actual location or a point of view from within myself to operate from,” she says. “I’m generally operating on a lot of levels in my daily life – I’m figuring out where I like to write from, what I want to write about, whether or not I’m generally on my truest life path, and if I’m smiling every day. When I was writing Norman I had a lot of physical bench points I had to hit, like [playing] 18 shows all through the Midwest. But in this last year, I’ve had a lot of time to check in with myself – it’s been complicated trying to navigate that road from my head to my heart. We’re always evolving and changing, but sometimes I change so fast I’m catching up to my own wants and needs.”

More on those wants and needs in due course. First, there’s one of 2021’s most highly-anticipated albums to dive into…

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One of the most jaw-dropping moments on Chemtrails even caught its own creator by surprise. It came when Lana was in the studio and she heard Jack Antonoff “noodling” around on the piano. 

“I just stepped up to the microphone and started ad-libbing an entire song, which was only somewhat modified with layered vocals,” she recalls. “That only happens once in a while, and it also started off as kind of a joke [with] me not really knowing what I was saying or singing about.”

The resulting song was christened White Dress – a majestic ballad with a narrative that flips between waitressing shifts and music business conferences in Orlando,
all delivered with graceful melodies and impassioned whispers.

“It’s my favourite song on the record,” praises Tom March. “I just love the way she sings on it. She sings in a way that I’ve never heard before.”

“What’s funny is it doesn’t necessarily break new ground,” suggests Lana. “It just brings me back to that good ol’ fashioned feeling of getting lucky and being able to express myself without really having a second thought about needing to edit it. That’s what the sentiment is about, being brought back to a time when things felt the purest.”

The song is yet another testament to the power of the Lana/Jack Antonoff creative partnership that established itself on Norman Fucking Rockwell!. In fact, Chemtrails not only bears his sonic fingerprints, but also his voice.

“That’s him [talking] in the middle,” responds Lana when Music Week enquires about the sound of a male voice speaking in the background of Not All Who Wander Are Lost. “We just never took that out.
“Jack’s technical skill is off the charts musically, his chords are fantastic if you’re ever stuck for inspiration,” she continues. “On top of everything, he’s just genuinely hilarious which is really important. We have each other laughing a lot.”

Chemtrails’ credits make for interesting reading. Especially in the streaming era, Lana seems to epitomise the singer-songwriter approach of yesteryear, working with a cadre of close collaborators. Alongside Antonoff, Chemtrails sees her team up with the legendary Rick Nowels on the exquisite acoustic track Yosemite [see panel, right].

“Rick and I are birds of a feather in many ways,” Lana says. “He values the same craftsmanship and ’60s and ’70s singers that I do.” Elsewhere, Zella Day and Weyes Blood are recruited for the album’s parting note, a dazzling cover of Joni Mitchell’s For Free.

“I was nervous to ask them to sing on the record,” says Lana. “I could’ve picked any song, but I love the way we sing that one – it’s perfect for a trio.”

For all the comparative intimacy of this creative cast compared to most modern records, this is a choice, not a stance. Lana casts no aspersions on the proliferation of songwriters featured on many of today’s biggest tracks – MW’s last deep dive revealing that today’s chart-toppers require an average of 4.77 songwriters per hit.

“I’ve certainly worked with a lot of producers over my lifetime!” she enthuses. “I’m not opposed at all to having a lot of collaborators, in fact I think that’s what makes so many modern albums amazing, and my old favourite Motown albums that have so many people and band members involved. I’m only just now breaking into being open to working with more people. I’ve always had only one partner – Rick Nowels for many years, Justin Parker for many years, and now I’ve been lucky enough to work with Jack for the last few. Everybody’s different but, for me, my first 10 years of writing were more like journalling so I needed to hash things out with just one person who could put the right bottom underneath my top melodies and words.”

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What’s undeniable is that – regardless of who she works with – Lana holds a totally unique place in the modern pop firmament: she is in the charts (often at the very top) but also not of them. Here it perhaps helps to remember that Norman Fucking Rockwell!’s second single, Venice Bitch, was a nine-minute plus psychedelic haze. She has, assuredly, scored hits such as Video Games (1,047,511) and Born To Die (612,930), likewise she has superstar collaborations with Miley Cyrus and Ariana Grande (Don’t Call Me Angel – 301,131) and The Weeknd (Lust For Life – 217,025). Her biggest single yet, meanwhile, is Cedric Gervais’ dance remix of Summertime Sadness (1,524,549). Yet Lana’s career has largely been built on the richness of her catalogue, the power of her bodies of work.

“We don’t count on hits,” laughs Ben Mawson. “Whilst being a superstar, she’s not conforming to anything in terms of modern pop. She wasn’t even when she first came out. Video Games didn’t have any drums and it was a big global hit when, at the time, everything was – and still is – dominated by beats. She’s done her own sweet thing musically since the start and it connects.”

“It’s not that I don’t want to have a hit, it’s just that without meaning to, my journey has ended up playing out more like a long-term game,” Lana adds, before outlining the things that have worked for her. “Long-playing records and lots of them! [With] spoken records in-between, and lots of other little interesting projects. I think an artist can have their finger on the pulse of culture without having big hits, but it might end up being something that isn’t metabolised in the form it was meant to be until a later time. At least that’s how I feel like it is for me mostly.”

But while the BPM of her music may not match your typical playlist fare, this hasn’t stopped her from amassing just under 20,000,000 million listeners on Spotify alone. That’s a lot of music being metabolised.
“People just listen on repeat,” explains Millett. “They keep going back to her catalogue.”

So often people ask, ‘Who is Lana Del Rey?’, but another question worth pondering is this: ‘Who is a Lana Del Rey fan?’

“Her biggest audience is 14-to-21-year-olds,” reveals Tom March. “Lana’s still as relevant – more relevant – to teenagers today. She’s a rite-of-passage artist. If you’re a 13-year-old coming through and you like rap, you’re going to love Eminem. If you’re a 13-year-old and you’re into bands, you’re going to love the Foo Fighters and Nirvana. And, if you’re into singer-songwriters that talk directly to you? You’re going to love Lana.”

But while she has retained her Born To Die-hard fanbase from 2011, and continues to pull in younger listeners, Music Week also wonders if Norman Fucking Rockwell!’s critical acclaim highlights a growth in her mature audience, too – something perhaps best signified by her recent appearance on the cover of Mojo.

“It’s right that she should be seen alongside the legendary artists that grace the cover of Mojo, be it Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell,” says March. “She’s the next wave of those legendary artists.”

Polydor’s co-president is not alone in this opinion. Rick Nowels has worked with some of the greatest artists of all time, including Madonna and Stevie Nicks. He is unequivocal on Lana’s status.

“I was a big part of the first five albums, from Born To Die through to Lust For Life,” he tells Music Week from his studio. “She’s a towering songwriter. She’s as good as any of the great songwriters in history. Lana could hold her own with any of them.”

“Lana’s a talent the world sees once in a century,” adds Sony Music Publishing president, co-managing director David Ventura. “She writes and sings music which will still be played in 100 years’ time.”

This is a reputation that’s been both well-earned, and hard fought for.

“I know for myself [at the beginning of my career] it took years of walking into the same [kind of] labels I’m signed to now to have a chance to be understood as a person telling a story rather than a trend,” Lana tells Music Week. “I fought very hard for that and I’m so glad I did. People may get caught up now and then in the fact that I have a strong look or presentation, but at the end of the day what’s important to me is the fact that I’ve been able to tell my life’s stories, dreams and encounters for over a decade, and that in itself is a triumph.”

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Back to the wants and needs Lana was referring to when she was figuring things out this past year. When discussing White Dress, she explains that, as a songwriter, she needs to feel freedom. Freedom to be the “observer” and to have “a defining direction in life but also be able to swim downstream easily enough without being snagged”. And that freedom, it seems, matters outside of songcraft, too.

“My biggest need is to walk into a room and be seen for myself rather than just a person who’s more visible than anybody else,” she adds later. “For me, that requires a lot of moving around sometimes, so I’m in a place where people value someone for who they are, rather than whether they have something to get from them.”

It’s a sentiment that seems to chime with another of Chemtrails’ standout moments: Dark But Just A Game – a slow-burn meditation that sees Lana sing, ‘Don’t even want what’s mine, much less the fame.’ But is it meant as a message to her audience, or as a reminder to herself?

“It’s both,” she explains. “We all need our own little self-reminders.I put a lot of them into my own work to look back to. The chorus in that song is, ‘We keep changing all the time, the best ones lost their minds but I’m not gonna change. I’ll stay the same.’ It’s interesting as I think about my own lyrics [and] when I look at that phrase, I think I’ve developed such a serious inner core that there’s no way I could ever really change and, fundamentally, I feel so good and firm in that goodness. The dichotomy is that, at the same time, I’m a very sensitive person with a somewhat delicate disposition that comes from my upbringing, so while I’ll never change fundamentally, there’s a lot I’m going to have to do to stay the same and stay cheerful.”

Last year, Lana cited Tap Music’s understanding of her sensitivity as the key way in which they have helped her. Her breakout success conjured a vast bibliography of think pieces spawning criticism, trolling and numerous ways in which she could be misunderstood. In her recent interview with Annie Mac, meanwhile, Lana reflected on the highs and lows of releasing music into the world, saying it often feels like a case of, ‘What’s the controversy going to be this time?’ Chemtrails sparked headlines when Lana revealed its cover – a black and white photo depicting her with her best friends – and immediately addressed the diversity of the people represented on its cover.

“Before I even put the album cover up I knew what people were going to say,” she told Mac. “People wanted even more people of colour on my album, [but] to a point a photo just sometimes is what it is,” she added. “Half the people in the photo are people of colour.”

“Without wanting to sound bitter or defensive, it’s a simple fact that she’s had a lot of very unfair press,” says Mawson at one point. “We’ve been working with her for 10/11 years now, and some years are better than others. But obviously the start was brutal. She was accused of being some kind of fraud. Really she was a revolutionary.”

In 2020, Lana answered MW’s question about the biggest challenge she’d faced with just three letters: SNL – her 2012 Saturday Night Live performance, which (unfairly) attracted barbed reviews.

“Ed was with me that night and was a calm, reassuring force as usual, though in the moment we didn’t really know what was to come...” Lana reflects. “Ben’s hilarious. It’s his absolute strong point; in the midst of a calamity he’ll be on the bow of the ship with a beer in his hand, laughing. So, he kept me laughing and I sensed from when he told me that there was nothing to worry about that we could get through it. Although I’m sometimes defensive of my position or reputation, I do my best not to take things too seriously, I just really don’t like people who try to tear folks down.”

It begs the question, following Norman Fucking Rockwell!’s acclaim, just how well understood does she feel as an artist in 2021?

“If there’s confusion around my story after I’ve been so direct and given so much information about myself, I can only imagine it’s a reflection of people’s own ambivalence about their own authenticity,” she says. “The only time I get defensive is when people twist what I say in a long-form interview and try and make me appear to be stupid or assign views to me without knowing me at all. Happens all the time.”

One group of people who have zero confusion about Lana is her team, who are quick to point out the impact her vision, aesthetic and approach to music has had. She has served as something of a North Star for a new generation of artists.

“There have been lots of people who’ve followed in her trail, shall we say?” offers Mawson. “Not copied, but been influenced heavily.”

By now it’s well-documented that a Lana album campaign is different to many of the ones typically dissected in these pages. She does promo, but much more selectively than most. Historically, she hasn’t done much by way of live TV performances, though Tap say she is making use of pre-records for television on this campaign. Likewise, she tours, but often off the beaten track.

“She’ll pick and choose routings that make pretty much zero sense, but there’ll be some important thing that she’s got in her head,” smiles Ed Millett.

Ben Mawson recalls the time he went to visit her on tour, not in New York, LA or even a Miami or Chicago, but in Bugs Bunny’s favourite place to re-orientate himself: Albuquerque.

“She’s very keen to go to as many places as possible,” he says, “but they’re often not the most natural touring places.”

This approach came as something of a shock to self-diagnosed “strategy person” Tom March when he started working with Lana.

“Initially I was a bit like, ‘There’s no strategy here!’” he laughs. “To my brain, I was like, ‘That’s not how you do things!’ But then you realise that’s how you do things if you’re Lana, and that’s what her fans love. It comes directly from her. You realise she’s right. She knows her audience better than anyone.”

March points to just some of the things Lana excels at, from her full creative control of her videos (“They’re vital for who she is”) to her relationship with her audience (“She talks to her fans for ages on Instagram Live”).

There are lessons – valuable ones – for the music industry in the way Lana conducts campaigns that are indivisible from the art itself. “Every new artist I speak to talks about creating their world and their own aesthetic,” suggests March. “And everyone still cites Lana.”

“If your artist has conviction in what they’re making, then you can trust that,” says Ed Millett. “At the beginning of your career when you’re getting given all these opportunities, it’s like, ‘You gotta do this interview – if you don’t do it, then you haven’t ticked that box!’ She did it to a point, but there was so much that wasn’t right for her. And over time, you learn your life and career aren’t necessarily defined by the opportunities that are presented to you.”

“Often they’re presented as, ‘You’ve got to do this!’ but the beauty is nothing hangs on one particular yes or no,” adds Mawson.

And if Lana and Tap’s views on things don’t align?

“How do we resolve differences?” ponders Mawson. “Well, she’s the boss, ultimately. We can’t force her, obviously, to do anything and that’s not what managers are there to do. It’s funny, me and Ed have often worried about a particular release 0r launch because it’s unconventional, but the music always speaks for
itself. It’s so powerful and wonderful, the [different] rollouts don’t really matter.”

“Her path has been a lesson that you don’t always have to take the most commercial decisions,” says Millett. “Just pick the most authentic ones and you’ll be there a decade in.”

Indeed, not only is Lana still around for album number seven, Chemtrails is also shaping up to be massive.

“We’ve already doubled the amount of pre-orders we had for the last album,” beams March. “We’re in a very, very strong place.”

The key question already – given her prolific nature – is, what’s next? Even ahead of Norman Fucking Rockwell!’s release, Lana was teasing song titles for Chemtrails, citing clusters of words that piqued her interest – almost like she had a premonition of the next record.

“She’s already got two albums in mind, I think,” says Millett. “And there’s the other poetry book still to come.”
So, are there already words or titles that Lana is homing in on?

“Spending so much time in a close circle of country music friends, I could see one option for a title coming from that,” she hints. “I also have a secondary title I like that summed up 18 months of my life.”


Given that Tap oversaw Dua Lipa’s record-breaking livestream, is there potential for Lana to dip a toe into that world, too?

“She’s got her own plan for something,” says Millett. “I’m not going to say what it is, but she’s had it for years, and it might actually now [be] something we could pull off.”

With all that said, from the outside looking in, it seems Lana is primed for even more success in 2021 and beyond, and yet she told Annie Mac, “I will die an underdog and that’s cool with me.”

Why, for all her success, does she feel this way?

“Well, I guess I’d consider an underdog somebody who’s not completely understood,” she replies. “It’s easy to champion somebody who fills in all the gaps for you and is able to present every single facet of who they are so you don’t miss a beat, but all things considered that’s just not something I’m willing to do. I still believe some thoughts and processes are sacred and for that reason, in a time of such public entitlement, someone like me may fly slightly under the fighter jets.”

And that, it seems, is more than enough for Lana Del Rey.

“It’s what I prefer,” she says. “It’s the path I chose.”



 

 

 

 

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a free trial? ew :wtf3: seriously, this fucking flop magazine is more protected from leaking than the album


:makeup:"Stay away from the Beauty stealers"-Lana Del Rey:makeup:

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Given that Tap oversaw Dua Lipa’s record-breaking livestream, is there potential for Lana to dip a toe into that world, too?

“She’s got her own plan for something,” says Millett. “I’m not going to say what it is, but she’s had it for years, and it might actually now [be] something we could pull off.”
 

WHAT DOES THIS MEANNNN


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1 minute ago, electra said:

what the fuck @Elle open the LDR8 pre-release immediately


oh no uh...... SKKKK well I guess LDR8 Pre-Pre-Release Thread coming to LanaBoards.com March 19th :toofunny:


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"a secondary title"

So her main focus will be country now :eek3:

WOW I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt as always, everything she touches turns to gold


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Posted (edited)
Spoiler

 

Oh my god when I listened to NAWWAL and heard Jack’s voice breaking in and interrupting the flow & atmosphere, I thought it was my download being weird. But no, it’s real :toofloppy:

 

fuck jack

 

 

Edited by Clampigirl
Please put details about the song/album in spoilers <3

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it sounds like she has her career planned out for at least the next few years, which is interesting. im assuming 1 of those ‘2 albums’ that were mentioned will probably be the covers album


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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, NewportBitch said:
Spoiler

 

Oh my god when I listened to NAWWAL and heard Jack’s voice breaking in and interrupting the flow & atmosphere, I thought it was my download being weird. But no, it’s real :toofloppy:

 

fuck jack

 

 

 

can we pls stop acting like she didn’t co-produce this entire album? if she didn’t want it in she would have removed it. she has more autonomy over her music than some of you give her credit for and it’s kind of rude.

Edited by Clampigirl
Edited to put Newport's post in a spoiler tag.

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Hoping that reviews and feedback will encourage Lana to give trip-hop another chance 

 

Lana’s take on country music will probably be a reflection of classic country, which will always be there, I don’t think any artists today are doing their takes on that. But we are straying further from the possibility of a 60’s style, Motown-adjacent a la Thunder :noparty:

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