Though hints of Lana Del Rey's forthcoming album Lust for Life suggest the singer's signature sombreness may have run its course — "Lana Del Rey Is Opting for Happiness Now, and You Should Too," heralded one headline — the former (self-described) "sad girl" says that's not the case.
Speaking to Exclaim! from her porch in Los Angeles, Del Rey says the idea of emotionality-as-persona is not by her own design. "Whether I'm sad or happy is the question I've gotten right off the bat for the last seven years," she tells Exclaim! "I'm just like everybody else. I'm working on it."
It's true that the follow-up to 2015's Honeymoon is less gloomy and destructive than previous albums, but this shift is more about consciousness than mood.
"I always felt like I knew what I wanted to say when it came time to put pen to paper, but most of the time I had a lot of stuff going on in my periphery as I was getting ready to write, a lot of distractions," she says. "There was a lot of noise, whether it was people, travelling, moving back and forth between the East and West Coast and London… That has all gone away. The more I stay still, the clearer I can hear my own writing voice. I've been enjoying dipping into that stillness. It doesn't always mean the music that comes out is slow, but I can hear the melody better. Not to make it sound like a science."
On the red carpet of the 2016 pre-Grammy gala, Del Rey told reporters she'd had a breakthrough in the clarity of her inner dialogue.
"I'm definitely less agitated and annoyed," Del Rey tells Exclaim! "In every dimension of my life, I do feel more content. [Lust for Life] kind of ended in a place I didn't expect. It's more multidimensional in terms of the perspective I'm coming from. I've gotten to a point where I can turn around and focus my gaze on other things."
Among those things are the "distrust and concern" she saw arising prior to the 2016 U.S. presidential election and its aftermath. Also, the rights of women. In 2014, when a music journalist asked Del Rey about feminism, the singer replied that she wasn't interested, a position she later clarified, and now seems to have reexamined.
"I felt like we were moving in the right direction," Del Rey says of the Obama era. "Now that we've taken this dip in terms of how people in power talk about women, feminism is more relevant than it ever has been."
("That dude fucking hated me," she says of the journalist. "Straight up. He came into the interview guns blazing. By the time he asked me that question I was just like, 'fuck you.' I knew the answer he wanted.")
As for the album title itself, Del Rey says it's less hedonistic than it sounds. "I love that it came full circle from Born to Die, and it put me in a place where I could jump into a new direction, whether it's a mixtape or an album or something different. I wanted to close my own circle, in a way, maybe not at the beginning but at the end.
"There's a lightness to it," she says. "It's not that I need closure, but I do love a real ending. I wanted to figure out what my lesson was."
Lust for Life arrives Friday (July 21) on Interscope/Universal Music Canada. You can pre-order it now on vinyl, cassette and limited edition CD boxset via Umusic.