On her way home from Coachella, Lana Del Rey pulled over at a sequoia grove at the rim of the world highway to write a song. She recorded a video of herself singing the short verse, panning from her cap- and flannel-clad self to the forest, and posted it to Instagram.
“I’m not gonna lie- I had complex feelings about spending the weekend dancing whilst watching tensions w North Korea mount,” Del Rey wrote on Instagram. “It’s a tightrope between being vigilantly observant of everything going on in the world and also having enough space and time to appreciate God’s good earth the way it was intended to be appreciated.”
Three weeks later, that sentiment has transformed from the lonely a capella verse to a fully produced single: “Coachella – Woodstock In My Mind.” It’s the third single Del Rey has released this year, and will presumably appear on her upcoming album Lust for Life.
Hearing Del Rey’s gentle, unedited voice translate to her signature echoey vocals on the track, weaving ever-ethereally over the the thumping baseline and nebulous background instrumentation doesn’t feel like anything revolutionary — it’s as melancholy and cinematic as her songs ever are. But that’s a good thing.
Lana Del Rey is a lot like a rap artist — her music is primarily a framing mechanism for her lyrical constructions — a fact further stressed by the R&B-esque drum machine underpinning this track. She has crafted a distinct sonic space, claimed it as hers, and rarely strays from it. That consistency gives her both a recognizable brand and a guarantee that listeners recognize that the lyrics are the critical aspect of each song.
The speed of production for “Coachella – Woodstock In My Mind” only emphasizes this reality — it went from a concept to single in three weeks. The song’s hazy synths and drum-track beat are something we’ve heard before — “High By The Beach,” features a similar swirling rush of instrumentation, but as is the case here, it sits unintrusively in the background, refusing to take any attention from Del Rey’s falsetto “Boy look at you looking at me.”
“Coachella – Woodstock In My Mind” is, at its surface level, about Del Rey’s experience at Coachella 2017, and her thoughts about the Woodstock festival of 1969. But the lyrics spend very little time lingering on the parallels between the two festivals, sinking quickly to a deeper melancholia.
It’s a melancholia Del Rey has perfected over her entire discography. But given that Justin Vernon’s willingness to experiment with his sonics in addition to his lyrics resulted in 22, A Million, you wonder what Del Rey could accomplish if she branched away from that perfection for once.
Olivia Jerram covers music. Contact her at [email protected].