Despite controversy, Lana Del Rey’s latest music video breaks through with mystique and flair

Andrew Ngo

Lana Del Rey can’t stay away from trouble.

As recently as this past May, critics have called out the “Summertime Sadness” singer over supposed cultural appropriation, outspoken political stances and subliminal racism after she published a social media post criticizing women of color artists.

And her latest run-in with bad press? An album cover announcement in preparation for the release of her single, “Chemtrails Over The Country Club,” with an unprompted and now deleted Instagram comment stating, “I have always been extremely inclusive without even trying to.

“My best friends are rappers, my boyfriends have been rappers,” said Del Rey, whose music could be best described as a mix of indie pop and alternative. “My dearest friends have been from all over the place, so before you make comments again about a WOC/POC issue, I’m not the one storming the capitol. I’m literally changing the world by putting out life and thoughts and love out there.”

Nevertheless, the pushback did little to knock Del Rey off course, and on Jan. 11 — the following day — she released the title track single “Chemtrails Over The Country Club,” an ethereal ballad that calls back to her signature style of breathy vocals, psychedelic vibes and themes reminiscent of 1950’s America. 

Del Rey puts all three on full display in the accompanying music video — which has garnered over 11 million views since its premiere — beginning with her driving a mid-century Mercedes sports car while a retro filter coats the Los Angeles sky backdrop. And despite the criticism, Del Rey’s lyricism still shines through. 

The song title, “Chemtrails Over the Country Club,” is first mentioned in the opening chorus and references the chemtrails conspiracy theory — the belief that condensation trails from airplanes are actually chemicals dropped from the sky by the government. Instead of condoning or condemning the theory, Del Rey likens the chemtrails to be something nice to look at in the sky as opposed to a dangerous substance.

Although after about three minutes of vocals, the five minute and 40 second music video directed by Alex Lee and Kyle Wightman diverges from the four and a half minute long track when a tornado and piercing screams shatter the blissful scenes of Del Rey hanging out with her friends. 

For about 45 seconds, the music slows down to a stop, the screen darkens and scenes of a literally starry-eyed Del Rey and her friends — a possible metaphor for the idealistic bliss that Del Rey details earlier in the song — morphing into werewolves replaces what had previously been a carefree day. This section is omitted from the final release.

The actual process of morphing into a werewolf could be a reference to the supposedly harmless chemtrails, but Del Rey leaves no other clues. Regardless of what the scene represents, the unusual symbolism serves to jarringly contrast Del Rey’s typical style.

While the music does resume, the screenplay remains dark and even becomes graphic when a dead bird is pictured next to Del Rey’s bleeding foot in the shower. Del Rey has never been one to shy away from explicit topics in her other works (like her 2012 songs “Cola” and “Gods & Monsters”, but the bird’s shock factor is gruesome and unwelcomed.

However, it’s this element of surprise that keeps Del Rey’s music interesting. From “Young and Beautiful” that became a hallmark for the 2013 film adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” to a collaboration with The Weeknd on “Lust for Life,” she’s managed to keep her fans engaged while still staying true to her indie roots — and “Chemicals Over the Country Club” does exactly that.

Del Rey has only published two singles from the Chemicals Over the Country Club album and the title track masterfully prepares listeners for the March 16 release date. She’s already announced the tracklist, and the mysterious intercut near the end of the “Chemicals Over the Country” music video leaves watchers wondering “Why?” and wanting to hear more from the album, especially since titles like “Tulsa Jesus Freak” have already been announced.

With Del Rey’s seemingly never-ending romance with drama, the album cover controversy likely won’t be her last, either. Yet, when it’s all said and done, “Chemicals over the Country Club” won’t be remembered for questionable public relations work, but rather a powerful song that plays to Del Rey’s strengths and will live among her greatest hits.

“Chemtrails Over the Country Club” can be purchased for $1.29 or streamed on all major streaming platforms. The full album is available for preorder for $9.99 on iTunes.