11. Lana Del Rey, Lust For Life (Interscope)
I still marvel at how Lana Del Rey shook off some seriously threatening jitters early in her career and has steadily metamorphosed into one of the biggest pop stars on the planet. As strong as her early singles were, it all felt like a one-trick pony, but along the way several crucial things happened: her producers offset her crooning torch songs with some very clever production choices, Del Rey matured into a surprisingly astute lyricists, her confidence and presence has grown with each release (to the point where she can command the headlining stage at a massive music festival like Osheaga, where her 2016 performance blew my mind), and most importantly, she’s been able to show an incredible amount of diversity in her music, as simplistic as it all may seem. At 72 minutes, Lust For Life flirts with overkill, but it ended up being my favourite of her albums to date. It didn’t have to be that long, but the fact that she’s confident enough to attempt it speaks volumes. And besides, these songs all hold up very well, even the severely goofy duet with Sean “I’m hitting middle age so I might as well start imitating my dad’s vocal style” Lennon. It’s the album’s gems, though, that serve up some jaw-dropping moments. The title track duet with The Weeknd is full of bleary-eyed gorgeousness, “13 Beaches” and “White Mustang” paint indelible mental images, “Heroin” is a wry ballad that references Hollywood ‘80s metal (“Life rocked me, like Mötley”), “Change” delivers a poignant message in its minimalist delivery, and “Love” is as perfect a love song as I’ve ever heard. The cover art says a lot about Lana Del Rey in 2017 as well: she is in full command of her art, has never sounded better, and has everything going for her right now. Why wouldn’t you smile?