Lana Del Rey has always been an intriguing figure in the pop scene. At a time when most pop stars looked ahead into the future, Lana was looking back into the past. Her old-timey, cinematic “gangster girl” aesthetic was something fresh and her work showed an exceptional amount of promise.
There were plenty of awe-inspiring moments scattered about her previous work but they were never as constant or high hitting as they are here. On her latest album, those moments are fully formed and stretched out across all 14 tracks. The emotion behind each verse could be felt and her lyrics have never sounded so mature and on point.
Lana’s sixth studio album Norman F***ing Rockwell! follows up 2017’s Lust for Life, an album filled with guest features and vocals. On this project, it is only her behind the mic with production primarily handled by prolific pop producer Jack Antonoff. Each song details a part of Lana’s life accompanied by an orchestral, summery backdrop. From her love of the golden coast and classic rock bands to her relationship with immature men, Lana sings about it all with a passion. The instrumentation progresses cinematically, adding to her lush soundscape as her lyrics build to cathartic choruses. Norman F***ing Rockwell encapsulates everything that makes Lana Del Rey such a compelling artists. Her blunt and honest delivery over dreamy instrumentals ensures she is heard and more importantly felt.
On the intro, she delivers the first lines in such a nonchalant manner that it’s hard not to laugh at. “God damn, man-child/You f***ed me so good that I almost said, ‘I love you,” she sings. In fact, most of the track is filled with dry, witty filled lines directed at a former romance that paints a picture of a woman finding herself and leaving an unpleasant situation. She’s no longer the girl drowning in her sadness but instead is trying to escape it.
The nearly 10 minute epic “Venice Bitch” is airy, laid-back and warm The production shifts her typical sound into something more akin to a progressive, psychedelic rock song. It’s striking how well stretching her songs out and experimenting with her song-writing paid off for the better
On another standout track “F*** it I love you” her stream of consciousness flow before the hook is instantly catchy. She sings, “So I moved to California but it’s just a state of mind. It turns out everywhere you go, you take yourself, that’s not a lie.” She dreams of an escape to this mythic-like paradise but cannot run from herself and the issues in her relationship.
The singer’s lyrical staple of American imagery and callbacks to stars and acts of the past is prominently on display on the tenth track “The Next Best American Record.” The song details her obsessions to create something undeniably great that it takes a toll on her romances. “My baby used to dance under the architecture/To the Houses of the Holy smokin’ on them cigarettes,” she sings, showing her affinity for 70s rock greats Led Zeppelin. She later mentions The Eagles and cities like Malibu in an effort to hold onto a past with her lover, but it is only a fading memory for her as she continues to perfect her record.
The album ends with the quiet but optimistic “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but I have it”. Over minimalistic piano keys, Lana mentions her childhood and current state of mind, singing how she isn’t quite sad but still not happy. But there is still hope and she knows that, although she doesn’t exactly feel that it is a good thing. The song is a somber closer that leaves listeners something to ponder after wandering down the coast on the rest of the track list but does wrap up the project’s themes beautifully.
Lana has developed a loyal audience over the past decade but on Norman F***ing Rockwell!, she has crafted something that is sure to entice skeptics. It’s an album that improves and builds on everything she has done before but is still entirely Lana. With this, there is no longer a doubt that she is one of the best alternative pop stars out there with one of the most solid projects of the year.
Recommended Tracks: “Venice Bitch”, “F*** it I love You”, “Mariners Apartment Complex”, “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but I have it”
Review By: Tyler Zucker