Album Review: Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell!

LanaDelRey_NormalFuckingRockwell

Norman Rockwell, renowned author most famously known for his popularization of “The American Dream” through his stories and paintings, is not only one of America’s most notable writers and painters, but now also the thematic inspiration behind Lana Del Rey’s latest album, Norman Fucking Rockwell!

“It was kind of an exclamation mark. So, this is the American dream, right now,” Lana Del Rey told Vanity Fair in an interview at the beginning of this year. It’s a modern take on a classic idea – America is achieving the highest of highs possible. Del Rey, however, rejects, dances in circles, and sings in one of the most truthful ways she ever has about this ideal. Considering how much attention the album has already received, it seems to be a shared perspective.

Having been absent from the forefront of the music scene since 2017, when her last release, Lust for Life, was nominated at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards for Best Pop Vocal album, many Lana Del Rey fans have rejoiced at not only her physical reemergence, but also the return of her unique voice, her fearless writing style, and her ability to turn her cynical perspective into songs so moving you might have to reach for the tissue box. On the record’s opening track, “Norman fucking Rockwell,” she returns to the sonically intriguing Del Rey sound that many music listeners have come to know her for.

With a classic sounding string arrangement backed behind the echo of a grand piano, Del Rey opens her entire record by cursing – her first lyric being, “Goddamn” – and though the song is a reflection of a deep, intimate, complicated love story, the musical arrangement behind the lyrics suggests that it’s also an ironic twist on the Rockwell ideals we’ve all been told we had to believe in. The line, “Your head in your hands as you color me blue,” invites listeners into the honest, vulnerable way that Del Rey has always sung about her darkest emotions. However, the use of the word “blue,” in this line goes back to the whole theme of the record. Blue, a color often associated with sadness or depression, is sung repeatedly throughout this song, and even makes up the entirety of the song’s outro, as if Del Rey is letting her audience know at the entrance gates of her record that this is an album that will explore the dark perspective on a fairytale dream.

With “Norman fucking Rockwell” placed at the beginning of the record, the song highlights the fact that this album is a lyrical take of Del Rey’s version of “The American Dream” in today’s world, while also containing the familiar and hopeful psychedelic pop and soft rock sound that disguises the painful truth provided in the lyrics, further suggesting that maybe not all hope is lost.

The album takes listeners on a journey inside Del Rey’s mind of where she’s been and how she’s felt in regards to her romantic and emotional journeys over the past year. Revealing her most honest feelings about being a woman in the industry and falling in and out love, this record shows the singer-songwriter’s growth in sound and storytelling.

Ending her album on a song titled, “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but I have it,” is the perfect testament as to why. In a haunting confessional over another style of classic piano, Del Rey reflects on the ideals of a typical pop star, fame-driven life and states, “I’m not that.” However, even though she lyrically reveals that this way of thinking can lead to emotional distress, and even though her entire album may be a doubtful reflection on love, dreams, and aspirations, she refuses to leave her audience feeling trapped. She refuses to leave her listeners feeling blue.

“Lana makes everyone sad,” say her fans on the internet, a group that ranges from teenage girls to grown adults to everyone who’s ever lived in California. Perhaps that’s true, but at the end of the day, Lana Del Rey closes off her album with a note of hope. She sings, “They write that I’m happy, they know that I’m not / But at best you can see, I’m not sad / But hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have / But I have it.” A powerful truth lies in these lyrics, because no matter how dark or melancholy the melodies and music on this album may sound, it still reveals that “hope” exists in the middle of all of it – a huge statement, and perhaps the one we all need.

Lana Del Rey is touring for Norman Fucking Rockwell! this fall in the US and early next year in the UK and Europe. Get your tickets to see her here.

Favorite tracks: Norman fucking Rockwell, Mariners Apartment Complex, How to disappear, Happiness is a butterfly

SCORE: 10 / 10

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.