Lana Del Rey’s “Norman Fucking Rockwell!” is a poignant observation of the American dream

Lana Del Rey’s sixth album release is finally here and Norman Fucking Rockwell! is a sarcastic, breathy, and nostalgically charged observation of the present day. Lana has always been known for her cynical yet laissez-faire way of pointing out her experiences and flaws, and this album concisely brings that approach to the year 2019 and the idyllic concept of the American dream.

The juxtaposition of Del Rey’s work has always manifested itself in her ability to weave the mystique of nostalgic musical trends along with a present day matter-of-factness. In past albums, collaborations with rappers and 40’s era crooning would collide to create a unique mix never to be rivaled with. In Norman Fucking Rockwell! it’s less about proving herself as innovative and more about emotional sounds paired with apathetic words.

In songs like “Venice Bitch” Del Rey reinforces her idea of the American dream with references to Norman Rockwell, Hallmark, crimson and clover, and the neighborhood kids. Her deadpan delivery yet breathy approach work together on lines like “Oh God, miss you on my lips / It’s me, your little Venice bitch” and “You write, I tour, we make it work / You’re beautiful and I’m insane / We’re American-made.”

If any song were to be the most in alignment with Del Rey’s song library as a whole, “Doin Time” would qualify. Understated bass lines mixed with hip hop beats along with a sampling of the jazz classic “Summertime” are all formulaic pillars of a typical Lana Del Rey song. Although the bulk of the album seems to be piano heavy and ballad-centric, “Doin Time” stands out as an upbeat reminder of what makes a Lana Del Rey song… well, a Lana Del Rey song.

The most epic song of the album is arguably (and not ironically titled) “The Greatest,” which touches on America’s current political state as well as the current state of the music industry. It doesn’t seem to be a coincidence that the backing track sounds a lot like it could be a Beatles song and that she references The Beach Boys early on in the track. With lines like “I miss New York and I miss the music / Me and my friends, we miss rock and roll / I want shit to feel just like it used to / And, baby, I was doing nothing the most of all / The culture is lit and if this is it, I had a ball / I guess that I’m burned out after all” and “If this is it, I’m signing off / Miss doing nothing, the most of all / Hawaii just missed that fireball / L.A. is in flames, it’s getting hot / Kanye West is blond and gone / “Life on Mars” ain’t just a song / Oh, the live stream’s almost on” it’s apparent that Del Rey is as sarcastic, observant, and self aware as ever. In true Lana Del Rey fashion, her opinions and experiences come across in a straightforward yet poetic way.

Norman Fucking Rockwell! may not have been bursting at the seams with bangers like some of Del Rey’s previous albums, but the messages behind the songs may have resulted in one of her most cohesive albums of all time. This album is best listened to in its entirety and with a close ear: The music is beautiful, but the lyrics are what really make the album relevant in 2019.

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