Album Review: Lana Del Rey’s “Norman F––ing Rockwell!”

Singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey is an artist known for creating duality within her music. Her songs can sound dejected while her lyrics can be uplifting and optimistic.

With her debut album sounding sorrowful and her previous album, “Lust for Life,” being her most lighthearted thus far, Del Rey transitions the way she expresses her feelings through her sixth studio album, “Norman F––ing Rockwell” (“NFR”). 

The album features songs about Del Rey getting out of her depressed state to a more positive one, but often switches between the two moods as the album progresses.

Del Rey continues to use her signature “Hollywood sadcore” sound, downbeat melodies and depressive lyrical undertones, on “NFR.” Despite the backing track to most of her songs sounding like this, she sings about her path towards confidence, self-acceptance and true love.

Starting off with the title track, fans have one thought that comes to mind. Who on earth is Norman Rockwell? Del Rey uses the mid-20th-century author and painter as her inspiration for the song and album. Rockwell was known for writing and painting a reflection of what American culture looked like in his eyes.

This approach is similar to how Del Rey writes her music. Del Rey is known to create music that captures the sound of Laurel Canyon and its own culture. One group that uses a similar sound is the rock band Red Hot Chilli Peppers.

Laurel Canyon is a neighborhood in Los Angeles that was known for its musical culture during the 60s and 70s, with a variety of outdoor concerts played by its residential bands.

“NFR” is heavily influenced by the sound of Laurel Canyon, as most of the songs sound like they can be played live at an outdoor concert. Listeners will truly fall in love with this album from the start, as the sounds of the piano and guitar beautifully blend with Del Rey’s powerful, velvety vocals.

A notable song from “NFR” is “Venice Bitch.” This is Del Rey’s longest song yet at about 10 minutes. In an interview with DJ Zane Lowe of Beats Radio 1, Del Rey explained, “Some people just wanna drive around for 10 minutes and get lost in electric guitar.”

Although 10 minutes is long for a song, it’s worth listening to for the magical guitar solos near the end. If you have some time to yourself, try to close your eyes while listening to the track. You’ll be hooked.

While the album can seem somewhat ballad-heavy, Del Rey has included a cover of ska-punk band Sublime’s song “Doin’ Time.” Del Rey is a fan of the group and has said she feels the song was a perfect fit for the album. The track definitely counteracts the rest of the songs, as it has more swing and sass with its bossa-nova sound.

Most tracks on the album have a different feel to them based on what situation Del Rey connects them to. Some songs can be seen as complete opposites of each other or a mix of one another.

“Love song” is an ode to a lover, while “How to disappear” talks about how the lover isn’t able to express such feelings back. “California” combines both themes, as the lyrics speak on both the romantic and regretful parts of a relationship.

Del Rey finishes the album off with “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but i have it.” Although the song sounds as sad as the title, the lyrics make it seem more bittersweet. The song is a helpful tale for those struggling with overwhelming emotions. There are times when we are in so much pain or in such a slump that there just doesn’t seem to be a way out.

Del Rey is letting listeners know there is hope; it’s just that the process of waiting for it is more painful than not knowing if there is any hope at all.

“NFR” is an album that is full of duality. With Del Rey’s somber lyrics and calming backtrack, the album shows that opposites together can work.

As Rockwell created images based on what he saw in his everyday life, Del Rey does the same with her music. She sees that there can be some good in the bad, as well as some sun in the pouring rain.

acqn3@mail.umkc.edu 

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