Review: Norman Fucking Rockwell! — Lana Del Rey

Norman Fucking Rockwell! is the record Lana Del Rey has been working towards her entire career. Since 2012’s Born to Die — and even 2010’s Lana Del Ray A.K.A. Lizzy Grant, if you wanna get technical — it’s been clear that the singer is most inspired by the folk rockstars of the ‘60s and ’70s, but she didn’t truly begin touching those sounds until her last album, 2017’s bloated but brazen Lust for Life. A well-received folk record focused on capturing fleeting moments of happiness and offering vaguely political statements, it ushered in an era in which Del Rey could explore her influences in a more direct way without fear of backlash from the public. Enter Norman Fucking Rockwell!, an expansive, folk/surf rock album with enough hints of psychedelia that the Beach Boys (one of whom is namedropped on the apocalyptic track “The greatest”) would be envious of.

The record opens with the title track and its instantly-iconic line “goddamn, man-child/you fucked me so good that I almost said ‘I love you,’” setting the stage for a collection of songs that doesn’t pull any punches. At once self-parodying and thought-provoking, the singer looks both inward and outward while she grapples with the doom-and-gloom of her personal life and America in 2019. First single “Mariners Apartment Complex” chastises a lover who fell for the Del Rey archetype and not Del Rey the person; the iridescent “Cinnamon Girl” pleads for a partner to keep “hold[ing] [her] without hurting [her];” and “The greatest” reluctantly accepts that the end of the world is nearer than we all had hoped.

With flourishes of electric guitar and ambient noises paired with her signature multitracked and layered vocals, Del Rey sounds like a quaalude-like mix of spaced out and distinctly Californian throughout the record. Several songs — namely “Fuck it I love you” and the cover of Sublime’s “Doin’ Time” — flirt with experimentation, but second single “Venice Bitch” is where the singer indulges in her most maximalist desires; an almost-ten-minute opus, the track meanders from standard folk verses to surf rock choruses to a purely psychedelic instrumental extended bridge before returning to folk for the song’s exquisite outro. All of the record’s flashiness is thrown to the wayside for closer “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have - but i have it,” though, a piano ballad that serves as the singer’s thesis on what it means to be Lana Del Rey in this increasingly volatile time; ending with the titular lyric, the song gives Norman Fucking Rockwell! an air of hope that may not have been clear at the beginning of this journey of an album.

Rating: 9/10

Standout tracks: “Norman fucking Rockwell,” “Venice Bitch,” “The Next Best American Record,” “The greatest”

A music business student with a passion for writing about music almost as intense as his desire to curate it.

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