Album Review Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell!

Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell!

It’s Lana Del Rey’s world, we’re just living in it. 

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Where would we be without Lana Del Rey?

For sure, not in the heartbroken, sun-tinged, California fantasy that we are. Five albums in, Lana has done more to build and sell that dream than anyone else alive. The faded lustre of classic Hollywood, the sparks of early rock’n’roll: Lana has been more than happy to explore and re-explore the same scene. To walk the same paths but still unearth new curiosities, to sample new flavours and find new angles on the same landscape.

It gives ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell!’ a unique cohesiveness in point of view. As she builds on layers and layers of her own existing mythos, revisiting tropes and retelling the same jokes, there’s an extra depth that’s more than one or two albums in the making. Crucially, feeling so familiar, so well-resolved, it lets her move into truly looking at the world around her more than ever. Americana’s great musical scholar, taking a long hard look at modern America.

Opening trio of songs ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell’, ‘Mariners Apartment Complex’ and ‘Venice Bitch’ somehow survive the weight of the majestic grandeur poured all over them. The latter offers an intriguing change in pace with almost six, spiralling, psychedelic minutes of what could be considered an outro. It’s a delight to see that in this algorithmic age of snippets Lana is still an album girl at heart - and one brave enough to lay in a 9-minute epic only three songs in. As close to sugary pop as the album comes is the candyfloss chorus of ‘Fuck It, I Love You’ before the surprising reworking of Sublime’s ‘Doin Time’. Nothing that could have been expected is missing; ‘California’ is the sultry slowburn, ‘Cinnamon Girl’ offers a beautiful, delicate touch and the crowning achievement might be ‘The Greatest’. A song full of iconic lines and razor-sharp observations, there’s a strange satisfaction in seeing Lana Del Rey, maybe Kanye West’s strongest competition to being the defining artist of the era, ending a song with “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 livestream’s almost on”.

It’s easy to make it sound easy, and five albums in Lana Del Rey has found myriad ways to make it look easy. But if it wasn’t impeccably written, beautifully sung and intriguingly structured, ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell!’ could have been something far less than what it truly is. Despite the image, the aesthetic, the precise references having undeniably made Lana an icon, this album proves that with just a pitch black room, a microphone and piano she’d have everything she needs to stand at the forefront of a whole era in music.

Whether it’s a modern California of wildfires and livestreams, or a nostalgic glance at a James Dean, Marilyn Monroe make-believe - it’s Lana Del Rey’s world, we’re just living in it.