NORMAN FUCKING ROCKWELL (LANA DEL REY)

RELEASED 30TH AUGUST 2019

Favourite track: Norman fucking Rockwell

I was beyond excited for this highly-anticipated album and, boy oh boy, did Lana blow us away with yet another sultry, cinematic, retro collection of poetry that has us reminiscing about a time that we’d never lived in.

As a MASSIVE Lana Del Rey fan, I’m even shocked I didn’t release an album review the very night it came out. But I needed time to listen properly and really understand what her voice is in this album. If I was going to sum it up (poorly I know) in a few words for each album, Born To Die (Paradise Edition) gives us some “I’m an all-American pretty girl who married an old dude for money and escaped my life as an escort” vibes, Ultraviolence gives us “I’m a gangster’s girl but he’s married and I’m left craving him in a lonely and cold world”, Honeymoon was just straight-up “I’m waiting for him to return so in the meantime let me lie by the poolside and be glamorous as fuck” and Lust For Life was a real switch up with a far more “I’m THAT bitch simultaneously from the past and future so listen up motherfuckers cuz this is coming live from the moon”. I had seen quite a bit of promotion for Norman Fucking Rockwell and of course kept up to date with the singles released but I didn’t know what her story would be this time. The cover art for this album has Lana and a man on a boat with the US flag in the background as she reaches out to grab your hand. It has an old Hollywood movie poster look to it which definitely fits with her famous aesthetic. Disclaimer: ain’t no chance this review will be within 500 words.

Image credit: Stereogum

The opening track ‘Norman fucking Rockwell’ opens with some of the most beautiful, soft strings and cuts to a piano. Lana’s unique and compelling voice hits us right and I’M ALREADY IN LOVE. I really don’t think there is a single song she has written that I haven’t liked and that I don’t know 90% of the lyrics to. She talks about how he’s “just a man” but he’s clearly on her mind and she resents him for it. She insults him in the song and points out all of his flaws but then she’s dragged back into his aura again and fascinated by all those aspects of him. I had already heard her next track ‘Mariners Apartment Complex’ which has a very cinematic opening with a country feel to it too through some guitar and her very sultry American tone. It’s slow but the melody is gorgeous. I love how the chorus moves away from the verse delicately and offers a whole new sound. ‘Venice Bitch’ was definitely on repeat when it first came out. The subtle guitar and strings partnered with the lyrics just make me visualise soft filters and video recordings in a garden with Lana being Lana. “You write, I tour, we make it work, you’re beautiful and I’m insane”…the way these lines are delivered is just crazy good.

‘Fuck it I love you’ was one I was desperate to hear because everyone was putting it on their Instagram stories. She sings on the track straight away in a melancholic way until you get to “dream a little dream of me” (how Ella Fitzgerald) where we hear Lana sing in a way I don’t think we’ve heard before. It was such a new sound I was like wow is this really her? It’s raw and honest and unapologetic like most of her songs which I think is why her fans continue to demand more material from her. ‘Doin’ Time’ was another one I had on repeat when the single came out. It’s so 60s instrumentally. The song is a cover of ‘Doin’ Time’ by Sublime, a Punk Rock band from the 90s. It’s different but it is THE “summer time” Lana anthem. It went from ‘sadness’ to ‘the living is easy’. That’s the energy we need.

‘Love song’ opens almost like ‘Stay’ by Shakespears Sister pop duo from the 80s. It is haunting, melancholic and beautiful. I actually had goosebumps listening to this because her voice tells a story and I’m 100% sure that if she sang in a language I didn’t understand…I would still know what she feels. This song shows her vulnerability and desire to keep the relationship going just how it was in that one moment. ‘Cinnamon Girl’ has more of an instrumental build up and slow beat. The vocals in this are angelic and intense in the chorus which make you lose your way. ‘How to disappear’ has a slow rock beat and strings that has a ‘live song in an old bar’ feel to it. I actually think this is a gorgeous song. ‘California’ is cinematic AS FUCK. The strings and piano are romantic, truly heart-breaking and then becomes kind of chaotic as we reach the chorus which is a nice bit of variety. ‘The Next Best American Record’ is a stripped back song I can imagine in a film with just some plucked guitar and vocals to start with. The echo sounds and slow muffled rock beat that come in with the chorus give it that edge and then BOOM she brings the rock kit to the forefront and we’re at a whole show.

‘The greatest’ has a melody that has most certainly be used before in other songs but I don’t think it’s been used by Lana until now. The amped electric guitar is also poignant as she talks about how she misses “rock and roll” and how it used to feel. There is definitely a sense of tragedy and nostalgia of performance. ‘Bartender’ has a catchy melody and sweet piano run that captures a young romance. ‘Happiness is a butterfly’ this is a song that has is special for me because of the words ‘happiness’ (which is what ‘Hana’ means in Arabic) and ‘butterfly’ is a symbol I adopted for my first ever single. I like the softness and then the attack she has in this song. It captures the frustration of being someone who has suffered but who sees another who has suffered and is trying to get through to them because all she wants to do is dance with him. The final song ‘hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but I have it’ is possibly the longest song title but Lana can do what she likes. It’s another melancholic song and one of my favourites. All Sylvia Plath readers and lovers of poetry in general, would love this song. “I’ve been tearing up town in my fucking white gown”…sometimes it be like that.  

Lana’s music is poetry so if you want to listen to music that will speak to you in an honest and raw way telling her story, you have to give it a go. Trust me, you’ll also fall in love with our sadcore queen.