Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell!
Aug 30, 2019
92
Lana's nostalgia isn't located in place but in sentiment. She searches for a safe space in her memories, a place where love can exist unchallenged by societal pressures. In Lana's world, everything is drenched in sepia and bathed in soft lighting. While Lana has consistently been herself, Norman Fuggin Rockwell finds her overindulging in her stylized tendencies. The music is looser, the instrumentation more expansive, and production more confident. By exaggerating her most romantic inclinations, Lana emphasizes why her hopeful thinking isn't valid, but necessary to combat the growing paranoia and anxiety plaguing America.

Lana has been a fun artist to follow as she has always asked similar questions in her music. She likes to explore how her sexuality is connected to American iconography. She does this through frank lyrics and blunt comparisons. I will never forget when she opened a song with the line, 'My pussy tastes like Pepsi cola.' This ridiculous statement captures what I have always loved about Lana: Her sexual bravado, her subversion of American iconography, and her preference for Pepsi over coke. These themes have been the guiding force of Lana's music and have helped her develop a pure and distinct voice.

Norman F'ing Rockwell has Lana taking these classic elements of her sound and turning them to 11. She spends the album searching for hope and safety through a nostalgic haze. Almost every song plays with iconic American objects or American characters. The titular track that opens the album has Lana challenging the moody American male artist. She finds his brooding temperament childish and a turn-off. This dismissal sets the tone as Lana finds the mundane far more romantic than any grand artistic statement. 'Bartender,' sees Lana romanticizing getting a drink from a regular guy. Miller should thank Lana as High Life becomes a point of intimacy and connection. She is constantly looking for real relationships in her nostalgic fantasies.

Jack Antonoff's fantastic production and instrumentation help amplify the grandeur of Lana's quest. One of Lana's strengths as a songwriter is her unfiltered stream-of-conscious approach to her lyrics. Antonoff's production successfully mimics this approach with instrumental passages that feel organic and expansive. The last six minutes of 'Venice Bitch' has a synth meandering around a melodic line that echos Lana's own search for guidance. He also includes instruments with a built-in nostalgic sound such as the piano. Antonoff orchestrates Lana's fantasies perfectly and helps the entire album feel bathed in light. It gives her mundane experiences cinematic energy.

Belief is the driving force on NFR. Not only does she find comfort in hope, but she manages to describe what could be lost if we give up on it. 'The Greatest' is Lana at her most anthemic and her most vulnerable. She lists what she has lost, and more so what the culture has lost. 'I want shit to feel just like it used to,' is her battle cry and ultimate desire. She wants to return to a place where hope could suspend the crushing anxieties of real life. She also depicts how magic this fantasy space can be. On 'The Next Best American Record,' Lana is limitless. She humorously plays with the image of two people convinced that their love can accomplish anything. Her desire for the past is less about escaping the present than rekindling her belief and drive for connection. It's a forward-thinking form a nostalgia that relies on hope at its driving principle.

It is easy to be a pessimist in this day and age. We live in a time where we are bombarded with images of our world falling apart with little ability to change it. On Norman Fucking Rockwell, Lana reminds us why we can't give up on that kernel of hope. Her American Dream continues to light the path in front of her. Believing in something or someone functions as a beacon of light through the darkest of times. Lana challenges her audience to search for hope in everyday life. While she has always carried this torch, NFR is her most coherent and successful statement to date. It's an album only Lana could create, and I amazed and touched by the clarity of her voice.
3 Comments
Aug 31, 2019
Fantastic review mate! One of the best written ive seen all year!
Aug 31, 2019
@zachthesnack thank you so much! It means a lot. Happy to see you also liked it!
Sep 3, 2019
A beautiful review and depiction of this album!!!
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