Reviews

Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell!: Album Review

There are moments of haunting serenity, larger than life atmospheres and bold soundscapes; it is quite simply the best work of Lana Del Rey’s career. She has always been somewhat polarising in her style, but rarely has she found herself this captivating. Norman Fucking Rockwell is LDR’s magnum opus, an Art Pop album we will celebrate for years to come.

Spooky aesthetics and crying in the strip club anthems have become second nature for Lana Del Rey ever since her emergence into the commercial music scene, way back in 2011 with viral sensation hits Video Games and Blue Jeans. Her harmonic hushed tones on a track have made her one of the most distinguishable artists of her generation, but there’s always been a sense that she hasn’t fulfilled the prophecy of greatness as much as she could have.

Don’t get me wrong, her career has been stellar and above all else, she has stayed true to her own style, never conforming to the ways of the squeaky clean pop music image. But ever since the release of her magnificent breakout album Born To Die, Lana has kind of just maintained rather than blossomed. From 2014’s Ultraviolence right through to 2017’s Lust For Life, Lana hasn’t hit the staggering heights people projected for her, not least herself. Well, the glass ceiling has officially shattered.

I knew straight away that this newest album could be something special. It takes a unique kind of artist to name her album Norman Fucking Rockwell, especially a pop artist as well known as Lana. It is a truly sensational name for a record; and was the ideal blueprint for the finest work of Lana’s career. It’s the anti-hero character we have come to know and love with Del Rey, ready to break a few more hearts and sound slick as hell while doing so.

One criticism that has been handed out to Lana Del Rey throughout her career is the label “sad girl music”, using lo-fi production and an angsty delivery to croon her way through breakup ballads (these are not my views, for the most part). Well, whoever believes that’s the case again with Norman Fucking Rockwell needs to just accept that they don’t like her for whatever reason, because this is amazing.

The production shimmers with anticipation, there’s a strange feeling of hope and wonder on these tracks; perhaps best demonstrated by the mammoth near-ten minute instant classic anthem Venice Bitch. The song contains absolutely gorgeous orchestral layers and a powerful vocal, I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say Lana sounds utterly untouchable on here as the song progresses into an outcry of drums and kaleidoscopic guitars.

Lana’s lyrics are fairly typical of her traditional style, very nostalgia-heavy and on the quest for the meanings of love and desire; but on Norman Fucking Rockwell they seem more immersive, more directional and more impactful. There’s enormous senses of longing and fantasy on tracks like Cinnamon Girl and Happiness is a butterfly, even if that means putting her emotions on the line. There’s power in vulnerability, and nobody drives home that mantra better than a lovesick Lana Del Rey.

There’s a sense of revamped, remastered, modern-day American Dream attitudes on this album. Her lofty ambitions and visions have finally met their match on a record so brimming with beauty and fascination, it becomes fairly easy to understand why she is so idolised. The modern world of pop stardom has taken quite the turn over the last decade or so, witnessing and thus embracing more abstract and off-the-wall ideas from the likes of Billie Eilish, FKA Twigs and Tove Lo. You can’t help that feel as though, alongside the likes of Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey has been a torch-bearer of this movement; an artist so bluntly unapologetic and idiosyncratic to the point of achieving cult hero status. Every hero needs their killer blow, their glowing example of brilliance; and Norman Fucking Rockwell is Lana Del Rey’s.

BEST TRACKS: Norman fucking Rockwell, Venice Bitch, Fuck it I love you, Cinnamon Girl, How To Disappear, The Next Best American Record, The greatest, Happiness is a butterfly, hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but I have it

9outof10

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