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Norman Fucking Rockwell!!!

Updated: Oct 28, 2019








By Kelly Rud


Going into this review, the only image I had of Lana Del Rey was the persona she displays online; the tragically beautiful California sweetheart who whisked North America’s teenagers into a daydream of blue jeans and co-dependency with her famous album, Born to Die. On the surface, her music seemed a little superficial, and I was worried this new album wouldn’t interest me enough to want to write about it. But from the moment the first song started to play, my mind was changed.


The song in question is the titular track, a Joni Mitchell inspired piano ballad about a seemingly pretentious poet Lana’s been involved with. She criticizes his selfishness and brooding attitude with clever lines such as: “your poetry’s bad and you blame the news”, and “you talk to the walls when the party gets bored of you”.


Her music is grounded in a new way, more down-to-earth and genuinely funny, with a chorus that soars beautifully over an orchestral accompaniment.

It’s a fantastic opener, although quite different from the rest of the record. Norman fucking Rockwell! features a variety of styles, from the folky “Mariner’s Apartment Complex” to a breathy cover of “Doin’ Time” by Supreme. Of course, there’s also many songs that feel traditionally like Lana Del Rey; “Love song”, “California” and “Venice Bitch” bring back images of fast cars and warm summer nights, lulling the listener into her hypnotic world of hopeless romance. It’s so easy to lose yourself in these cuts, especially the latter, a ten-minute ballad that drifts into a haze of synth and fuzzy guitar. There’s so many layers to this track, both musically and lyrically, as it contrasts images of picture-perfect Americana with the repeating phrase “beautiful losers”- a reference to a Leonard Cohen song.


The album is chalk-full of references, in typical Lana fashion. They give us a window into her world, creating a rich backdrop for songs like “Bartender”, where she references Mitchell and Crosby, Stills and Nash, evoking the 70s in just a couple of lines. That track particularly is so vivid and delicate, floating elegantly into a strange but beautiful chorus.

The album begins to come to a close with two very interesting tracks: “The Next Best American Record” and “The greatest”. It’s on these two songs that she makes her boldest points, both exploring themes of American culture and it’s superficiality.


Musically, the first features a marching-band drum during the grandiose verses, contrasting deliberately with a drunken, poppy chorus. The second sounds completely anthemic, as it reminisces on her youth, and the way she “misses doing nothing the most of all”. The last verse of the song is surprisingly direct. She addresses the Hawaii missile alert, global warming, and Kanye West, ending it all with “I hope the livestream’s almost on”. Well that just speaks for itself, doesn’t it.


Norman fucking Rockwell! shows that Lana Del Rey has really grown up as a songwriter and a human being. Throughout the album, she deconstructs her public image, especially in the masterpiece of a closer, “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have- but i have it”. She comes across as not only a romantic pop sensation but also a complicated, facetted person with a lot to say. Just like Norman Rockwell’s paintings, she depicts beautiful pictures of Americana, but she does so with an critical attitude- for they are never as picture-perfect as they seem.

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