by Opinion Editor Aria Lakhmani
After a two year hiatus, Lana Del Rey has returned to the indie-pop scene with a new spin on her traditional Americana aesthetic. On August 30, she released her seventh album, titled Norman F***ing Rockwell! Woven together with cultural commentary and soulful ballad arrangements, the album’s lyrics read like diary entries and reveal a more authentic side of the conventionally reticent artist.
Though Del Rey’s early career was characterized by her nostalgic, romanticized view of America, she has been working towards portraying a more realistic view of society since her last album.
The title of Norman F***ing Rockwell! itself is an indicator of the relatively novel approach the album takes; Norman Rockwell, a 20th century American artist, was famous for illustrating American culture and patriotism through his paintings. Rockwell’s goal was to convey commentary and insight on society through a medium digestible by everyone: art.
Del Rey’s reference to Rockwell demonstrates her own desire to express her thoughts on modern day America, and Norman F***ing Rockwell! reflects this shift in her music content through its lyrics. Rather than name-dropping American aesthetics like Hollywood, coca-cola, and champagne, Del Rey touches on affairs impacting our world today. In “The Greatest,” Del Rey sings about climate change and technological advancements, “L.A. is in flames, it’s getting hot / Kanye West is blond and gone / “Life on Mars” ain’t just a song.”
The album seems to follow the intricately woven story of Del Rey’s life, starting with her crooning about a tragic love story and her regrets and ending on a hopeful note about her future, making it more personal than her past ones. Though the first ten songs on the album feature somber lyrics detailing heartbreak, issues facing society, and her sorrows, the lyrics focus on her personal experiences rather than general explorations of these topics. In “The Next Best American Record,” Del Rey describes her and her lover’s obsession with attaining fame, which ultimately leads to them compromising their connection for a luxurious lifestyle.
Throughout the first ten songs, Del Rey depicts a dilapidated relationship which seems to be coming apart at the seams. The eleventh song, “The greatest,” feels like the abyss of the storyline, and the last two songs on the album represent Del Rey’s healing as she dovetails into more optimistic songs, namely “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have —- but i have it.” Del Rey embraces her sadness and rekindles her optimism for the future.
No Del Rey album is complete without at least one slow ballad. However, Norman F***ing Rockwell! takes this to the extreme, making the overall sound of the album repetitive as every song seems to be a mellow piano and violin arrangement accompanied by Del Rey’s tender vocals. Although these types of songs are heartfelt and beloved among her fanbase, they are almost banal, and the album has no upbeat melodies to provide a reprieve.
Norman F***ing Rockwell! is a refreshing take on Del Rey’s typically Americana-centered persona. Though the album fails to differentiate itself from past albums in terms of sound, it succeeds in defining Del Rey as an artist who can produce multi-themed yet powerful music content. The album is a comforting heart-to-heart with Del Rey herself, and its authenticity draws in new audiences and cements Del Rey’s status as a noir-pop star.