Lana Del Rey has composed a beautiful, powerful and emotionally provocative record, that could very well be her most impressive so far.
“Norman F*****g Rockwell” is Del Rey’s fifth studio album and the experience she has picked up over the years shines through clearly. She knows exactly what her sound should be; a melodic, new age lullaby, that hits home with every listen.
One might call a continuous sound repetitive, but here it’s not, it’s cohesive. Every song follows a general theme, but is also unique in itself and contributes to the feeling of the record, and the tone, which finds a grey area between victorious and melancholy.
Del Rey’s unmistakable voice is a key factor in the emotion behind this album. her vocals do not undermine the beautiful music, but rather outshine it being her most dynamic instrument. Her unwavering moody vocals create a layer of complexity that allow the listener to connect to the artist in a way that would be impossible if not for them.
Del Rey’s singing versatility has always been obvious in her albums, with her voice crashing down from high to low on a dime. In “Norman F*****g Rockwell”, she uses her impressive vocal range just as well as ever, with a new, seemingly impossible-to-sing hook to accompany every song.
One shining example of this is in the song “happiness is a butterfly”, which purely judging by sound, is the best song on the album. Del Rey stretches her voice across octaves, while backed by a lullaby tune, and it creates a truly captivating listening experience.
Looking back at her previous work, it is easy to see that Lana Del Rey has matured as an artist. Her first album Born to Die, for example, though impressive in a lot of ways, lacks many of the great things mentioned above. It doesn’t ever feel repetitive, but therefore lacks the connecting tone that makes “Norman F*****g Rockwell” so great.
Also, it’s clear she hadn’t totally found her style yet, with a very different genre seemingly, in every song. Some may see this as a plus, but along with a few absolutely incredible tracks, Born to Die features some more scattered pieces as well as a result of this.
Another thing Lana Del Rey has enhanced this year is her storytelling and songwriting ability. Aided by multiple collaborators, including Jack Antonoff of Bleachers, She creates a sprawling landscape of sound and vocals, and sends very clear themes that cut through.
In “Norman F*****g Rockwell”, messages are sent through the lyrics.The album is both a love letter to Los Angeles, as many of her previous endeavors have been, but also an ode to individuality, identity, and the struggles that come along with these things.
In the song How to Disappear, for example, a story is told of love, and the responsibilities that come with it. After heartbreak though, Del Rey sings first about depression, but then the coping that follows. A standout on the album, this song like many of the others, takes the listener on a roller coaster of emotion, accompanied, as always, by dark melodies that always seem to find the light.
At Harvard-Westlake (HW), Lavinia Tyagi ’23 shared her thoughts on the album. “I really liked it,” Tyagi said “[Del Rey] is clearly sending a message, to accept yourself… and when you really listen to her music, you can relate to it.”
Tyagi’s right: Del Rey’s album could get by if she sang gibberish, her voice and music alone compensate, but she goes the extra mile in almost every song, threading meaningful lyrics into all of the beautiful sounds.
When asked, many HW students didn’t know of Del Rey at all, or at least were very unfamiliar with her work. However with her almost genreless songs and relatable themes anyone could become invested in her songs, and begin to love the artist like so many do.
Lana Del Rey has reached a new heights as an artist. She’s refined her sound, while still showing versatility. Her songwriting has become more emotionally specific, while still being relatable. She has shown that she is one of the great Songwriters for our new generation, and “Norman F*****g Rockwell” does nothing but push this point home.