Search
  • Shenead Poroosotum

Norman Fucking Rockwell! Lana Del Rey Album Review

Updated: Dec 20, 2019


After a year of releasing singles and teasing the release of her sixth studio album, Lana Del Rey has released probably one of her most captivating albums yet: Norman Fucking Rockwell!


It features some of her most charming, clever and whimsical verses that can be relative to almost anyone, plus a cover of Sublime’s ‘Doin Time’. Although still keeping true to the steamy blend of romance through to heartbreak, Del Rey has now ditched her star spangled banner as she no longer felt in touch with America; she instead put forward a declaration that she was to focus on herself and nothing else.


There was always something about how Lana finds the beauty in ugly things. Whether it is in a person and the way they treat her, to watching the sunset over the ocean on a trash-filled beach in California. Lana once said in an interview that she spends most of her time at the beach. I’ve wondered, does she lie within the debris and close her eyes, listening to a murky tide drift up and wash over the glittering sand, before it retreats back into a polluted ocean?


The ebb and flow of each track in Norman Fucking Rockwell! is what makes the album compelling and clear. The opening lines of the title track don’t particularly show anything that could be romantic either “Goddamn manchild/You fucked me so good I almost said ‘I love you’,” with a subtle piano underneath. As she goes on she introduces us to the subject of the track, a fun and wild but “self-loathing poet” whose poetry is bad and blames the news for it. Much like in other LDR tracks, she tends to recognise the flaws this man has but decides just to deal with it. She says at one point in the song “But I don’t get bored, I just see it through/Why wait for the best when I could have you?” although he makes her blue and there’s nothing she can do to change him. It’s almost as though it would be unrealistic to leave him and live a happier lifestyle.


With the track ‘Fuck It I Love You’ she immerses herself in the waters and delivers a surfer babe spectacle for us to watch along with it. It’s a faster paced track on the album using surf drums and although relates much of it to mortality, she routinely takes the track to being about love and dreaminess, such as: “chances in my veins, running out of time” or “wish that you would hold me or just say that you are mine”.


The whole album shows the messy navigation of love from start to finish; she’s empathetic but has nothing to lose. “If he’s a serial killer/Then what’s the worst that can happen to a girl that’s already hurt?” she sings in the sorrowful ‘Happiness Is a Butterfly’ which was inspired by American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne, who said “Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” It’s also a song that has the ability to make you cry throughout, which I did. It sounds like she falls for the same mistakes and sees all the red flags, but just like anyone else who tends to choose their heart over their head, it’s almost impossible to think logically sometimes.


Her elegant wordplay tells tales of the wreckage of being alive and hopelessness but also bartenders, driving fast and men who are broken; touching on fragile masculinity. But Del Rey also opens up about herself throughout the album. The very melancholy sounding ‘Mariners Apartment Complex’ which was written about how a man she once dated told her “I think we are together because we’re both similar, like we’re both really messed up,” and it was the saddest thing she’d ever heard. But for four and a half minutes we’re blessed with a gospel-sounding resonance that lets us indulge into the story she’s telling. She reels us in with stories that could be experienced by anyone and that is what makes her so relevant today. From early albums such as ‘Born To Die’ we’ve seen noir-pop reincarnated and lush romanticised fatalism twisted and put out in many different ways. Although her anecdotal song writing reuses the same themes, she doesn’t sound repetitive and instead just explores all the emotions and events she’s felt and gone through. I guess her life tends to be quite hectic if she was able to produce five albums previously about it.

‘Love Song’ is an ode to her romantic partner and features quintessential key elements of a classic LDR song like fast cars, being dressed up and being in love. Another heavily emotional track that is not only incredibly beautiful but also painfully fragile. It’s one of those tracks that will force you to remember the past even if you don't want to. It’s charming, slow tempo and surreal, making it easy on the ears. And with this, the lyrics are put centre stage and we can soak up each word and each instrument heard. With the album produced alongside Jack Antonoff, he wastes no time into still staying true to Lana’s baroque-pop/west coast hip hop sound but still being able to generate flawless material, forlorn riffs and echoing pianos that heighten LDR’s talent as a songstress.


In this album, we get to hear more than ever her views and how she feels about her surroundings. Although LDR has been incredibly patriotic, she’s retracted those views and even released the track ‘Looking For America’ a separate single discussing how out of touch she felt with her country. In the track ‘The Greatest’ on NFR! she talks about missing home, people she was once close with and then examines where things are starting to go in terms of the future. She expresses her fear and feelings of hopelessness such as "Hawaii just missed that fireball/L.A is in flames, it’s getting hot/Kanye West is blond and gone/”Life on Mars” ain’t just a song/I hope the live stream’s almost on”. All verses can be explained: Hawaii receiving an accidental missile threat even though it could potentially happen one day. Having previously mentioned L.A being on fire before in a much older track and then the Californian forest fires that happened not to long ago, it’s also shown on the cover of NFR! in the background as to how destructive global warming is and not being taken seriously. Kanye West, someone she respected but now lost faith in because of his affiliations with Donald Trump. And finally, Elon Musk trying to colonise Mars and relating it with how technology is rapidly progressing. All these things together show a different type of vulnerability to Lana. A deep fear in a hastily and forever changing world mixed with constant chaos, with everyone always on the edge waiting for something drastic to happen.

But even for someone so disheartened by a lot of things the world has to offer, she has hope. Her last track suitably titled “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but I have it” featuring strong references to American literature throughout. The line “Don’t ask if I'm happy, you know that I'm not/But at best I can say I'm not sad” relates to the line from The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath: “I may never be happy, but tonight I am content”. But also the quote “Hope is a dangerous thing.” Was taken directly from the film The Shawshank Redemption and originally written by Stephen King. The quote was flipped into a more feminine perspective with links to insanity. Hope is an element that’s always been prominent within her writing, and she’s even said herself that “everyone’s had their own trials and tribulations. So any time I get stressed, I just remind myself it’s kind of supposed to be stressful.” And she’s right. Keep hope and expectations reasonable and you can avoid a stinging reality because sometimes life comes at you, fast.


Even though NFR! hasn’t even been out for a month, Lana has already announced another album ‘White Hot Forever’ which will be released in 2020. There’s no knowing if this would be able to top NFR!, but hopefully she'll able to deliver an immaculately produced project for us to sink into all over again.


90/100


Norman Fucking Rockwell! is available on all music outlets, listen to it right here if you haven't already.



  • Instagram - White Circle
  • Twitter - White Circle
  • Facebook - White Circle
  • Tumblr - White Circle
  • YouTube - White Circle
  • SoundCloud - White Circle
  • Spotify - White Circle

© 2020 by New Wave Magazine. Proudly created by New Wave Studios